Category Archives: Books Reviewed in 2014

Book Review – Redshirts

BASIC BOOKTOMETRICS

TITLE: Redshirts

AUTHOR: John Scalzi

PUBLISHER: Tom Doherty Associates

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2012

FORMAT REVIEWED: Hardcover

GENRE: Sci-Fi; Comedy

NUMBER OF PAGES: 317

Beam me up, Bookshelf Battlers.

On the old Star Trek TV show, there was no worse fate than being – a redshirt. You see, back in the 1960’s, the writers wanted to add a dose of realism, or at least as much realism as possible to a show about a massive Star Ship exploring the universe and getting into altercations with a different alien species every week. When engaged in constant battle with alien marauders, it is a very real possibility that some crew members aboard a “real” Starship would kick the bucket. Sorry, but you can’t go up against that many alien bad guys without someone buying the intergalactic farm.

The problem? Certainly the main characters – Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Lt. Uhura etc. could not be the ones to cosmically croak because then there would not be a show anymore. Obviously, George RR Martin wasn’t a consultant for this show.

Sorry, I didn't have any Star Trek toys.  Yes, as a grown man I think that's a perfectly normal thing to say.  Here's the Master Chief instead.  Yes nerds, I understand that one space character is not the same as another.  Take a chill pill.

Sorry, I didn’t have any Star Trek toys. Yes, as a grown man I think that’s a perfectly normal thing to say. Here’s the Master Chief instead. Yes nerds, I understand that one space character is not the same as another. Take a chill pill.

The solution to this conundrum? Enter the redshirts – the extras, the grunts aboard the Starship Enterprise who did the busy work – fetch the Captain’s coffee, stand at a cheesy 1960’s hunk of cardboard with Christmas lights on it attempting to pass as a computer and punch buttons in the background, etc. The writers used these space traveling lackeys as fodder to take the beatings, leaving the fan favorite heroes unscathed.

Watch an old episode of Star Trek. If there’s an away team being beamed down to a planet consisting of Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, and Fred the Extraneous Redshirt from the Enterprise Payroll Department being introduced to the audience for the first time, chances are that Fred would be the one chomped on by a monster, tossed into a volcano, blasted by a lazer, and so on.

In Redshirts, author John Scalzi hilariously lampoons the undesirable plight of the redshirt. Set in a Star Trek-esque universe of Scalzi’s creation, the book follows a group of freshly minted redshirts as they begin service aboard the Universal Union’s flagship, The Intrepid. The newbies quickly discover that strange shenanigans are afoot – namely, that there is a statistically and ridiculously high chance of a low ranking crew member being killed on an away mission, whereas senior officers appear to have almost absurd levels of luck as they avoid death even after being thrust into one dangerous situation after another.

I don’t want to spoil the ending or the various twists and turns but needlessly to say, this is the first book I’ve read in awhile that had me laughing and reading at the same time.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy

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Book Review – The Light Between Oceans

BASIC BOOKTOMETRICS:

TITLE: The Light Between Oceans

AUTHOR: M.L. Stedman

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2012

PUBLISHER: Scribner

FORMAT REVIEWED: Hardcover

NUMBER OF PAGES: 343

Move over, dingoes. There’s a new danger Australian babies – lighthouse keeping couples.

The premise – in the 1920’s, Tom, depressed and bitter over the WWI baggage he is carrying finds a new lease on life when he meets happy-go-lucky Isabel. Tom is a lighthouse keeper and moves his new wife to the small, secluded island where he tends to a giant beacon of light that prevents ships from going astray. It’s a lonely life, far removed from the comforts of civilization. Isabel wants to be a mother but begins to believe her dream will never come true after she suffers one miscarriage after another. Tom only wants to make her happy.

One day, a rowboat carrying a dead man and a live baby mysteriously washes up on shore.

Pop quiz, what do you think the couple does?

A) Contact the authorities. Surely the baby has living relatives somewhere that miss her.
B) Signal a boat to come to the dock to carry the baby back to civilization and to the nearest police station so the whole mess can be sorted out.
C) Locate the dead man’s family so he may have a proper Christian burial.
D) Toss the dead man’s carcass in a ditch. Take advantage of the fact that you’re the only two people on the island to raise the child as your own. Return to shore later and tell the world Isabel gave birth to the baby while on the island.

Stay out of trouble...report babies immediately when they wash up on shore

Stay out of trouble…report babies immediately when they wash up on shore


If you selected A-C, you’re good people. If you selected D, you’re probably Tom or Isabel.

All joking aside, author M.L. Stedman does a fantastic job at displaying the mental gymnastics that people put themselves through in order to convince themselves that they are doing something right when in fact, what they are doing is so clearly wrong. Isabel grasps onto an assumption that the baby’s mother must have died in some kind of high seas tragedy and the only right thing to do is to take the child in. Tom wants to report the baby to the authorities but wants so badly for his wife to be happy that he can’t bring himself to do it.

Of course, when they return to shore, they discover who the mother is, how the baby came to be washed up on shore, and all manner of gut wrenching sadness goes on display as they debate whether or not to tell the baby’s true mother what they’ve done. With more mental gymnastics to convince herself that what she wants and what is morally right are the same thing – she argues that the baby, now a young child, has grown attached to her and Tom, recognizes them as her parents, and it would upend her world to turn that around. Tom, on the other hand, can get over the fact that the baby’s mother, Hannah, has become a sad, depressed, shell of a woman, in a constant state of sadness over her lost husband and child, clinging to hope that one day her baby will somehow magically return.

Well, it would be too spoilery to reveal all of the twists and turns, but overall, the book is a real tearjerker and the author has a knack for leaving the reader wanting to know how this truly messed up situation will work its way out.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy

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This Week on the Bookshelf – Dexter’s Final Cut

BASIC BOOKTOMETRICS

NAME: Dexter’s Final Cut

AUTHOR: Jeff Lindsay

PUBLISHER: Doubleday

NUMBER OF PAGES: 368 in Hardcover

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2013

We here at Bookshelf Battle believe in high production values.

We here at Bookshelf Battle believe in high production values.

***WARNING*** It’s Bookshelf Battle’s inaugural review, and already, there are spoilers. Therefore, if you feel that spoilers could jeopardize your enjoyment of the Dexter TV show or novels, and yet you continue to read anyway, then you are dumber than Vince Masuka. END OF WARNING ***

“They made him a lumberjack.  A LUMBERJACK!!!!  WE SPENT EIGHT YEARS ON THE EDGE OF OUR SEATS WONDERING WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS GUY AND IN THE END HE GOT A JOB SAWING LOGS!!! WHAT THE HELL???!!!!!”

Does that sound about like what you thought when you watched the series finale of Dexter on Showtime last year?  Me too.  I don’t know about you, but for eight years, I wondered about questions like “Will Dexter ever be brought to justice for his crimes?” and “Will the world at large ever learn about Dexter’s ‘Dark Passenger?'”  Never, ever once did I wonder, “Gee whiz, is a midlife career change from the forensic analysis field to the deforestation industry really a viable option for Dexter?”

I could rant and rave all day about the direction the Dexter TV show went in at the end, but then again, I remember the first, second, and fourth seasons and it is hard to stay mad at people who brought us such good television.  So I’m just going to pretend that ending, where Dexter drives his boat up to a dock at a hospital (Are there really hospitals that have docks that you can just drive a boat up to?) and openly walked out the front door with his dead sister in his arms (apparently this hospital spent more on the boat dock than it did on security) and chucks her carcass into the bay with all of his dismembered victims (because, you know, it’s not like Deb, as a dedicated police officer deserved one of those fancy police funerals with the twenty-one gun salute and the flag draped on the coffin, no, I’m sure she would have wanted to be fish food in an underwater burial ground for her serial killer brother’s victims instead).

Forget all that.  Classic Dexter is back in the latest Jeff Lindsay novel, Dexter’s Final Cut.  This book brings us back to the time where Rita is still alive (shut up, the reason I warned you there were spoilers in this post is because someone posted the “Rita dies” spoiler online with no warning while I was still watching season three and I almost suffered a brain aneurysm), Astor and Cody are still in the picture and have not been whisked away to live with grandparents in Orlando, and Capt. Matthews still rules the roost.  Deb no longer resides at the bottom of the bay but rather, is alive, well and just as potty-mouthed as ever.

The story surrounds Dexter as he deals with Hollywood stars who have descended upon Miami Metro looking for professional guidance on how to shoot a crime drama for the fictional Big Ticket Network.  A body is found in a dumpster and well, I won’t spoil this one but needless to say, various and sundry shenanigans of a macabre nature ensue.  Dexter TV show watchers only had a small taste of Dexter’s narration, whereas novel readers are treated to a whole book-full of Dexter’s internal monologue, as he explains with dark humor why his Dark Passenger makes him do the things he does.

For those who are still scratching their heads about Dexter Season 8, rest assured that this book does not disappoint.  The only spoiler I’ll give away is that nowhere in this novel does Dexter chop wood of any kind.

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