Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi

I think most of us have realized by this point in the existence of the interwebs that we cannot read or follow every blog we want to or think we should. We all handle this disappointment in different ways. I prefer to follow only as many people as I can reasonably enjoy, while my husband doesn’t mind following so many that he requires fifty hour days to keep caught up – a fundamental difference in our life view being that he loves knowledge for the sake of knowledge while I prefer to know everything within a subset I can control. For me, this means making hard choices about once every six months, when I go through all the blogs I’ve accumulated on Google Reader and weed out those that no longer interest me or have been abandoned by the author.

You might surmise from this, and you would be correct, that I am not a hoarder. In all aspects of my life, I get great pleasure from purging the unnecessary – old yearbooks, pictures of me from junior high, gifts people have given that I no longer need – and yes, I did actually just feel the massive intake of breath from all of you who cannot understand the monster in me I’ve just revealed. I get it. I married into a family of hoarders savers.

The thing is, I don’t have the emotional energy to keep all my old physical possessions because I’m already full up with memories. I don’t need an old beach towel hanging around to remember how much I loved swimming at Walden Pond every summer when I was a kid. I don’t save awards I won for writing in the fifth grade because all I have to do is sit down at a computer to relive the joy they brought me. And I certainly don’t need stacks of photos I cut out of magazines when I was fifteen to remember the crushes I had on Will Riker and Wesley Crusher because nobody (and I mean nobody) forgets being the butt of other Trekkies’ jokes for being in love with those two.

So when John Scalzi, a blogger who always manages to survive my stringent cuts, wrote a book tangentially related to one of my oldest and (until now) most secret loves, I had no choice but to read it. And love it. And weep over it, just a little.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, the term “redshirt” originated with fans of the original Star Trek series to describe a character with little or no back story who dies shortly after being introduced (often before the opening credits); the purpose of such a character was to provide the viewer with a glimpse of what the show’s protagonists were up against. Scalzi takes this premise and turns it into a novel that just about ripped my damn heart out.

Usually with a book this excellent, I have no doubt that the vast majority of my readers could pick it up and experience (at least on some level) the euphoria I have, but for once I’m stumped. I have no idea whether or not this book will resonate with non science-fiction fans (although I would love for those of you who aren’t to read it and report back). When I laughed, many times it was at jokes so ingrained in the person I am, and the person I was when I was thirteen, that I can’t objectively determine whether, say, my father would also laugh if he read the same passage. If I left this book on a train, would the only people tempted to pick it up be those already on the inside?

I don’t know! And it’s killing me! I hate not knowing things! I’m nosy (I consider it to be one of my finer little sister traits, in fact), and I like to be right, so I don’t want to just waltz in here and insist that you read this book if I’m wrong about non-geeks being susceptible to the awesome. (That would be embarrassing, and the only thing worse than being wrong is being embarrassed by how very wrong you are.)

But if you just give it a chance…

I mean, look at me. I’m not into video games or going to any event that ends in the word “con.” I don’t write fanfic (although I think we’ve previously agreed that it’s perfectly acceptable for me to have occasionally dabbled in reading it). I don’t like getting dressed up in costume for any reason whatsoever, and I’ve never made it through Dune (although apparently I have read five of the top ten  most iconic sci-fi books…but let’s ignore that for the sake of argument). I shop at the Gap, for God’s sake! At best, I’m like a junior member geek who’s legitimacy is constantly questioned by how poorly I score on the geek entrance exam.

So if I can love the book this hard, how inaccessible can it really be? I say that if you can name even one character from any of the iterations of Star Trek (and that includes the 2009 movie, which we all know you totally saw, so don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about), you’ll enjoy this book on some level. It may not be to the extent that hardcore fans (or even geeks on the fringe) do, but that’s no reason not to give it a try. It’s funny, I promise. And surprisingly touching. In fact, you’ll probably cry, then have to pretend some sand from the beach just got in your eye, which will get you thinking about how we’re all as insignificant as grains of sand, and the philosophy major in you will just explode with this unexpected opportunity to make an appearance while you’re on vacation, so just do us all a favor and stop fighting it. Your inner hoarder needs this.

(I’msorryIjustcan’tstopmyself) Resistance is futile.

Now go give John Scalzi some love here. His blog has been around for like fourteen years, so it’s like, practically a history credit just clicking that link.

6 thoughts on “Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi

  1. Great post, Maria! John Scalzi has always been a pillar of the geek community. I haven’t picked up the book yet, but it just got bumped up several spots on my reading list.

  2. One of my most favorite posts of yours. I might even pick this up! (and don’t think I’ve forgotten the clean out number you did on my house not so long ago xo)

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