I’m sure most of you have heard of Redshirts. And let’s admit, Scalzi is a pretty well-known writer, having received many awards (the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel for this one being among them), as well as having worked as a consultant to the TV series Stargate Universe, if any of you are familiar with that show.
(I have been known as a fierce fan of Stargate SG-1, although I didn’t like Stargate Universe that much.)
And yet, despite all the fame (I nearly wrote famousity, what??), this is the first book of Scalzi’s that I have read. And you know what?
It was goooooooood.
So what is this book about? Let me write up a quick synopsis for you:
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to a prestigious post on the flagship Intrepid, a spaceship of the Universal Union since 2456, and he is thrilled, until he realizes that:
1. The captain orders away missions quite often, and the crew do their best to… well, avoid even being seen;
2. That might be because EVERY away mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces;
3. The ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations;
4. And, at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
As trying to find out what’s going on is almost equatable to staying alive, Andrew sets out to do just that, and what he finds out about the ship is as crazy and unbelievable as it is true.
If you’re still unclear about what a redshirt stands for and what their approximate chances of survival are, I present to you this handy image:
I totally found this image online. Sorry for not crediting through lack of knowing who to credit.
So, let me start the review. We can sum up my reading experience to this:
“THIS BOOK!” + constant laughter
This phase was naturally the most enjoyable. There was definitely more than one time that I laughed out loud, whether home alone or with people around. At one point, I kept looking up, going “THIS BOOK!” to my boyfriend and then laughing out loud. As of that point, Redshirts has simply been known as THIS BOOK. My boyfriend still knows what I’m referring to when I say that.
What? No! Don’t make it lame!
Suffice to say without spoiling too much, is that the theories the low-rank crew develops about what’s going on on their ship are… Slightly crazy. Slightly… Damaging to the 4th wall. More like, tearing it down. Or completely demolishing it. Something like this:
Said part of the story has many references to the Star Trek Enterprise. I didn’t like them being voiced that much. I’m… Not sure I liked the 4th wall being broken at all. At least in THIS WAY.
But don’t get me wrong. The book is still unbelievably funny at this point.
NO, PLEASE, just not this serious stuff… Not in this book!
This part can be otherwise referred to as The Codas. It’s about 70-80% into the book, so it’s pretty much the epilogue. To be honest, this is where the actual story ends and we get to tie up loose ends through the POVs of secondary (I’d say even tertiary) characters. We don’t follow the main characters anymore.
So yes. I guess from Phase 2 and Phase 3 being like this, you’d probably think I didn’t like the book.
You’d be wrong though!
Funny enough, but the first part and the humor still completely makes up for the breach of the 4th wall, as well as The Codas. To be fair, most fans DO think The Codas were too dampening and philosophical to belong in this book. But you can choose not to read them, I guess (they don’t add much to the story anyway). Apart from that though, it was an extremely enjoyable read, especially if you’re looking for something to make you laugh.
To sum it up, Redshirts is a sci-fi novel bordering on parody that will make you laugh out loud. If you dislike scientific terms in sci-fi, you’re more likely to find them made fun of in this one. If you’ve ever seen a single episode of Star Trek or at least know the general fan culture, you’ll find that this book will bite at the ideas that make up that show and shows like that in general. This is a great vacation from hard sci-fi and simply from tough or serious books. Do give it a go, even if you don’t normally read a lot of sci-fi stories!
Have you ever read anything else by John Scalzi? And maybe you’ve read Redshirts? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!