Everyone once in a while, I will put an inquiry out on Facebook for new reads. (Because I don’t have enough in my actual to-read pile (only 18) or on my Goodreads to-read shelf (a mere 345)).
Among the many recommendations I got a few months ago was John Scalzi’s Redshirts.
Now I had heard of John Scalzi. He is a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has won/been nominated for a Hugo Award a couple times, lurks on twitter (@scalzi), and many of the other authors I read & follow have mentioned him either through reviews or on their social media. But I had never read one of his books . . . until now.
Redshirts,* and Scalzi’s other books, fall in the science fiction genre. I am about 50-50 on science fiction. Some sci-fi books I love (Ender’s Game, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ), and some I just can’t get into for one reason or another. Because science fiction tends to be a hit-or-miss genre with me, I tend to shy away from it unless I have a recommendation.
So when Redshirts was recommended to me, I did go and pick up a copy. But then I let it sit in the to-read pile for a few weeks. That was my bad for letting it linger in the to-read pile because Redshirts is all the best things about science fiction. What a fantastic recommendation. (Thanks Lisa!)
Redshirts satirises the trope of the Star Trek “red shirt” character. For those of you who are not Star Trek fans, let me explain.
In the original ST series, the red shirt character was typically a minor character, an Ensign, in the landing party who suffered a quick death.
See, you couldn’t have a major character like Kirk or Spock or Bones die. So when the writers needed to stress the danger the landing party faced, an ensign died.
And that ensign, more times than not, wore a red shirt. (Matt Bailey did the math and figured out that of the 59 crew members killed in the original series, 43 (73%) wore red shirts.) So red shirt = dead man walking.
So the book Redshirts obviously plays on that trope. You don’t have to be a fan of the original Star Trek series to appreciate the book, but it does help. I don’t want to say more than that about the book because anything more may spoil the book (and I’m anti-spoiler). (You can read the back cover synopsis on Goodreads.)
What I will say is this book is a lot of fun. It’s geeky goodness. It’s clever. And it made me laugh out loud.
As of today, I have now devoured the first two of these books—Old’s Man War and The Ghost Brigades. And wow, what a series.
First, the premise is intriguing. Humans have finally conquered interstellar space travel to find new worlds to inhabit. But habitable planets are few and there’s fierce competition from other alien races. (Of course, no one wants Earth because humans have already depleted its natural resources.)
But when you’re fighting a war in space for multiple plants scattered around the universe, you clearly need an almost endless supply of soldiers. To solve the recruitment problem, Earth’s space military, the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), recruits senior citizens.
Yes, you read that right. You have to be 75-years-old to enlist in the military. Hence, the title—Old’s Man War.
The book gets more fascinating from there and follows the recruitment, training, and missions of one particular senior, John Perry. Again, I won’t spoil the book for you, but I will say that I was thoroughly immersed in the world of John Perry and the CDF.
I plan to start book 3, The Last Colony, either tonight or tomorrow (thank goodness for the long weekend!). Then there are 3 more books in this series.
So, John Scalzi has made my list of favorite modern authors, which means I now plan to read everything he has written and will pre-order any future books. In my world, Scalzi now joins the likes of Charlaine Harris, Patrick Rothfuss, Linda Poitevin, Kevin Hearne, and Darynda Jones on my fave modern authors list (this isn’t the whole list, but just to give you an idea).
And if you enjoy science fiction works with intriguing premises and clever writing, I pass along this recommendation to you—in my opinion, you can’t go wrong.
Have you read anything by John Scalzi? Tell me in the comments below what you thought of either Redshirts or Old Man’s War. Or if you have a book you think I should read and review, let me know that too!
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