In my free time, I snark things. In my freer time, I read things.
1.) I am not a Trekkie. I have watched episodes and I knew enough to know what a "redshirt" is and be intrigued. So, though I can appreciate and have basic knowledge of sci-fi series and tropes, I am not an expert.
2.) These are three fun stars. Because all said and done, and despite the problems I had with the book, I never stopped enjoying myself as I read it. It was incredibly easy to read and moved quite quickly. I'm sure most people would be able to manage it in one sitting. I did laugh, though not the LOL, fully belly shaking laughter some people have described in their reviews. I think I had one or two chuckles and an amused "mmm" or two. I also know, though, that many of the nods to other sci-fi works went over my head, so I lost LOL opportunities there.
Even though I liked this book and found it entertaining, I can't help but feel that there was so much more promise in the premise. We see fuller manifestations of that promise in the opening chapters and then in the three codas at the end. At the beginning, Andy Dahl, our protagonist, fumbles around as he figures out that something strange is going on- that nonsensical things happen on the ship, that people avoid particular crew members and that away missions are avoided at all costs. This opening action is full of humor but not yet beaten down with the meta hammer or bogged down by shoddy plot devices.
The truth is that Scalzi does what he intended by taking on these tropes. But. What we love to hate on TV doesn't completely work in novel form. It's easier, for example, to get away with a rotating cast of underdeveloped characters in a series than it is in a book. On TV we have visual clues. In the book, I kept asking myself, "who is this one again?" Most of the time, though, it didn't matter who "this one" was because the characters all bled together. The Girl, the Friend, um, the Other Friend... another guy... etc. There were no personalities, which again, is funny when you think about them being "redshirts" but is also a disservice to the book as a whole, as you read it.
The writing is okay. Even though all the characters were basically the same person, the bright side is that they were a funny person! I would call the dialogue a bright spot, except that Scalzi suffers from Bad Dialogue Tagging-itis, which isn't a real thing but should be. He ends nearly every line of dialogue with a so and so said. All those "saids" add up and it grates.
Despite my best efforts to accept it for what it is, I have a little bit of a problem with the plot. Scalzi uses this novel to poke fun at nonsensical plot devices used to solve unsolvable problems nice and neatly. Then, he employs one of these devices to solve all his problems, nice and neatly. Again, it's amusing to look at it in a "I see what you did there," sort of way. While you are reading it? In the middle of the book when things keep making less and less sense? At the end of it all when you couldn't explain what happened if someone asked you to? Meh.
The main action of the novel ends super abruptly. I was not expecting the end when it came and it really provided no satisfaction. It's a good thing the three codas at the end are great. They really helped wrap up the book, but also to infuse the fluffy plotting with a touch more gravity. Overall, I think bigger fans of the genre probably enjoyed this more than I could have. People like me, though, can still enjoy this easy, entertaining read as long as they are willing to accept it for what it is. I read this at the beach on Saturday afternoon. It was a nice fit.