Tom Doherty Associates: 1/15/13
Trade paperback; 317 pages
Redshirts by John Scalzi is a very highly recommended sci-fi spoof; I heart Redshirts with all the hearty heartness a heart can heart. (Borrowed from Scalzi) Why on earth did I wait so long to read Redshirts? There were several parts that left me laughing so hard I was gasping for breath with tears in my eyes. (The magic box, pants.... okay, let me get it back together again.) Redshirts deserved the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
It should be almost a given fact that anyone who would want to read Redshirts knows that if you wore a redshirt, you were a disposable character in the original Star Trek series.
"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, with the chance to serve on 'Away Missions' alongside the starship's famous senior officers." Immediately, Dahl notices that the experienced crew members avoid Captain Abernathy, science officer Q'eeng, and astrogator Kerensky, especially if their appearance has anything to do with finding members for an away mission. It is well known that every away mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces and at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Oddly enough, Captain Abernathy, Q'eeng, and Kerensky always survive. Although Kerensky is often wounded, he always recovers remarkably quickly.
The lower ranking crew members all know that in order to survive, you must not go on an away mission. Even more startling is what Dahl discovers through the ship's hermit, Jenkins. Once he and his trusted colleagues figure out what is really going on they need to devise a plan to stop it and save more redshirts from certain death.
The story of Dahl on the Intrepid is told in the first two-thirds of the novel. This is followed by three codas set in 2012 which finish the story.
I savored every part of this novel. Scalzi's writing is incredible. In Redshirts, he creates a hilarious parody of bad science fiction shows, but more importantly it highlights how bad science, lazy writers, inconsistent plots, and killing off characters just to keep the tension high can detrimentally affect a series and reflect adversely on the shows fans. Good writing, real science, developing characters beyond clichés of a type, and believable plots can make the same show even better. The codas pull it all together and give it depth - questioning what is real and what is fiction?