Fans of Star Trek long ago noted that anonymous security officers who accompanied the show's stars rarely survived the experience. Shortly after being beamed down, they would be vaporized, stomped or eaten for dramatic effect. It's a plot device so common that these expendable crewmen became known collectively as redshirts.
In his novel Redshirts, science fiction writer John Scalzi follows Andrew Dahl, a similarly expendable ensign as he sorts out this life-expectancy issue.
Many of the key scenes in David McGlynn's striking new memoir, A Door in the Ocean, take place at the beach or in swimming pools. McGlynn was a surfer and competitive swimmer in his school days and still squeezes into his Speedos for races like the annual 5K "Gatorman" off the coast of La Jolla, Calif. Ocean swimming, in particular, transports McGlynn to another realm, and he does a terrific job of dramatizing the allure of solitary swims in open water. Midway through his book, he writes:
It's an election year, and that may be good news for those of us who like our summer reading: Laura Miller of Salon.com says a lot of publishing companies don't want to release all their best books in the fall because they'll have to compete with all that presidential campaign news. And that means more great books to choose from when the weather is hot.
When the power goes out, what can you do but read books, like it's THE PRAIRIE?
Kidding, kidding. But I'm not kidding when I say that the recent (fourth day and counting!) power outage at my house, while relieved by visits to the couches of friends and family who remain AC-enabled and taunt me with their humming refrigerators and whirring fans, also gave me the opportunity to catch up on my reading.