Redshirts by John Scalzi

Read: 31 October, 2018

The concept for the story is absolutely hilarious: What if the “redshirts” (the throwaway characters on the original Star Trek who seemed to exist just so that their deaths could drum up a little drama) figured out that they were redshirts, and decided to try to do something about it?

Given how poorly such a high concept story could go, I was thoroughly impressed by Scalzi’s ability to keep me laughing through almost the entire book. I mean, when a science fiction writer is asked if he’s ever even taken a science class, he responds: “It’s called science fiction. That second part is important, too!”

I was listening to this on audibook in the car, and I must have looked ridiculous, laughing my arse off as I’m barrelling down the road..

Wil Wheaton’s narration took a little getting used to. His voice is so familiar and recognisable that it took some work to hear the characters, rather than Wil Wheaton #3, female Wil Wheaton, older Wil Wheaton, etc. This wasn’t helped by the dialogue’s over-reliance on the “said” tag. So even though only two or three people are talking, and even though they are fast-quipping at each other, every single line ends with “said X”. You could hear the strain in Wheaton’s voice as he tried not to make that sound as ridiculous as it invariably did.

That aside, I did thoroughly enjoy most of this book, and Wheaton’s narration was great once I got used to it. Besides, just having him do the narration was amazing.

I will say, however, that the three codas at the end should never have made it out of editing. There’s a little satisfaction in finding out what happened to various characters, but they don’t fit with the tone of the rest of the book, and try a little too hard to make this a “serious” book. The story was already over by this point, so they really only serve as padding. Up until that point, I loved Redshirts, but I barely got through the codas.

Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

Read: 3 June, 2013

Just a Geek is the story of Wil Wheaton – who achieved fame in his youth through his roles in Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the ever popular The Curse – and his journey to embrace his past as TNG‘s Wesley Crusher and avoid becoming a ‘has been.’ It’s a surprisingly interesting memoir of a former child star given the conspicuous lack of drugs and wild parties (though, clearly with some effort, Wheaton is able to conjure up two – you read that correctly, two – visits to Hooters).

I have to admit, I was one of the many (many many many) Wesley Crusher haters. I hated Wheaton again as Sheldon’s nemesis in The Big Bang Theory because he is really very good at playing an evil character. Then I hated him yet again as Fawkes in The Guild for the same reason.

But then he started doing Table Top and, suddenly, I was in love. Just like that. He’s fantastic, just the right level of geeky, funny, approachable… He just seemed like a really cool guy. So I got Just a Geek from the library and decided to get to know Wil a little better.

And I mostly liked what I read. He dwells a bit too long on describing his successes, which I found a little off-putting, and I found him a little petty in some of his descriptions of other people – even though he seems to realize his pettiness, it still comes through in his narration. I also found the narrative thread to be rather weak, perhaps because he was trying to structure the book around his blog posts rather than writing anew. As a result, I didn’t get a strong sense of his ups and downs, and I had trouble really rooting for him at the logical rooting spots.

I did, however, find it interesting and funny, and I’ve since started reading his blog. I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed it if I’d been following his blog all along, but as a noobie to the Wheaton fandom, it was a great crash course.

And now I really want to watch TNG again…

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