Most scifi fans are familiar with the curse of the “redshirts.” For those who are not, it applies to the original Star Trek show where any minor character in an episode wearing a red shirt ultimately ended up getting killed on an away mission before the end of the episode. Bestselling author John Scalzi takes this humorous concept to a whole new level in his appropriately titled novel Redshirts.
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the flagship Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, to begin work in the ship’s xenobiology lab. It’s a dream come true he thinks, but this soon changes. He quickly discovers there’s something very strange going on aboard the Intrepid. First there’s how strange the senior officers act around everyone, and how every time one of them shows up at the lab, Dahl finds himself suddenly alone. Then there’s the fact that the most unlikely ensigns end up going on away missions, even if they have no experience or skills for said away mission. Then there’s Lieutenant Kerensky who often seems to end up on these away missions and almost gets killed or mauled or poisoned every time and just when it seems like he’s going to die, the miracle cure is found. And then there’s the “black box,” a special device that spits out gibberish which the senior officers are always able to understand. And finally there’s the terrifying fact that an astonishing number of ensigns sent on these away missions end up getting killed. Dahl needs to put the pieces and clues together to figure this out, but he’s not sure he wants to know the answer.
Scalzi clearly had a lot of fun writing this book, playing with the tropes and stereotypes that scifi show fans know all too well, as well as pushing it to an all new level. When the climax of the book is reached, Scalzi begins his three codas which serve a purpose but lack the drive and enjoyment of the earlier parts of the book. Overall, Redshirts is a fun read that any scifi nerd will eagerly gobble up.
Originally written on July 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
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