John Scalzi's new novel Redshirts starts from a a well-worn, but clever premise: what if the characters in a hackneyed genre story realized that they were trapped by the poor imagination of a hack writer? In Redshirts' case, the prisoners of destiny are the red-shirted ensigns assigned to the flagship of a galactic federation in a derivative, B-grade Star Trek knock-off, whose cohort dies in great number on every mission. The ensigns begin to suspect that something's amiss when they discover that all the ship's old hands run and hide every time the members of the first-shift bridge crew come by, and after a few grisly deaths from their number, they begin to work it out, with the aid of a reclusive bearded prophet who hides in the ship's maintenance corridors, and who believes that they have been trapped in something called "The Narrative" and has even worked out its rules.
The premise has been considered before, and Scalzi's handling of it is deft, likable, and funny without sacrificing suspense or characterization. But, this being a Scalzi novel, quickly transcends the mere conceit and begins to consider the existential, human implications for both the characters and the 21st century actors who portrayed them, and before you know it, we're off on a provocative and heart-tugging philosophical meta-novel.
Redshirts both realizes and transcends its premise, and is at once a tribute to, and a piss-take on, the best and worst that space opera has to offer. It's the sort of thing that science fiction is especially good at, and the sort of thing for which Scalzi is justifiably loved.
In 2012, I was given the privilege of performing my high school ska-punk hit song “Adam Wants A Blowjob” during a performance of Mortified in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mortified is a gloriously hilarious and cathartic evening of performance, wherein people perform excerpts from their actual, real-life high school and college journaling and other writing. It’s embarrassing; it’s touching; […]
The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan is imploring its patrons to please not attempt to disinfect borrowed books by putting them in the microwave. The books contain metal RFID tags that will burn the pages and potentially cause a fire. From KIRO7: “I don’t know if it was something that they saw on […]
Every year, adventurous (and oft-unprepared) hikers who are fans of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild” (1996) or the move based upon it have attempted the treacherous 20 mile trek on Alaska’s Stampede Trail to the abandoned bus where Chris McCandless found refuge (until his death) in 1992. And frequently, hikers making the pilgrimage have […]
We’ve all had those nights where we’re working on a laptop or scrolling through our phone before glancing at the time to find it’s actually a lot later than we thought. Most nights, you’d be fast asleep or at least dead tired at midnight or 1 or 3 a.m. But after staring at a screen, […]
If you’re a fan of ABC’s entrepreneurial feeding frenzy “Shark Tank,” then you know complete buyout offers from the expert Sharks don’t happen all that often. But back in 2017, that’s exactly what happened when inventor Logan Riley debuted his instantly eye-catching creation the RokBlok to the agog Sharks. Part of the reason that happened […]
Back in the 50s and 60s, it was no big deal in most areas to make a call to your local liquor store and have beer, wine and spirits delivered right to your house with little to no restriction. However, that ease and simplicity certainly isn’t in place today. Alcohol delivery laws in 2020 are […]