Book Review – Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: Redshirts

Author: John Scalzi

Format: Hardback

Published: 2012

 

This book came to me as a recommendation of a co-worker and friend of mine.  He told me that if I liked the TV series Star Trek I would like this book.  I was told that it is a comedic take on the classic trope of red shirts always dying.  If you know anything about Star Trek it was always true in the original series that if there was a random person in a red shirt that was part of an away team mission, they were going to die.  The book tells the story of a ship where this fact is known and no one wants to avoid away missions as they might be that person destined to die.

 

I will admit that when I started the book it felt a bit flat, the story progressed slowly as the main characters who were all ‘red shirts’ were introduced.  It also bothered me for a long while that there were two similarly named characters Duvall and Dahl.  There were times it was hard to keep them straight even though Dahl is the main protagonist, a pacifist and male while Duvall is one of the supporting main characters who is female and a bit of a partier.  Still, when first learning names it is hard to keep track particularly when they are speaking to one another.

 

However, when the characters get on the ship and Dahl starts experiencing first-hand the oddness that is the spaceship Intrepid things grow to be interesting.  One minute, Dahl can be speaking with his fellow officers and the next minute they are rushing off to get coffee or have vanished to do inventory yet again.  When this happens a senior officer walks in and recruits him for an important and impossible mission, speaking about science that makes very little sense yet must be accomplished.   Given task Dahl is supplied with a box that works much like a microwave and will give the solution to the problem at the last minute.   In addition to this oddity there is a strange yeti man who seems to know that there is more going on than meets the eye.

 

While there is so much that can be said about this book a lot of it would blow the surprises contained within.  So without blowing the story I’ll say that the story is worth the read and the effort to get past the slow start.  The story picks up with good comedy, classic tropes of science fiction and a nice sense of adventure and impending doom.   You really aren’t left lacking or wanting in the story and it satisfies you in the end giving you a story that is well worth the read.  Over all I’d give the book 4 pages.  It isn’t a book I’ll go running out to buy a copy and tell all my friends about but for the right person looking for the right book?  You-betcha, I’ll tell them about Redshirts.

Book Review – From a High Tower

Title: From a High Tower

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Format: eBook

Year Published: 2015

From a High Tower is the tenth book in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. As with most of the books, it’s based upon fairy tales/folklore – in this case, Rapunzel. Or well, it starts out with Rapunzel, but then it takes a hard left into Germanic tellings of the Wild West, based upon the books of Karl May, an author I’ve never heard of (not unexpected, as Lackey includes a foreword in the front of the book to give an overview of May’s books).

The novel begins with a heavy focus on the Rapunzel story-line: a husband with a heavily-pregnant wife, who steals food – specifically rampion – from an old, run-down, apparently abandoned house. He is caught, but in return for the food, the child his wife is carrying is demanded in return.

Unlike most versions of the story, Rapunzel – also known as Giselle – is not freed from the evil witch by a handsome prince, or cast out once it is discovered that she has been consorting with him. Instead, the evil witch is an Earth Master – kind and caring (though I spent the *entire* book waiting for something bad to come out about her) and the handsome prince – a rapist who wants Giselle’s power as an Air Master.

The story-proper begins as Giselle is traveling from town to town, entering and winning shooting contests to support herself. Done in the guise of a man, this plan goes awry when she is forced to kill an army officer – eventually resulting her joining a traveling Wild West Show as one of the stars. Not only does the show need her ability to shoot, her magical abilities are not out of place either.

They are joined by Rosamund, a Hunt Master of the Bruderschaft, a local organization that handles magical problems and creatures (and, had I read the series in order, I would have ‘met’ Rosamund in Blood Red) and together they travel with the show.

They have several adventures on the road, and end up wintering at Giselle’s tower, where the ‘handsome prince’ who had previously attacked her attempts to get her and her power again, this time with the help of his family. They are defeated with the combined power of Giselle, Rosamund, and the other two magicians with the show.

I’m… lukewarm on this book. I enjoy the series, for the most part (though honestly, the earlier books are my favorites), but felt that this one relied heavily upon the knowledge of Karl May’s books and therefore, I didn’t connect to it. I also dislike the recent trend in the books where the main character has a person who ends up being a romantic interest for them, but they barely interact or seem to connect.

I like the learning of magic that happens in the book, but there is very little of it, in total, and most of the magic Giselle performs is little, and things she already knows. I also felt that Giselle stayed naïve for far too long in the story, and could have done with far more seasoning earlier on.

Still, once I got going on the book it went fast, so I’ll rate this one 3/5 stars.

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