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Playing with Point of View

Over the winter, I read Redshirts by John Scalzi, which was a really fun meta spoof on sci-fi TV shows, where the ensigns on board the ship theorize that the reason they have such a high mortality rate is because they're Redshirts on Start Trek-like show. The story was entertaining, but I only liked it, while my husband loved it.

On the other hand, the story's three codas, which initially struck me as strange, eventually became my favorite part of the book. Normally this would just be a comment in a Goodreads review, but I thought the structure of the three codas - the first is told in first person, the second is told in second, the third in third - is a good excuse to have a conversation about point of view in fiction. Also, these codas were an excuse for a mostly comic novel to have a soul, and I love humor with a bit of heart.

 If you want to read on, there will be broad spoilers since I'll be talking about where characters are at the end of the story. However, most of what I'm revealing isn't that surprising and won't give away some of the best plot twists. Consider yourself warned.
The first coda is told in first person in the form of an anonymous blog by the head writer of the television show the main characters of the story are characters in. Now that he knows his characters are real, he's developed the biggest case of writer's block because in the past killing off Redshirts was the way he wrote himself out of difficult situations. He discusses with his readers other fictional works  where the author interacts with his or her creation. Stranger Than Fiction gets discussed a lot.

This one was cute, but ultimately, not much different in tone than the main story. It is appropriate, however, that first person is used for this story because it helps us see the deep self absorption of the head writer.

The second coda is in second person and, appropriately, tells the suspenseful tale of the son of the television show's creator, who has miraculously recovered from a horrendous motorcycle accident with barely a scratch on him. He knows his family is lying to him, but he can't figure out what they're hiding. The urgency of second person really brings the immediacy of his need to know the truth home.

What makes this one more than just a satisfying mystery, is the fact the main character also has to deal with the adrift manner of his life before the accident. Sure, he was saved from what appeared to be certain death, but was there really much of a life saved?

Like many children of privilege, the creator's son has every option open to him, but none of them really interested him and he was spending his twenties drifting aimlessly. While figuring out what his family is hiding and learning of the sacrifice to save him, the son discovers the purpose for his life.

Finally, the third coda follows a very minor but important character on the show in the most heart touching story of all. I think third person is used here because it's just so beautiful we need a little distance from the characters to fully appreciate it.
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