Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining But Lacks Depth, 12 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Redshirts (Kindle Edition)
I read very few pure sci-fi books. Peter F. Hamilton usually gets a look-in, although his recent novels have been less than wonderful, and I'll try the odd other writer from time to time. John Scalzi is about the only writer of what I would describe as 'space operas' who I will happily read no matter what the subject matter. From Agent to the Stars to Old Man's War and Fuzzy Nation, he hasn't produced a bad book yet. Plus his blog, 'Whatever', is consistently entertaining.

However, I would have to say that 'Redshirts' is one of his weaker efforts. It's not a bad book, just not up there with Old Man's War and The Android's Dream, two of my favourites. Its definitely more of a Zoe's Tale in terms of quality.

My problem with Redshirts is that one of the key things that make Scalzi's best works so enjoyable is missing. One of the reasons that I find his novels accessible is the fact that he writes great characters, instilling them with genuine humanity even when they aren't actually human. There are no cliched 'lantern jawed heroes' or Han Solo-esque rip-offs in Scalzi novels; just real people in unreal situations getting on with their jobs as best they can, grounding the books otherwise fantastical premises and making them relatable.

Redshirts follows that trend almost to an extreme, with the average Joe on-board ship being thrust front and centre. What it fails to do however, is provide any of the eponymous 'Redshirts' with any real depth. In fact none of the characters are given much character development and remain at best two dimensional.

The result is a book that is undoubtedly clever (although it does feel a bit like a rip-off of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead mixed with elements of the movie Galaxy Quest [Blu-ray]), amusing if not laugh-out loud funny, and consistently entertaining, but one that lacks genuine depth. It feels like the author was focused on trying to prove how clever he can be with ideas of narrative interconnectedness and satire, but in doing so forgot to include real emotion. The plot works like clockwork, but at no point did I really care about any of the characters on the page.

As a result the best I feel able to award Redshirts is 3 stars. Its still a good book, but I know that John Scalzi can and has produced stuff that is so much better.
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3.7 out of 5 stars (74 customer reviews)
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