May 242013

Redshirts_800Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Synopsis: A comedic Star Trek fanfic that goes meta, followed by three essays on existentialism.

Brief Book Review: If you’ve ever been a fan of Star Trek you’ll like this book. The fanfic portion is hilarious. Scalzi excels at writing witty banter and snappy comebacks, and placing characters in believably ridonkulous situations. His pacing is admirable, you’re always being propelled directly into the next exciting event even as the previous one is wrapping up. There’s no hang ups, no chance for your mind to wander, yet it’s never dizzying. It’s hard to put it down, and it’s not too long, making this a very fast read. And while the main show is supposedly the novella, the real meat is in the Codas. The writing slows down and a number of rather serious concerns about existential angst are explored by characters struggling to find meaning in their lives (and yes, this helped fuel my last series of posts). As fun as the fanfic was, these essays really made the book for me, and for everyone who discussed this at our book club. Recommended!

Book Club Review: This is a tough one. It “suffers” from a common problem among good books vis-a-vis book clubs – there is little to disagree over. Recounting your favorite moments of hilarity is fun, but it only gets you so far. There are minor quibbles people will bring up, but nothing major, and it’s unlikely to spark much discussion. The Codas are admirable, but again there’s not too much to say about existentialism aside from “Yeah, I know that feel. It sucks.” Unless people are willing to open up about their own recent existential crises, but it always seems like whining to complain about that sort of thing in public when we’ve Beaten The Game. Not to say that this is a desolate wasteland for conversation – there’s a fair bit to talk about and to enjoy together. But there isn’t much grist to fuel analysis and discussion. I don’t want to say it’s not recommended, because it was such an enjoyable book. So how about – if your book club has gone through a run of dark or harrowing books and needs a bit of levity to raise everyone’s spirits while retaining thoughtfulness, this is a perfect book! Save it for such an occasion, everyone will be grateful. :)

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