Well-Worn Pages: REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi

REDSHIRTS is actually the first Scalzi that I’ve read. I’ve loved his blog and twitter feed (@scalzi) for a long time. However, I hadn’t been driven to read any of Scalzi’s books until I heard the theme song that Jonathan Coulton wrote for REDSHIRTS.

Spoiler alert for the Star Trek illiterate – the term ‘redshirt’ is a reference to the nameless and soon-to-die extras who accompany main characters when they embark on ill-fated away missions. A redshirt’s sole reason for existence is to die a sudden and tragic death in some alien setting. They make their dialogueless sacrifices for us, the audience. They selflessly up the stakes for the imperiled – yet destined for future greatness – main characters.

Coulton captures the tragic absurdity of that meme perfectly. The song rocked. I loved the quirky play of an away mission gone bad story told from the point-of-view of a doomed, red-shirted nobody. I bought the song and learned the lyrics and how to play it on guitar. Eventually, Kindle decided that I should probably buy the novel that inspired the song. On a whim, I clicked on the recommendation and downloaded a copy. Having now read the book, I realize that Coulton had an awesome platform of inspiration for his song.

Turns out, I’m a Scalzi fan.

I don’t think I can give much more than the premise of the book without spoiling the story. Like the song, REDSHIRTS is a story about the universe’s expendable extras. I will say that Scalzi does a wonderful job of casting the unsung, the JV, the underdog. Of weaving the hopes and dreams of the unremarkable into the small, empty spaces that remain between lives of greater significance. He takes what is at heart an absurd premise and gives you a set of innocuous but motivated underdogs to cheer for.

It’s well worth the read.

I will say that I wasn’t a big fan of the codas. It’s nice to have a little glimpse into the story after the story. I’ll grant that. Also, the codas are an absolute clinic in first, second, and third person writing. However, I found them unnecessary and felt like they detracted from the story. I don’t know, maybe I was just worn out and ready for a break. I moved through the second half of the book at a bit of a sprit. Maybe I needed a little timeout before tackling the trio of epilogues. Despite that, I liked REDSHIRTS well enough that I went right out and picked up a copy OLD MAN’S WAR.

I finished OLD MAN’S WAR a couple weeks ago and will probably blog about it here in the next post or three. Right now, I’m treating myself to Scott Lynch’s RED SEAS UNDER RED SKY, sequel to THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA. Lamora, incidentally, might just be the best book I read in 2012.

So many good books to read.

So many…

Let me know if you read REDSHIRTS and what you thought about the book in the comments.

UPDATE 2/22/13 – Check out Scalzi singing REDSHIRT with Jonathan Coulton and his band. I have no words. John Scalzi…. you, sir, are a trooper. 

Scholastic Book Fair

The Scholastic Book Fair came to my son’s elementary school today. Let me tell you… the book fair has become a big deal for my little Alaskan buddy. His class has had a couple of opportunities to browse through catalogs and the books on display at the fair. On Monday, he came home with a wish list and we’ve been hearing about it ever since.

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The fun part for me is this afternoon. I get to go pick up the books for him after his parent/teacher conference. I have a sneaking suspicion that bedtime might come a wee bit late tonight at the Rogers’ household. 🙂

For those of you who are following along with the reading trends of six-year-old boys, a sampling of this year’s selections include:

I’m actually kind of psyched to read the zombie one. 😉

Cheers!

Well-Worn Pages: CHILD OF FIRE by Harry Connolly

For years, I have been on a quest to find Urban Fantasy with awesome male protagonists.

There’s a lot of bleed between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, so you end up flirting with some of those genre’s female leads. I actually enjoy those books quite a bit, just so long as they don’t go all Ally McBeal – Season 3 on me. I am a staunch proponent of chicks in leather kicking monster-ass.

Regardless, it is definitely difficult to find cool male protagonists in Urban Fantasy.

So, how in the world did I miss Ray Lilly from Harry Connolly’s (@byharryconnolly) Twenty Palaces series?!?

Yeah… I’m going to be reading all of these books.

First off, thanks to CE Murphy (‏@ce_murphy) and Betsy Mitchell (@Betsy_Mitchell) for turning me on to the series. Second, shame on you two for doing it right when I was starting NaNoWriMo. Child of Fire was a wonderful way to spend a couple evenings curled up in front of the fireplace with the dogs and a bottle of wine. However, it most certainly did not net me any words.

This book is the first in the Twenty Palaces series, and it’s worth the read. However, if I understand correctly, Connolly recently released a prequel. I’m looking forward to that as well, but I don’t know if it would be best to read the prequel before or after the other books. Maybe someone who’s read them all can chime in with their opinion in the comments.

Child of Fire is not your modern day swords and sorcery type of story, it leans a little more toward the horror side of the genre. Connolly has his own style, to be sure, but his fantastical elements remind me more of Stross’ The Atrocity Archives than Butcher’s Dresden Files or Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles. There are big, bad nasties out there and they are not at all timid about gobbling up the whole planet.

This is a fast, fun romp over forty miles of rough road. Strong, distinct characters have the wheel, and don’t climb in if you’re a little squeamish.

I have a couple other books on my must-read list, but the sequel, Game of Cages is one of my post-NaNo, December rewards.

Well-Worn Pages: LEGION by Brandon Sanderson

A couple years ago, I stumbled on to the Writing Excuses podcast. The cast of host characters and their focused, topical style immediately hooked me. Since finding the podcast, I’ve read the works of several of the host authors, including an alpha-read of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity. However, I had never read anything by Brandon Sanderson.

At several points, I’ve thought it would be interesting to create a poll asking: If you could spend an afternoon talking shop with any author who’s work you’ve never read, who would that author be?

For the past couple years, my answer would have been Sanderson. Again, I had never read a lick of his writing. I just love what the podcast gives to the writing community and I’d like to draft some Magic cards with the guy. Sounds like an ideal afternoon to me!

Well, I can no longer claim to have never read any Sanderson.

I just finished his new novella, Legion. I’d guess the book is approximately 20k words and it is chock-full of awesome.

Sanderson is mostly known for high thud-factor epic fantasies, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a shorter piece of his fiction. What I got was a small and rich cast of characters working to solve a straightforward problem. However, the story is driven by unexpected turns and carried by the most average – yet over-powered – protagonist ever. You’ll, uh… have to read it to know what I mean by that.

I doubt that I’ll make a habit of reviewing or recommending books. If you want to know what I like and don’t like, track me down on Goodreads.com. Legion, however, is a fast, fun, non-committal read and I highly recommend that you give it a look.

Also, if you have an author that you’ve never read but would love to meet and hang out with, let me know who and why in the comments.

Terrifying Words

What are the five most terrifying words in the English language?

“Move and I will shoot!” seems fairly intimidating.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” generally ends up sucking pretty hard.

While those are pretty bad, I think that, “Will you read my novel?” has to rank right up there at the top.

Reading a novel-length book takes a serious investment of time. I mean, if you ask a buddy to help you move to a new house, they might be dedicating the better part of a day to helping you out. If you’re asking them to commit to reading an alpha or beta-draft of a novel, you’re talking about multiple evenings and weekends.

Then you’re gonna interrogate them for their opinions.

It’s pretty safe to assume that if you help a buddy move, you’ll at least get some beer and a couple slices of pizza out of it.

“Read my novel?”

Yeah.

Not so much.

To every one who’s taken a swing at reading and critiquing my stuff, thank you. Seriously. It makes a world of difference.

… and I probably owe you beer and pizza.