Tag Archives: book review

BOOK REVIEW – LOCK-IN – John Scalzi

Woo hoo!  An honest to God book review on bookshelfbattle.com!  It’s about time!

Threeps are now walking around on my bookshelf.  They can hold their own in the never-ending battle.

Threeps are now walking around on my bookshelf. They can hold their own in the never-ending battle.

Without a doubt, John Scalzi’s Lock-In was the best book I read in 2014.  Unfortunately I waited until March of 2015 to review it, but better late than never.

If you’re planning to read it yourself, you might want to click off of this review.  I’ll try my best to avoid them, but some spoilers may emerge.

First off, the premise is unique and original.  In the near future, a virus ravages the world and inflicts one percent of the population with Haden’s Syndrome.  This condition causes people to “lock-in” to their bodies.  Their minds work, they understand what’s happening around them, but they can’t speak or move.  Their minds are trapped in paralyzed bodies.

These individuals come to be known as “Hadens.”  Technology grows and expands to help them.  A virtual community is created allowing them to communicate with one another in a simulated world.  Meanwhile, Hadens also have the ability to control robots known as “threeps” (aptly named as an homage to C-3P0).

Hadens stay at home and send threeps out into the world on their behalf.    The technology is so advanced that Hadens are able to hold down jobs with the assistance of their threeps.

Add to the mix integrators – humans whose minds can be “shared” with a Haden, thus giving the Haden the experience of what it feels like to have a functional human body.

The protagonist is Chris Shane – a Haden FBI agent whose threeps take a beating from the bad guys throughout the novel.  With the help of his partner, Leslie Vann, a former integrator, Shane is tasked with solving a murder case that intersects with the politics and intrigue behind the Haden world.

I am a big Scalzi fan.  I enjoy his ability to blend subtle humor into serious science fiction.  The premise makes for some interesting scenes.  For example, at one point, Shane uses his threep to foil an assassin trying to kill Shane’s defenseless body.

The book also gives rise to a discussion of virtual worlds and technology assisted realities.  Could tech ever grow to the point where the paralyzed are able to experience the world virtually?  What would be the ramifications?

I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

STATUS:  Shelf worthy.

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Thoughts for the New Year

This year has been a building year – all about learning how to blog.  2015 I hope will be the year to where I’ll be more productive and turn out some quality work product.

Thoughts for 2015 include:

1)  Committing to at least 1 book review a month because, you know, this is a book blog, or so I keep hearing.

2)  Starting more discussions about writing for writers and those pesky situations we always find ourselves in.

3)  I’d love to interview some Indie Authors, for the selfish reason of picking their brains on self-publishing success, but also for the non-selfish reason of paying it forward and building cosmic karma (which, if you stand on your head, cross your eyes, and think about it really hard, is selfish!)

4)  Interview some other book bloggers about their favorite books, book blogging, and other booktastic issues of a booktabulous nature.

5)  Bring more organization to the site, set up some pages at the top of the site to funnel my posts into for easier access.

6)  I am starting to think maybe less is more and I’m hoping to have a standing appointment with you all on Sundays, using them to make at least one post a week.  More if inspiration strikes.

7)  The past few months I’ve really gotten into self-publishing – listening to podcasts, doing research, etc.  I do have a goal of getting a longstanding idea I’ve had written by the end of 2015, submitting to traditional agents and if no luck, self-publishing by the end of 2016.  So hard to think about things 2 years in advance but I suppose that is the name of the game.  Anyone with advice, tips, tricks, etc on that always feel free to share!

8)  I’d be interested in what social media platforms and/or other ways in which you have found success in promoting your blogs.  Thus far, the most success I’ve had is with Twitter (shameless plug if I can just get 80 followers by the end of Christmas Eve I will have reached my goal of 2000 followers by Christmas!)

I’m on Tumblr and Facebook, but unless I’m doing it wrong, I just don’t see them as being very useful.

YOUR THOUGHTS – If you have any thoughts on how I can make this site better, please feel free to share them!  Compliments are always welcome, but harsh and brutal criticism is actually preferred.  I have thick alligator-like skin so please have at it and rip me a new one!  If you’ve been thinking, “Look, Bookshelf Battler, you insufferable doofus, it makes me go crazy when you do X, Y, or Z” now is the time to share!   Criticism is how we grow, change, and get better!

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 6

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

As discussed in yesterday’s post, A Christmas Carol is all about one man’s ability to change.  The ongoing question – do we have that ability?  Has anyone ever suffered from X issue only to one day come around and leave X issue in the past?  Feel free to share!

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 5

But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

If Charles Dickens were alive today, he’d totally have a show on MSNBC.  Moral of most of his works?  Greed=Bad.  Charity=Good.  Here, we have Marley’s Ghost, an apparition of Scrooge’s former business partner, lamenting the mistakes he made in life, urging Scrooge to not repeat them.

Marley keeps repeating the word “business.”  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business…”  No, in actuality, Marley did not make any of these good deeds his business when he was alive, but he is trying to say that he should have made these actions his business.

A Christmas Carol is all about change, and urging people to change their erroneous ways before it is too late.  What do you think?  Can people change, or are they destined to stay the same?

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Masque of the Red Death and Today’s Ebola Crisis

In case you missed it, check out my post (just one post above) of the Full Text of Edgar Allen Poe’s 1842 short story, The Masque of the Red Death.

Go on.  Read it.  It isn’t that long.  Seriously, what are you going to miss if you turn off the TV for a minute?  The Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo?

SUMMARY

The population of a fictional country has been decimated by a plague called, “The Red Death,” so-named because it causes its victims to bleed out of their pores and all over their faces before they bite the big one.  The aptly named Prince Prospero (Poe’s subtle hint to let you know the dude is lousy with cash, i.e. he’s very “prosperous”) could use his resources to help his countrymen, but instead, decides to protect himself and his friends by walling off his castle so as to keep out the infected riff-raff.  Inside, the wealthy aristocrats spend half-a-year having fun and being entertained by various performers.

Prince Prospero throws a masquerade party.  He holds it in an area of his home that has a winding pathway that takes visitors through several rooms, each decorated in various shades of colors, starting with lighter tones until the end, which is all black with scarlet red windows.  Notice that like the passing of a day, lighter colors are found in the beginning, while the colors get darker as the end of the path through the rooms approaches, all the way till black at the end, and like the eternal night that comes with death, everyone is afraid of the black room.

During the festivities, a spooky clock in the black room is so loud every time it causes all of the guests to cease their amusement every time it chimes the hour.

All are having a grand ole time until an uninvited guest arrives.  This individual costume’s is that of a sufferer of the Red Death.  He wears a funeral shroud for his clothing and a mask that appears to be a dead man’s face covered with blood, similar to the deceased victims of the disease.

Prospero and guests are outraged that someone would ruin their good time by providing a ghastly reminder of the Red Death that they are trying to avoid thinking about.  In the black room, Prospero confronts the individual but dies from the disease.  The party goers, once too scared to go into the black room, become resolute upon the death of their leader and charge into the black room.  They unmask the party crasher only to find that there’s no one underneath the mask.  They then all contract the Red Death and die immediately.

ANALYSIS

So, in other words, a group of rich people have fun and are punished for their neglect of the disease ridden masses by contracting the disease they thought they could avoid by walling themselves off in a castle under the assumption that doing so would immunize them from harm.  Poe, the author, if you’ve read his other works, has a death fixation.  Whether it is this story or The Raven’s chirp to the narrator of “Nevermore!” his works serve as a reminder that try as they might, everyone sooner or later faces death.  Prospero and his band of aristocrats were foolish to think they could avoid a plague in their backyard.  At the end of the day, they’re still human and their money and power was not enough to save them.  Had they thought of their countrymen, perhaps they could have slowed the disease and perhaps saved the day.  Instead, they were selfish and died.

Well, given today’s news headlines, kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?  Ebola is tearing through West Africa with thousands of deaths already.  Occasionally, there is a case or two in America and it causes a mass panic and fear that a plague might be headed this way.

The average American is far removed from this mess – sitting in an easy chair and watching TV, enjoying all the comforts of life, taking for granted medical care and sanitation services (i.e. indoor plumbing, clean water and trash pickup – things that are lacking in third world countries that often lead to rampant disease).  I can’t really argue that Americans are as obtuse to the situation as Prospero’s compatriots were.  Like Cicero, who played his violin while Rome burned, Prospero’s aristocrats party hard while completely ignoring the situation.  Meanwhile, today Americans are constantly bombarded with reminders of the Ebola problem by the media.  Many of us feel bad for the people of West Africa though there is not a lot we can do as individuals.  And the occasional outbreak within America causes much panic, so it cannot be said that our society is completely oblivious to the situation.

That being said, I’ve always been a critic of the UN.  The UN is an organization that was built in the wake of World War II, founded on the principle that like minded countries were going to get together and say ‘Never Again!” in the face of atrocities such as those that occurred thanks to the Nazis.  Yet, the UN does nothing about ISIS, Boko Haram, they did nothing about Rwanda, etc.  Understandably, no one wants to go to war, especially a war weary America that has just spent the last ten years fighting, so the result is many world atrocities are ignored.

But here is a chance for the civilized world to help the third world that does not require involvement in a war.  America has sent troops to help West Africa contain the Ebola outbreak.  Other countries have pitched in.   World organizations like the UN need to help third world nations build up their health care and sanitation infrastructures.  A few people in America get Ebola and it is contained due to our modern hospitals.  A few people in the third world get Ebola and it spreads like wild fire because they lack the basic facilities required to combat the disease.

And the leaders of those countries are not completely blameless.  Schools, roads, hospitals, sanitation – these are the basic services that any government should provide and if they are not providing them then they aren’t doing their jobs.

We could throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders, and say “Not our problem” but then we’d be like Prospero because, sure, Ebola is one of those problems that is “over there” and we don’t need to worry about things that happen “over there” but left unchecked and allowed to spread throughout the third world, a virus like Ebola could eventually grow so out of control that it could make its way to the civilized world with a vengeance and be impossible to stop.

So let’s not be a bunch of Prosperos, locking ourselves up in our castle while fools entertain us while there is a problem “for those people” that could one day become a problem for us.

Thanks for stopping by, fellow book enthusiasts.  Remember bookshelfbattle.com ‘s celebration of Halloween Literature is a month long event, with daily posts, so check back tomorrow.  And I’m always tweeting away on Twitter, mostly about literature, but often about pop culture in general.  Follow me @bookshelfbattle and check out my hashtag – #tweettheraven where I prove my nerdyness to the world by tweeting Poe’s infamous poem throughout the month.

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Labor Day Reads

We here at the Bookshelf Battle Institute for Excellence in Learning How to Read English Good believe that you should spend this Labor Day Weekend basking in those last few precious moments of sun before the Fall rolls around and Mother Nature makes you get out your sweaters and jackets again.  Save the reading for when the snow is piled up ten feet outside your window this Winter.

But – supposedly this is a holiday dedicated to celebrating those who labor, and has nothing to do with getting in one last day off before the weather goes South, so here are, in no particular order, some books to read if you want to learn more about the plight of the downtrodden working man:

1)  Hard Times by Charles Dickens – Oppression of the masses!  Factory workers in love!  The rich get richer!  The poor get poorer!  Workers get covered with soot and talk in cockney accents!  That’s pretty much every Charles Dickens’ novel ever written  but the plight of the poor is especially prevalent in this one.  Arguably, it’s not Dickens’ most memorable work, nor is it his best, but it’s a good piece of literature and, well – I don’t know if you need to give a SPOILER WARNING for a book that was printed in the 1800’s (I mean really, you had your chance to read it already, sheesh!) but suffice to say, Mr. Gradgrind forces all of the wit, whimsy, and dreams out of his kids, forcing them to focus on the practical.  “Stop dreaming and start making some money!” is pretty much the speech that every parent gives to a youngster sooner or later.  And it’s not necessarily bad advice (dreams are great, but paying your bills and being able to eat is good too) but Gradgrind goes a bit overboard and his son ends up a loser while his daughter ends up married to an old man twice her age.  In short, try to find a decent living and keep your dreams intact at the same time.

2) Of Mice and Men – Many of John Steinbeck’s novels are about the plight of the working man.  In this one, George and Lenny are migrant farm hands in California.  They move from farm to farm, the bumbling, dim-witted Lenny usually makes some mistake that enrages the local farm folk, forcing them to pack up and wander off to in search of a new gig.  They make it to another farm where they meet an old man and together, the three of them cook up a dream to save up their money and buy a small patch of land which would allow them to become their own bosses.  It almost pans out until – well, hey listen I’ll let you read it but take a note ladies, don’t allow enormous, musclebound dummies who don’t know their own strength to stroke your hair.  Really, it’s just common sense.

3)  Les Miserables – Victor Hugo’s epic novel turned Broadway Musical turned movie tells the tale of Jean Valjean, who stole a loaf of bread, did hard time for it, and had to take on a new identity just to get away from the shame of it.  He prospers as a town Mayor and factory owner, but when Fantine is forced out of her job at his factory due to gossiping old biddies, he goes on a quest to save her daughter, Cosette and is always just moments away from being nabbed by the obsessed Police Inspector Javert.

Surely you’ve all heard this little diddy:

THE CONFRONTATION LYRICS – LES MISERABLES

JAVERT:

Valjean, at last!  We see each other plain.  Monsieur le Mayor.  You’ll wear a different chain!

VALJEAN:

Before you say another word, Javert!  Before you chain me up like a slave again!  Listen to me!  There is something I must do.  This woman leaves behind a suffering child.  There is none but me who can intercede.  In Mercy’s name three days are all I need.  Then I’ll return.  I pledge my word.  Then I’ll return…

JAVERT:

You must think me mad! I’ve hunted you across the years!  Men like you can never change.  A man…such as you!

It’s funny, people get mad when Valjean doesn’t give Javert the three days, but when you think about it, a police offer can’t really be all like, “Oh sure man, no problem, take all the time you need and I’ll just arrest you whenever it’s convenient for you.”

4) Death of a Salesman – Depressed and old and little to show for a life of being a salesman, Willy Loman commits suicide.  Maybe don’t read this one actually, it’ll just bring you down.  Your high school English teacher probably made you read it anyway.

So, let’s recap:  We have four novels dedicated to the downtrodden working poor and they’re all about the characters either killing themselves, killing each other, or otherwise dying miserably.  Apparently there are no novels where someone just gets a job and enjoys punching a time card everyday.  Kind of sad really.  Work=death according to the most popular books about the lower class.  How about a  book just about the Labor Day holiday itself?

 

5) Labor Day – Joyce Maynard’s novel turned movie about a depressed mother and her awkward son.  They’re taken hostage by an escaped convict.  Wrongfully accused, they rally around the man and almost run away with him until the police catch on and haul him back to the slammer for a long, long time.

 

OK I give up.  It looks like there are no happy, uplifting books about the subject of labor or Labor Day itself.  This list was a total waste!  Have a nice weekend anyway, I’m off to go grill some burgers.

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Writer’s Battle – More Expressions

HAPPY AS A CLAM – – Really? I have found every clam I have ever met to be downright morose.

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE – This means “to be in a difficult situation with no visibly correct answer.” To be more accurate, the expression should be, “Stuck between a rolling boulder and a hard place.” Because really, if the rock is already there and the hard place is right next to it, and there’s enough room between them, and assuming the rock is immobile and the hard place aka a wall isn’t going anywhere, then you should be able to walk between the two with great ease. Just be careful to not end up like that guy from that movie that had to cut his arm off after a rock fell on it.

TAKE IT WITH A GRAIN OF SALT – I had dinner once with a newcomer to the country and used this phrase. He thought I was trying to tell him to put salt on his food. I had to explain that it was an expression that meant “to be skeptical of a statement that has been told to you.” I assume the connotation is that if you have a piece of steak on your fork, it might look deceptively tasty, but you might want to put some salt on it just in case. Of course, this expression was invented before people realized too much salt is bad for you.

THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE – In other words, people always assume that others have it better than they do. You think your grass stinks but your neighbor’s grass looks all lush and green. It could be you are paranoid because at the end of the day, grass is grass. Or, it could be you are absolutely right and your neighbor is an expert gardner, astute in the art of watering, mowing, and fertilizing grass to give it that beautiful emerald glow whereas your grass looks like a dried up hay field. There are sometimes when the grass is actually greener but rather than hate on a person with greener grass, you should try to learn from him.

YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO – Wrong. I have literally been the rightful owner of every piece of cake I have ever eaten. I go to a party. The host hands me a piece of cake. The host has transferred ownership of the piece of cake to me. I now have it. And now I eat it. Mindblown.

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The Writer’s Battle – Expression Challenge Continued

Just a few more, in no random order:

LIKE WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK – Has anyone ever poured water on a duck to test this? Last I noticed, ducks still get wet. I’m not aware that ducks have a teflon coating.

I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS – Well, if the point is to convey you don’t care, then I suppose this would qualify. By saying this, you’re actually saying that you don’t care enough about something to even give the butt of a verminous rodent for it. Even so, I’m trying think when in our history were rat butts ever considered a form of currency.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE – Please, like rocket science is that hard. If you had a degree in rocket scientology, you could build those things all the time.

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT – People usually say this right before they say something disrespectful. “With all due respect sir, you smell like the business end of an elephant on a hot August day.”

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU – Used to convey the message to people they should spend their money now because they can’t spend it when they’re gone, i.e. “you can’t take it with you.” Although, that’s not really accurate because Egyptian Pharaohs took their stuff with them all the time.

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Book Review – Fletch by Gregory McDonald

BASIC BOOKTOMETRICS

TITLE: Fletch

Author: Gregory McDonald

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Publication Dates: First Published 1974; Published 2002 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

GENRE: Crime/Mystery/Humor

FORMAT REVIEWED: Paperback

NUMBER OF PAGES: 197

I have a new hero. His name is the late, great Gregory McDonald.

There are some books that are giant, unrelenting tomes. You break your back carrying such books around and yet despite the voluminous number of pages, the story goes nowhere.

Then there’s Fletch. In a little under 200 pages, McDonald, in his streamlined, use one word instead of ten, writing style manages to successfully provide the reader with a story about an anti-hero who solves not one but two complex mysteries.

If you’re old enough to remember the Reagan administration, then you may have seen the Fletch movies by Chevy Chase – Fletch and the sequel, Fletch Lives. Both were funny and gave Chase his moment in the sun. Sadly, after reading the novel, I’ve realized that the movies were really only loosely based on McDonald’s work. The films served as a vehicle for Chase to show off his multiple character talents. For some reason, the epitome of the gold star for a comic is to star in a movie where he gets the chance to do various accents and pretend to be all different varieties of people. As movie Fletch, Chevy puts on all kinds of goofy costumes and buffoons his way through solving crimes while tricking people into giving information to the various personas he takes on.

If you lived during the 80's, you'll remember Fletch.  Also, Destro.

If you lived during the 80’s, you’ll remember Fletch. Also, Destro.

The novel is a bit different. Make no mistake, on top of everything else, it is funny. But while the movies were zany funny, the novel could probably be described best as a dark comedy. The reader finds himself laughing at things that he probably should not laugh at in polite society.

The plot? Fletch’s real name is Irwin Maurice, or I.M. (I am) Fletcher. He’s an LA based reporter posing undercover as a bum, trying to trick various beach dwelling hoodlums into helping him find the supplier of a constant flow of drugs to the beach scene for a story he’s writing.

His cover is so good that he fools wealthy business executive Alan Stanwyck into thinking that he’s merely a degenerate drifter. Stanwyck picks up Fletch and makes him the following proposition, which I’ll post below so you can get an idea of the quick-draw, rapid fire pace at which McDonald writes:

What’s your name?”
“Fletch”
“What’s your full name?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked.”
“Is it criminal?”
“Of course.”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”
Fletch said, “Sure.”

Stanwyck claims to have terminal cancer and offers Fletch $50,000 to return to a week and shoot him in his study. He tells Fletch this will allow him to avoid suffering through a prolonged, agonizing death and as it will appear like a burglary gone bad, his wife will obtain a hefty insurance payment. Fletch may be a degenerate (he is haunted by his two ex-wives’ divorce lawyers throughout the novel) but he’s no dummy. Refusing to take Stanwyck at his word, he sets out on an investigation to find out whether or not Stanwyck is telling the truth. By posing as various people (insurance investigators, lawyers, “old long lost friends,” etc.) he manages to trick the people in Stanwyck’s life to give up the dirt. In the process, he even discovers the source of drugs on the beach along the way.

I really enjoyed this book. If you’ve seen the movie, you haven’t experienced the full story. It amazes me that in such a short novel, McDonald manages to provide the reader with a rich, in-depth experience. Rarely do I read a novel and want to read the series, but I think I might actually do it with this one. In case you are interested in the reading order for the Fletch novel series, I’ll post it below.

Note that while Fletch was McDonald’s first novel published introducing the Fletch character, he also published prequels, so Fletch is not the first novel in chronological order.

Reading Order for the Fletch Series of Novels by Gregory McDonald

Fletch Won

Fletch, Too

Fletch and the Widow Bradley

Fletch

Carioca Fletch

Confess, Fletch

Fletch’s Fortune

Fletch’s Moxie

Fletch and the Man Who

Son of Fletch

Fletch Reflected

McDonald was a newspaper reporter himself, so I imagine that he had an idea of the difficult life of a reporter that Fletch faced. It’s always interesting when authors write about environments they have personally experienced. I’m putting him next to Joseph Heller of Catch-22 fame as an author who can be funny and serious at the same time.

As always, Bookshelf Battlers, thank you for stopping by. Shameless plug – please follow this blog, and if you’re on Twitter, follow @bookshelfbattle I’ll keep writing reviews as long as somebody keeps reading them. May your days be filled with booktastic goodness.

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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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