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Redshirts, by John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Published: 2013
Review Posted: 10/13/2014
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

Before I begin, I must admit that I'm a Star Trek fan and so this book already had an appeal to me. I feel for the redshirts.

So, the premise of the book is that Ensign Andrew Dahl has just joined the crew of the flagship of the Universal Union fleet. It's a prestigious assignment, but as soon as he's on the ship he begins noticing that everyone acts weird, especially around the bridge officers. And then he finds out that on nearly every away mission, someone dies, and that the crew has designed ways to make certain that THEY aren't included on any such away missions. Upon further investigation, Dahl and his fellow "new" crewmates discover a hideous and horrifying explanation . . . and then set out to stop it. Because they're all redshirts, and if they don't, they know they'll be part of an away mission eventually and might never come back.

The book is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek take on the issues of being a redshirt on an away mission and their propensity to die horribly at some point during the mission. Everyone who enjoyed the Star Trek franchise knows where this is coming from. Scalzi plays with the tropes and the mythology of the phenomena well here, with plenty of humorous elements and characters throughout. The final "reason" for why the redshirts are dying so often is perhaps not as interesting or as plausible as one would hope with such a cool starting point, but it does fit the theme of the book well. Once you've accepted that element, then the rest of the book plays out just like you'd expect, using standard tropes from the television series that the book I spoofing.

The characters are fun and you enjoy following their discovery and their resolution. The main story has the same feel as the TV shows that the lore is based on and is highly enjoyable. The book takes a more heavily literary direction in the three codas at the end, where the consequences of what's happened are examined in a much more serious light for three of the characters touched on in the main story. These codas raise the book slightly above the level of "just for fun," which is nice, although I'll be the first to admit that a book that is "just for fun" is nice once in a while.

So, a good book to read if you love the SF TV series that it's spoofing, in particular Star Trek, of course. It isn't stunning or as mind-blowing as the blurbs on the book would lead you to believe, at least not in my opinion, but it is good fun with a serious slant.
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