Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover | 320 pages
Rating: 5 of 5
Although I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, I had not yet read one of John Scalzi’s books. That changed when I won a copy of the recently released Redshirts from goodreads. I put it at the top of the to-read pile and I’m so glad it did. I absolutely loved this book and now I have Scalzi’s large backlist to go through whenever I feel the need for some good scifi.
I can’t summarize the plot much better than the publisher already has:
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, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
The newest crew members spend a lot of their time avoiding away mission assignments in an attempt to stay alive. But the Intrepid isn’t an ordinary ship and they aren’t living in an ordinary universe.
The premise of the novel is drawn from the original Star Trek television series. The ill-fated Ensign who dies on the away mission is always the one wearing the red uniform shirt. The book is partly a spoof of TV science fiction shows like Star Trek, Stargate and Battlestar Galactica to name a few. Light and fun, it has many humorous moments and more than a few inside jokes that fans of the genre will enjoy.
Clever and meta, it sometimes reminded me of the movie Galaxy Quest, with Tim Allen, where the cast of an old science fiction show are forced to play their roles for real to help an alien civilization. But then the story switches direction a few times as we discover the truth about the Intrepid, the crew and who controls their fate.
Scalzi concludes the story using three codas, or epilogues, each written in a different narrative style: First-person, second-person and third-person. This is a little different and quite creative. And it worked. The codas brought it all together for me.
I’m not going to try to convince anyone that this is a book that transcends genres, because it’s not. It’s definitely science fiction. However, for readers who like science fiction even a little bit, I recommend giving this book a try. It has enough humor and wit that it should be enjoyable to even the casual fan. And audiobook fans, take note: Wil Wheaton is the narrator. Although I haven’t listened to it, it’s hard to believe it could be anything but superb based on what I’ve heard about his narration of Ready Player One. And besides, I really like Wil Wheaton! Especially when he plays himself on The Big Bang Theory. Yes, now I’ve outed myself as a geek.
Anyone in the mood for something a little different, give this a try. And scifi fans, you will love it.
Source: Review copy
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