Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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The Starships and These Women

So I completely forgot to post about meeting seawench after...however many years we have known each other. This is the magic of LiveJournal!

As you can see, I gave her the Mission Tour.

More recently, I also met skjaere after...fewer years of knowing each other. This is the magic of Mark Does Stuff!

I also gave her the Mission Tour, but we did much more than that, as described in my Facebook album and her LJ post, in which lists are less time-intensive.

Look, I don't have time to write about everything all the time! I have plays to write, a night of theater to produce, jury duty to get out of, girls not to ask out!

Also, books to read. Here are a couple page-turners for you!

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Intrepid. Very soon, he discovers that something very strange is going on. There is an absurdly high mortality rate on away missions, but it's always the ensigns that bite it, never the higher-ranking officers. People will sometimes make dramatic pronouncements for no apparent reason. Scientific research is...a bit non-traditional. Anyone with even the most passing familiarity with Star Trek will recognize the clichés.

In Redshirts, John Scalzi asks the question, "What if that world were real?" What if Redshirt #1 had a past, a history, wants, feelings, desires, a name? What would it feel like to be one of these lower-tier characters in a world where everything is determined by the whims of the writers?

Initially, the book is simply a well-executed, very funny parody of bad sci-fi TV shows. We can smile in amusement as Dahl finds himself in a scene we've seen so many times before (or already parodied in Galaxy Quest). It would make a good short story, but there's no real meat to it. Until Scalzi plays his hand as to what is really going on—from the premise alone, I expected a metafictional aspect, and it still surprised me—and the characters acquire a goal: how do they save themselves in a world where it seems they are essentially fated to die? To say more would spoil too much, but this book hit a lot of my narrative sweet spots, and although some of the concepts have been done before, I think Scalzi has a fresh take on it and really uses the sci-fi elements well. The story ends up having real emotional heft as it explores the nature of fictional reality and the meaning of life, living, and death. The book has three codas that have been met with mixed reviews, and while they aren't entirely necessary, I liked seeing Scalzi show his range, and I thought they helped make the book stronger both emotionally and thematically.

Redshirts is not perfect, but like Ready Player One, I award it extra points for the sheer glee it gave me. Every minute not reading Redshirts was a minute spent waiting to read Redshirts.

Peter Cline's 14, I was told by seanan_mcguire, was a book best read without knowing anything at all about it. Of course, most books are better that way because everything is a surprise. 14, though, is full of surprise after surprise, so all you need to know is this:

A man rents an apartment.

Surely, there is more to it than that. You would expect that, perhaps, there is something strange about his apartment. Oh, yes, there is. Things are strange. And then they get stranger. And stranger. And...yeah, there's room to get stranger.

A blurb on the book cover compares 14 to Lost, and the comparison is sound. It is essentially Lost in book form if the Island were an apartment building and the characters were ordinary people instead of people with overly complicated tragic backstories. Like the Lostaways, Nate and the tenants try to figure out what the fuck is going on. Why are there padlocks on so many doors? Why are there fucked-up cockroaches? Why are there—oh, that would be telling too much. 14 is incredibly fun for people who like Big Mysteries that unravel clue by clue (and, unlike Lost, pretty much everything is satisfactorily addressed and resolved).

The blurb on the book cover also describes the book as "apocalyptic," so...you've got to figure there's more at stake than rent control.

I really enjoyed the fact that the characters were so...normal (although some of them do have their secrets). Everyone had specific knowledge that was useful to the mystery; they had to all work together. Plus, one of them is an Indian woman, and when was the last time you saw an Indian woman in a horror novel? Some of the characters are also fairly geeky, and Clines drops in quite a few geek references, often without explaining them (my favorite being a Fringe reference).

The prose isn't too flowery. It's very much "telling you what's happening" more than telling you how to feel or digging too deep into emotions. I found it hard to visualize a lot of the scenes from the very detailed descriptions that made it feel like the book was meant to be a movie (and, seriously, this should be a fucking movie). The style does work for an ordinary-people-in-an-extraordinary-people story, though.

It's not groundbreaking, and, in the end, it feels like a mishmash of familiar elements with a fresh new twist, but that doesn't mean it's not a great read. 14 is a fun thrill ride that simply gets better and better as it goes along. Once you hit a certain point, you're not going to want to stop reading.
Tags: books, girls, lj friends, not being a serial killer, personal, pictures, pimpings, real life friends
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