Redshirts Lemmed!

Spoiler Check: I have completed Chapter 9 of Redshirts by John Scalzi, and that’s as far as I’m going with it

Books It just isn’t for me. I managed a bit over two hours of Redshirts and decided to call it a day. I have “lemmed” it, in other words abandoned it part way through. The verb to “lem” has been used with that meaning by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont on the Sword & Laser podcast/YouTube show ever since Veronica gave up on one of the S & L book-picks, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem.

My main problem with Redshirts was that I just did not find it very funny. I laughed once, when Q’eeng mispronounced some greeting in an obscure language known to the main protagonist, Andy Dahl. That was it. I got the “redshirts” joke, a reference to the Star Trek trope where Kirk, Spock, McCoy etc would get beamed onto some dangerous planet along with a couple of unknown low-ranking crew members, generally in red shirts, who were only there so they could be killed off to prove how dangerous the planet was. Well we couldn’t have any of the main characters killed off, could we? After a number of episodes, the expendable role of the red shirt characters became obvious to the extent viewers could confidently predict their imminent demise.

In Redshirts, Scalzi runs with this one idea and takes it to extremes, attempting to play it for laughs. Sorry – it may work for a lot of people but fell flat with me.

So I have moved swiftly on to a series of Free first Chapters offered by Audible some weeks ago, hoping some will find favour and lead to full purchases. I started with Andrew Marr’s The History of the World, which sounded ambitious to say the least. The sample first chapter only takes us as far as the first migration of Homo Sapiens out of Africa, but it was well described and I learned quite a bit from it. Maybe one to come back to if I get fed up with SF/Fantasy and get hungry for some meaty non-fiction.

The next was Jojo Moyes’s The Girl You Left Behind which is certainly fiction but neither SF nor Fantasy. I’m not sure how I came to pick it now. It appears to be “women’s fiction” set in occupied France in 1916. Having said that it was very well written, well narrated and I found myself taking to it. Not that I intend to read the whole book. I’m sure it is a great dramatic tale of wartime stoicism, bravery and romance but that’s really not my bag either.

Next up is Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me? Made me wonder about Redshirts. Is it just me?

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One Response to Redshirts Lemmed!

  1. I may after all go back and finish off Redshirts, one day. This is the comment I left today on Scalzi’s website:

    “I gave up on the audiobook after about 2-3 hours because the central part (post prologue, pre codas) is virtually unlistenable to. It was only today, when I listened to Luke Burrage’s review on the SF Book Review Podcast, that I started to get an inkling of why. Of course, I now know the full premise, all about the codas and the bigger picture with all the “meta-ness”. So I am starting to understand why the middle bit was written as it was. Fact remains that, as an audiobook at least, that section of the book is very hard going, and mostly not very funny. Even if it is so for a reason, you are still asking the reader to suffer for a goodly portion of the book before they get the very clever pay-off, which I now know about but have yet to enjoy. I will therefore at some stage give the book another go and keep going to the end, trusting to Luke who is a remarkably entertaining (often ranty) reviewer but also remarkably perceptive. Luke did say not to consume the audiobook at any cost, but I’m not shelling out again for a print or ebook. So I will just have to grit my teeth, stick with it past the painful bits and get to the end at which point it may become clear why this book won the Hugo.”

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