Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “John Scalzi”

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #42: Redshirts by John Scalzi

*Audiobook Review*

Yet another great recommendation from anther Cannonballer.  This book was right up my alley.  I am a huge Star Trek nerd, mostly Next Generation.  This is a loving spoof in the vein of Galaxy Quest.  I laughed my ass off when I read the title of this book.

I listened to this book about 2 months ago, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details.  A bunch of brand-new ensigns have just been assigned to the USS Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union.  The reason for all of the new crew members is that low-ranking ensigns tend to die on away missions.  Like a lot.  More than all of the other ships in the fleet combined.  Understandably, this makes the crew a little nervous.

This is a great meta analysis of not only Star Trek, but entertainment in general.  Why do we need so many secondary characters to die in order for a scene to have the proper dramatic impact?  I loved this book, and I am recommending it to nerds everywhere.

5/5 Stars

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #52: Redshirts by John Scalzi

CANNONBALL!!!!

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, and I really couldn’t have picked a better book for my #52. Scalzi is now officially on my list of my favorite authors ever, and not because what he writes is necessarily deep or profound or written in the most complex language, but simply because the guy knows how to write a smart, fun book. I know I’ve compared Scalzi’s books to Mexican food before, but really it’s the best comparison. Reading Scalzi, and Redshirts in particular, is the literary equivalent of eating a really good burrito — it’s not the most nutritious food in the universe, but it fills you up, and damn does it taste good going down.

A redshirt, for those of you who don’t know the term (and where have you been living?) is a character type popularized by the Star Trek franchise. A redshirt exists only to die, a cheap and easy way to up the ante in any given situation, and in the original Star Trek series, they almost always wore the red shirt of a Starfleet security officer. Scalzi takes this concept and runs away with it, making a group of redshirts in a Star Trek spoof universe his main heroes. Instead of Captain Kirk, we have Captain Abernathy. Instead of the USS Enterprise, we have the Universal Union’s flagship, the Intrepid. The new recruits, led by narrator and protagonist Ensign Andrew Dahl, quickly realize there is something horribly wrong aboard the Intrepid — awful, catastrophic things seem to occur on a regular basis, especially on away missions, and while the five most senior officers on the ship always seem to survive, at least one crew member always, always dies. The entire crew lives in fear that they might be next, and none of them understand why.

Redshirts is a tongue-in-cheek, laugh out loud spoof, but it’s also a loving homage to a subject that Scalzi clearly feels affection for. Even if you aren’t that familiar with Star Trek in any of its incarnations, Star Trek itself has had such a huge impact on popular culture that you’re going to get the jokes in this book, because you’ve seen them other places in the forty-five years since Star Trek first aired. It’s part of the zeitgeist. And even if you don’t get the jokes, Redshirts is still a rip-roaring good yarn with likable characters and a zippy, clever, lightning-fast narrative. Redshirts also comes with three codas, each a sort of epilogue to the main narrative that fills out the Redshirts universe and some hanging plot threads that weren’t crucial to the main narrative. All three are fun little vignettes that I’m glad Scalzi included — I like to see authors getting experimental every once in a while.

If you like science fiction at all, run out and get Redshirts right now. You’ll laugh your asses off, and it will remind you of the many reasons you love the genre in the first place. I guess the rest of you can suck it, because WTF? What is wrong with you. Anyway, you might like it, too.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #42: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Fuzzy Nation is a great book and you should all read it. Shit, am I not done yet? Fine.

Fuzzy Nation is a “reboot” of a Hugo winning novel from the 60s called Little Fuzzy, in the same way that the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica retooled the cheesy 80s series and J.J. Abrams rebooted the Star Trek universe in 2009 (Scalzi explicitly references these two films in his introduction to the book.) I haven’t read Little Fuzzy, but after reading Fuzzy Nation, I’ll definitely be checking it out, and since I knew virtually nothing of the story before reading, it’ll be interesting to see just exactly what Scalzi changed from the original story.

I feel bad for doing this because I really loved this book, but I am so behind in my reviews at this point that it’s actually stressing me out, so I’ve decided to just cut some corners and say the hell with it. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

Think eco-legal thriller with adorable fuzzy things and a leading man that is a mix of Jack McCoy and Sawyer from Lost (not coincidentally, in the movie in my head, he’s also played by Josh Holloway). There’s nothing particularly deep or surprising about this book (possibly because Little Fuzzy has influenced sci-fi writers since it was published forty years ago, in the same way there was nothing surprising about John Carter for moviegoers because the Barsoom series had been an inspiration for many of the filmmakers and authors in the 20th century), but it has great characters, great dialogue, and the story plows along like nobody’s business. Not to mention, you guys, THE FUZZIES ARE SO CUTE I WANT ONE. (Spoiler: The fact that I want a Fuzzy might mean that I completely missed the point of the book, which is in large part about how people take what we want and don’t think about the consequences . . . sidenote to the sidenote, I’m not a bad person, for realsies.)

Having finished this book, I’m slightly pissed off that I’m running out of new Scalzi books to read. (Redshirts this summer. WOOO!)

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #40: Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

I ate up the Old Man’s War trilogy last year like it was a friggin’ breakfast burrito during a hangover. It was my first exposure to John Scalzi, and it was delicious (especially #1). Zoe’s Tale is a re-telling of the final book in the OMW trilogy, The Last Colony, from the perspective of the protagonist’s daughter, who played a pivotal but largely unseen role in the story. Because I’d enjoyed the original trilogy so much, and because I’d been burned by re-tellings before*, I was a little wary of Zoe’s Tale, despite my faith in Scalzi as a storyteller.

*Had a nasty reaction to Ender’s Shadow a couple years back. I did end up enjoying the sequels to that story, but I still kind of hate what Orson Scott Card did to the events of Ender’s Game by placing so much credit on Bean’s “behind the scenes” actions. I liked the Bean backstory, but I thought the “new” events in Ender’s Shadow took away some of the magic from the original story. I should stop now or this could will go on for a while.

It is possible to go into Zoe’s Tale not having read any of Scalzi’s other writing, but I wouldn’t recommend it, not only because it would ruin the story if you ever decided to read Old Man’s War, but because Zoe’s Tale just isn’t as good as the other three books. I don’t know if I would feel the same way about it if I hadn’t read the other three, but I obviously have no way of knowing at this point. The only way I can honestly review this book is in the context of its predecessors. My verdict is largely that it was a fun idea, but I’m not entirely sure it needed to have been written, at least, not as a whole novel. It was sort of fun seeing Scalzi put on the persona of a sixteen year old girl, and it was nice to see things through Zoe’s eyes, but all the narrative tension was mostly non-existent for me, because hey, I’d already read the story before in another form. But that’s always the danger of re-tellings: you have to find a way to make the story succeed even though the audience knows what’s coming, and I’m not sure that Scalzi did that. At least, not for me.

Again, reading this book is a particularly subjective experience, so there could be people out there (and I’m sure there are) who completely disagree with me. This was a fast, fun read, but really there were only two scenes in the entire book that warranted this re-telling: the scene where Zoe saves everyone from the werewolf things (a scene I missed in The Last Colony) and the whole ending sequence, which I imagine was Scalzi’s justification for this whole novel in the first place. And it was really awesome. I’m just not entirely convinced he needed to write a whole novel along with it. Of course, there’s also the strong possibility that I’m talking out of my ass. This book did make me cry, after all, even though I totally knew what was coming. I give it 3.5 stars, because of the ending, and because I have a strong suspicion that I’m an asshole and need to make up for it a little bit.

ANYWAY, you guys should all read Old Man’s War, because it’s awesomesauce. Peace out.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

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