The Red List

Redshirts by John Scalzi (2012): Scalzi’s metafictional ode to Star Trek and other television science-fiction shows starts as a discursive romp and ends on a somewhat unworkable serious note with three “codas” that are fatally undercut by what has gone before. I enjoyed it, but the metafiction of the main narrative made me incapable of caring about the characters covered in the Codas: sometimes drawing attention to the Storyness of Story makes empathy for the Story’s characters impossible.

There are a lot of laughs here, many of them dependent on at least some familiarity with the storytelling tropes of Star Trek and its progeny, many based on a much more general appraisal of television production. You probably know who the Redshirts are already even if you’ve only got a passing familiarity with Star Trek; now, you get to meet them up close and personal.

A lot of people at the 2013 World Convention of Science Fiction must have really loved Redshirts, as it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2012. I didn’t love it, and I kept waiting for more narrative and metafictional twists that never arrived, but Redshirts is still an enjoyable if slight and somewhat facile read. Like certain science-fiction television shows, it acts a lot smarter than it really is. Finding out in the acknowledgements that Scalzi worked on the woeful Stargate: Universe (which he praises here) really doesn’t help. Recommended.

The Book of Lists: Horror: edited by Amy Wallace, Del Howison, and Scott Bradley (2008): Fun, mostly recent assortment of lists about the horror genre in film, television, movies, and other media. Most of the lists are heavily annotated, which is a good thing if you haven’t seen, say, Cannibal Holocaust, but would like to know what it’s all about. Some descriptions are not for the squeamish or faint of heart, with film-maker Eli Roth’s list of favourite moments of genital mutilation in horror movies probably being the prime example of this caution. Recommended.

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