Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

I loved 'Redshirts' by John Scalzi.

Previously, I had never read anything by Scalzi. I'v had a used copy of 'Old Mans War' sitting around, but it never interested me much. Military novels don't typically excite me. But I came across 'Redshirts' at a discount price so I decided to by it. Then I decided to read it because of the hype surrounding it.

The comparisons to 'Galaxy Quest' are appropriate. It's fun just like that film. But definitely much more clever. Hollywood doesn't have writers as clever as John Scalzi. And literature doesn't have writers who can infuse humor into fiction like John Scalzi.

Once again, I was completely caught off-guard. I was not expecting Scalzi to have the style of writing he has here. 'Redshirts' is written in a very sparse style. At some point I realized that there was very, very little descriptive writing going on. And I loved it. It kept the novel going at lightning pace. Many people cite this as a negative of the novel, but for me it's essential. It's refreshing to read a science-fiction novel that's this original and isn't bogged down by overly descriptive writing. What he tells us is all we need to know. You're not left wondering how to picture certain things, unlike, say, a Samuel Delaney novel, where descriptions are so often and overwritten yet leave you wonder what the hell it all means.

I would compare 'Redshirts' to the work of Philip K. Dick. Scalzi's prose style here is very reminiscent to the quote-unquote Workmanlike prose of Mr. Dick. And the story, well, Philip Dick couldn't have done it better himself. It just keeps going and going where you would never expect it to.

'Redshirts' deserves the acclaim and awards it's getting. I imagine it will provide a great gateway for many into SF literature. This is definitely the most original SF novel written since 'VALIS'.

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