Written by: John Scalzi
Published by: Tor
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Redshirts is a lighthearted space opera, with nods to Star Trek in particular, as well as all of your favorite science fiction in space television shows and movies. As the title suggests, it explores the classic trope of the “redshirt”-the hapless, nameless crewman who turns up on an away mission, then dies just to show how truly dangerous the undertaking is . . . .
This is the story of the starship Intrepid, where the lower-level crewmen have noticed just how high their mortality rate is, and begun to act accordingly: they avoid the senior officers and they never want to be assigned to accompany the officers off-ship. The senior officers are completely oblivious to what is going on, to the utter frustration of those trying to save their own skins. A few redshirts band together to try to figure out what’s going on, while dodging being drafted for away missions, or at the very least, while trying to stay alive on deadly planets or space stations.
This is not serious military science fiction, but it has an infectious attraction all its own, with an oddly appealing dark humor. The multiple layers leave you wondering what’s really behind the problems on the Intrepid, and you’ll enjoy every “aha!” moment as you think you’ve solved the problem, following each clue through to the logical conclusion with the characters. Scalzi’s ultimate explanation and subsequent solution will leave the reader at first stunned, then laughing out loud.
I was absolutely delighted with Redshirts. From the action-filled prologue to the final conclusion, this is Scalzi at his snarky best. Of particular note is his strategic use of internal dialogue, letting the reader know interesting tidbits at the oddest times; his knack for creating unique and memorable characters; and his fun names and abbreviations, which make this an ideal book to read aloud. This book could easily have fallen on the wrong side of cliché, that it does not is a tribute to Scalzi’s skill as both a writer and a humorist.
I also found myself giggling every time one of the characters used his phone-which were used to text, locate their new quarters, track their locations on the ship, access computer records, and for voice communication-all of which smartphones do now. I wonder what operating system they’re running?
Note-as stated up front, the novel ends with three codas. Each of these is a distinct short story that neatly ties up a loose end from the plot (some more dangly than others). In addition, they are each written in a different linguistic form, giving the reader a completely different feel and experience. The result: a very satisfying and complete feel to the book’s conclusion.
Final note-for those who enjoy listening as well as reading-it has been announced that the audiobook version of Redshirts will be performed by Wil Wheaton.
Reviewed by Elektra Hammond
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, with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship's famous senior officers. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship's senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier crew members below decks avoid Away Missions at all costs. Then Andrew stumbles on information that 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. Redshirts by John Scalzi is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
To Read or not to read?
Our Experts Will Help You Create An All-Star Booklist Subscribe & Never Miss A Post! (No Spam, We Promise)
Elektra Hammond emulates her multi-sided idol Buckaroo Banzai by going in several directions at once.
Elektra lives in Delaware with her husband, Mike, and the cat herd of BlueBlaze/Benegesserit catteries. When not freelancing or appearing at science fiction conventions she travels world-wide judging cat shows.