I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Redshirts by John Scalzi
Published: 2012 by Tor
Genres: Humor, Science Fiction
Source: the publisher
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You know how in Star Trek and other stereotypical sci-fi shows there always seem to be characters who exist only to die in horrific ways in order to create drama and a sense of danger? In Redshirts by John Scalzi, a group of newly arrived crewmembers on the Intrepid quickly find that everyone’s really weird about away missions. This is because someone always dies, although for some reason, a core group of about five officers always survive, even if they sustain injuries along the way. The redshirts realize that they are redshirts, but instead of calmly accepting their fate, they are determined to do something about it.
Redshirts had been on my TBR for a while now. I kept meaning to read it, knowing that John Scalzi is awesome and that I’d love the book. Now that I finally got around to reading it, I’m wishing that I had read it even earlier, because it was both lighthearted and meta. I’ve always been a fan of books that do unconventional things with structure, and Scalzi nails it here. The first three quarters or so of the book is the main plot, in which Ensign Andrew Dahl and his fellow crew members realize that their universe is being altered by a terrible sci-fi television show from the past, and that unless they figure out something drastic, they are likely to meet their ends sooner rather than later. This part of the book reminds me a bit of the movie Galaxy Quest, but better. It’s filled with campy humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is essential in this kind of book. It makes fun of itself, but in a way that only makes the characters more relatable and sympathetic.
After the main plot ends, Scalzi presents three codas, which are tangentially related short stories about the actors who play the crew in the television show. After spending an entire book getting to know the characters, it’s rather neat to see their doubles’ own distinct personalities and the subtle ways in which their lives overlap.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Anyone who grew up watching Star Trek will enjoy the nostalgia, but the story is accessible enough that you don’t have to be too much of a Trekkie to be entertained by it.