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.

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Book Review- Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

Title: Bloodthirsty
Author: Flynn Meaney
Format: Paperback
Published: 2010

It has been a while since I’ve actually gone out and bought a book for myself. It’s what happens when you are ‘poor’ you don’t buy books you borrow them from the library. Of course you borrow them even when you can buy then because sometimes you pick up a book not knowing if you will like it and would rather not spend money on a book you may not like. Still one day I happened to actually go to a book store. It is a place I have to avoid because there are so many pretty books that call my name.

On a lark I actually stopped and looked at the bargain books, the ones that sit on racks outside the book store and you feel like it is far too easy just to walk away and steal the books. (I didn’t steal any books of course.) Usually the cart is filled with weird children’s picture books, cook books and failed self help books. There is some fiction but most of it is bad fiction. Yet, I looked I was curious and that is where I saw Bloodthirsty, a vampire novel, judging by the title and the cute little smiley heart with fangs. It was enough for me to look at the blurb. I admit I have a thing in some respect for vampires. I actually prefer werewolves but there is a sad lack of those and more vampire books so I’ll get my supernatural creatures of the night fix where I can. Of course with the huge vampire craze that is out there, one has to be careful as there are a lot of terrible vampire books out there.

Still I’ll give a book a chance to hook me with the blurb and the first page or so of the book. Bloodthirsty intrigued me. On the cover it has the tagline of “Some vampires are good. Some are evil. Some are faking it to get girls.” In an instant I knew that this could be amusing and not your everyday classic vampire novel. As I looked over and considered the book the price of less than $3 dollars had me and it was the first book written by Flynn Meaney and being an aspiring author myself I suddenly felt bad that her book was on it’s way out. So all factors combined I bought it. It was nice to buy a book potentially support an author and have a cheap book that might be a decent read.

It took a while before I could get around to reading the book, and at first I wasn’t sure about it. The start while interesting wasn’t really the start of the story, it was the hook so to speak. It starts with a girl asking the main character to turn her into a vampire like him – the problem being he really wasn’t a vampire. From there the book digresses as Finbar (the main character and narrator) starts to tell about his life and background which eventually lead to his becoming a vampire or rather a fake vampire. In some ways it annoyed me at the start along with the idea that he had a twin brother named Luke. Twin brother? Fine? Twin brothers names Luke and Finbar? Not so much. It always annoys me a little when two characters in the same family have opposing first names unless an explanation is given. Like a blended family where they agree to name one child based on one ethnicity and another for another ethnicity or even a terrible family name has to be passed down so one child get cursed with that name while the rest of the family gets average names. I know they are weak excuses but something rather than what Flynn did. It was all a matter that Finbar was named such because it was very vampire like.

Still despite my pet peeve coming into play in this novel, I continued to read and before long Finbar’s story captured my interest and I was looking forward to my lunch break where I could take more time to read the book. While the book seems comedic in concept it wasn’t exactly a dead set comedy based on the style, yet, I found myself snickering and laughing and even pausing on occasion due to the humor. I loved it.

Overall the story as a whole is simple and straight to the point, pale, super thin, quiet, geeky Finbar struggles to get the girl and is fed up not being noticed at all. Through a serries of odd weird little events a girl mistakes him for a vampire and then eventually the idea hatches and forms and follows Finbar as he tries to survive life at a new high school and pretending to be a vampire. In the end the story has a moral to it. Not the whole classic moral like the little boy who cried wolf but the story has a point and tells it amusingly with some great amusing twists at the end.

I admit I was sad when I finished the book I was dreading the end for the last fifty or so pages, because I didn’t want to fun and magic to end. It was a good read and I’m certainly intrigued by the author and her second novel The Boy Recession. Of course my luck with repeating an author isn’t strong but I’ll still give Flynn Meaney another go as this book was a solid 4 out of 5 pages. It is a book that caters to a certain audience the ones who like vampires but don’t demand a serious vampire novel. If that is you, then I think this might be the right book. (Also the geek references are a lot of fun too!)

Book Review – Ouran High School Host Club vol 1 by Bisco Hatori

Title: Ouran High School Host Club vol 1

Author/Illustrator: Bisco Hatori

Format: Paperback

Written: 2002

Translated: 2005

As I had said in an earlier review, I am in a bit of a manga kick and I’m trying to find something that I have enjoyed as much as the Sailor Moon series or the Alice series, but nothing has hit me just yet.  I decided to try Host Club because I remember long ago a friend telling me how it was great and how she loved it.  I will admit in looking at the book I see what she loved about the series, and I am reminded of how our tastes differ.  Not to say this friend and I don’t share similar tastes in other things, but in the case of this particular manga our tastes are very much departed.

The basic story premise is the story of a poor girl who has a scholarship to a very rich and exclusive school.  She starts out by searching for a quiet place to study and finds herself stumbling upon the high school host club.  She is mistaken for a boy, and as she tries to get away from the rather awkward situation she breaks a very expensive vase, and has to settle the debt somehow.  The President of the club decides instead of making her a grunt boy who does all their errands for them, he decides to make Haruhi a member of the club.  Her job will be to bring in and entertain several clients.

Haruhi is then transformed form what they think is an average looking guy into a very attractive looking guy who wins over a lot of customers.  After all of this has taken place they learn that Haruhi is in fact a girl.  Haruhi is fine being mistaken as a boy not caring about gender differences and continues to play a guy because she is more apt to get clients as a boy than as a girl.

Now before I go further into giving my thoughts on the book, I will take a minute to explain what a host club is for those of you who may not know.  In Japan, there are places called hostess and host clubs, a hostess club chiefly employs females to entertain men and host clubs are the opposite.  (And by entertain, I’m not meaning a strip club).  It is a place to have a drink and talk with the opposite sex, the most that happens in the club is hugs, kissing, and an occasional dance (according to my research on Wikipedia).  In the high school scene of the book tea and cakes are served and again nothing more than the kissing and dancing happens.

Over all, Host Club is a comedy and I’m beginning to think comedy manga is not my thing.   A lot of the characters were over the top and just dull.  When I read manga, I like a bit of substance and a story, not something episodic with over the top incidents.  Aside from that, I have some issues with how gender is played with.  On the whole, save for Haruhi, girls are over simplistic and giggly and have no substance.  (True, the guys get that way too in this manga but they have more substance than the girls).  Then, I wasn’t fond of the semi incestuous relationship between the twin brothers, I mean getting near kissing and offering to take each other’s clothes off in a ‘perfect’ way is ‘no bueno’.  I mean, if it was just two guys rather than brothers that is a different story.

Additionally, I didn’t like how they handled Tamaki’s (the club president) reaction to Haruhi.  From the start, Tamaki is attracted to Haruhi and that is fine, and even the surprised remark of “wow Tamaki going for a guy?” Is okay, but I don’t like how when Haruhi was revealed to be a girl that “Ah yes Tamaki must have known subconsciously that Haruhi was a girl because he wouldn’t fawn over a real guy like that!”  That kind of frustrated me and was just handled poorly in my opinion.  I also don’t like how Tamaki’s main mission is to “re-awaken” the feminine side of Haruhi, it almost translates to him wanting to make her inferior and just like all the other girls, instead of accepting her being boyish (even if she does look great in a dress).  Over all, the book just annoyed me and I will not be picking up the second one at all.  I give this manga a 1 out of 5 because yes, it annoyed me that much (and it wasn’t that entertaining)!

 

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