From the November 2013 issue of the Concordian.
John Scalzi’s Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, winner of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, has to be the best and funniest thing to have happened to the Star Trek franchise since the movie Galaxy Quest came out in 1999. I enjoyed every page of it.
I must admit that there were times, especially early on, that had me wondering how the book managed to win a Hugo. While Redshirts was a funny as hell skewering of the (now routinely) mocked habit the original Star Trek television series had of killing off any extra wearing a redshirted uniform, the book felt a bit too light and frothy to be Hugo Award material.
It was not until I finished it that I fully understood why it won.
Underneath all the satire and silliness beats a meaty and caring heart. By the time his final coda ends, Scalzi has moved Redshirts well beyond being just a silly spoof of a beloved Star Trek cliché. He has used that cliché to meditate on the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, the concept of free will versus the concept of a pre-determined fate, and how a person deals with the death of a loved one.
That his Narrative never loses its momentum, or its humor, is a testament to Scalzi's skill as a writer and storyteller.
One thing that has lost momentum, however, is the Federal Government. The opposing political parties seem hopelessly deadlocked and incapable of working together for the greater good. What has gone so wrong with our political system?
Political scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein dissect and discuss how and why this partisan deadlock has occurred in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Then It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.
I found it to be a depressing and frustrating, albeit intelligent and informative, book.
Although the hardcover edition that I read was the one written prior to the 2012 Presidential election, a revised post-Presidential election paperback edition has been released.
Regardless of which edition you choose to read, the one published before the Presidential election, of the one revised and published after it, there is no ignoring Mann and Ornstein’s unfortunate ability to predict the shutdown. That was the intelligent and informative part.
Depressing and frustrating is their inability to come up with ways of bringing about political reforms that seem at all feasible.