Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ok, first of all, if the title of this alone doesn’t have you squeeing with glee then I’m pretty sure you should just hand over your geek credentials right now. Still, I might give you a pass, but if you read the blurb for this book and don’t start jumping up and down in fan-girlish elation then, I’m sorry, you’re not human. You’re certainly not a geek.

To prove my point, here is said blurb:

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.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely 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.

Ok, for those of you don’t know (and really, what are you doing on this website if you don’t even know what a Redshirt is?) Redshirts are the crewmen on Star Trek who beam down to the planet with Kirk and Spock and the other main characters and then the redshirts end up getting eaten by a giant Were-Duck Space monster or melting to ooze because of some random Space Plague. Redshirts are the cannon fodder who die to let the audience know the situation is serious.

Basically, this book is Star Trek told from the Redshirts’ perspective, and they’re not taking it lying down anymore. But that’s oversimplifying. This book is just…dense. Layered. It’s Galaxy Quest with a heart. There’s dry humor and satire and meta-wink-wink-nudge-nudge stuff and really moving love stories and sadness and action and it just FUCKING ROCKS. I’m sorry, I’m not being articulate. I just finished this half and hour ago and I’m riding the high that really good fiction gives to any serious reader. This is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read in years. I read it one sitting; I just finished reading it half an hour ago and I already want to read it again. Here, to help convince you, have a sampling of some of my favorite bits:

“I really want to know what you’re smoking,” Finn said. “Because whatever the hell it is, I’m betting I can make a hell of a profit on it.”

***

“On a good day I can bang out a first draft of an episode in six hours. Is it good? It ain’t Shakespeare, but then, Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus, so you tell me.”

***

“What we’ve been told…is that as the flagship of the Dub U, the Intrepid takes on a larger share of sensitive diplomatic, military and research missions than any other ship in the fleet. Because of that, there is commensurate increase of risk, and this a statistically larger chance crew lives will be lost. It’s part of the risk of such a high-profile posting.”

“In other words, crew deaths are a feature, not a bug.”

***

Really, if you have even a little bit of the SF geek in your soul, if you enjoy meta-fiction and ruminations about the nature of story and characters, if you enjoy stories about underdogs and friendship and soldiering on in the face of impossible odds then pick this one up. You won’t regret it.

Buy this book. Now. John Scalzi deserves some of your money for being so fucking brilliant, AND so talented it makes me gnash my teeth in the best kind of writerly envy.

Here are some buy links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

By hook or crook, guile or strength or whatever READ THIS BOOK!

3 Responses to “Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi”

  1. I laughed hysterically while reading Redshirts, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. and then I made my husband read it, and he laughed even more. I wouldn’t have considered myself a Scalzi fan until now, but now? yeah, I want to track that man down and hug him!

  2. heehee! just finished this book the other day. I didn’t laugh much, but to be fair, I read it during a horrible bout of gastroenteritis. I think I should have waited.

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