Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jennavier Recomends: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

I really, really loved Redshirts. It was funny, clever, and nerdy as all get out. Every time I thought I had a lock on it I was surprised. I got completely lost in this book. It helps that it's short in that department! I couldn't put it down until I read it through. I was delighted every time I found another clever bit, and they came thick and fast.

One of the things that is so fun about Redshirts is how Scalzi plays with television tropes. It goes deeper the further you look. The whole book is based on skewering bad TV shows. Like what's up with the group dynamic? Oh yeah, four guys and one girl, and the girls the beat 'em up character. There’s no very little by way of description because it wouldn’t be in a script. There's a thousand more examples just like those. There were a few times I wish Scalzi would have filled something out more but he stuck to his concept. I can't say I blame him. It felt like I could have been watching an episode of a favorite show.

I really should mention the codas at the end. They were only barely necessary and dragged the fast moving plot down to a crawl. If you're reading this book I would suggest giving them a shot and then skipping them if they don't work for you.

P.S. A few sequels has come out to the books I've recommended so I updated their entries. Promise of Blood had a sequel that was less the  amazing and turned me off that series. Sarah Rees Brennan finished the last book in her Lynburg legacy trilogy and it was amazing! You can check my original recommendation for the series out here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Changing Directions

Do you want to know how to kill a genre for yourself? Read three hundred books in it. I kid you not, I clocked in at over three hundred books this year and most of them were YA. Sure, I can blame health problems for having way too much time on my hands. But the truth is that I love a good book and I’m more than happy to read one. Which is why when I decided to get serious about getting published I started reading YA like crazy. They’re fast, they’re fun, and they matched what I was trying to write. Over the course of three years I averaged 16 a month. That’s a lot of books.

I learned a lot about YA in specific and books in general. My writing got a thousand times better. But there is no way I could have read that many books in the same genre and not see the problems. More then that, there’s no way I could read that many books in the same genre and not seen how my style just doesn’t fit.

I looked like I belonged in YA because the three books I’d finished had all been written in my teens. My sensibilities and style were young because I was young. It wasn’t a preference but a default. While I still think YA is awesome, I’ve come to recognize it’s just not the place for me right now. The book I’m working on right now is adult. This doesn’t mean I’m planning on leaving YA forever. I just don’t think it’s right for me now.

This wasn’t an easy transition. Even though I’ve known for a while that YA wasn’t working for me I couldn’t give it up. Part of it was that I’ve spent so much time working on it. Another part was stubbornness. I want to believe that I can do anything I set my mind too. If that means squeezing my style into a genre that it doesn’t really fit then I was going to do it. Except that means working three times as hard for the same thing. Lastly I've built an online community for myself centered around how awesome YA is and I really don't want to leave it.

Even I can get a clue. I’m no longer volunteering with teens like I used to in my real life. Other things have meant that I needed to grow up a lot. So it looks like that for both real life and fictional life I’ll be making some changes.