I’ve been a fan of John Scalzi’s work for a while now, but to this point I’ve only read his Old Man’s War series and random posts on his blog. Yesterday I was walking around Barnes & Noble and came across his book Redshirts, I’d heard a lot of good things about it and decided to pick it up.
Science Fiction, Satire
The main character of the book is Andy Dahl, an ensign in the Universal Union who has just been assigned to the flagship Intrepid. There was nothing about his character that will really blow you away, and the same is true of the side characters. In fact, they’re meant to be largely side characters within the “story” of the Intrepid. But while the characters aren’t especially memorable, they are well written and behave consistently within the world.
Primarily takes place in the Intrepid, but there are quite a few scenes where the characters are on various planets or space stations and a few scenes on Earth as well.
Shortly after Dahl is sent to the Intrepid, he realizes that there are a lot of people acting very strangely on the ship. Before too much longer he is told about a very disconcerting pattern that people on the ship have noticed, which is of course is that on every away mission a low ranking member of the team dies. Over the course of the rest of the book, they try to figure out exactly what is going on with the ship.
I’m kind of torn about this book. On one hand it is a brilliant satire and a perfect way to mock the horrible science that was seen in many science fiction TV shows. On the other hand, I thought the second half the book was weaker than the first half. If you’re a bigger fan of Star Trek and other science fiction shows, you’d probably find another 50 jokes that I missed throughout the book.
This book also had one of my biggest pet peeves in writing as a major plot point, time travel. It’s maybe a little better because it presents it as a kind of alternate universe, but in the end it annoys me more than anything else.
At the end of the book, Scalzi has 3 Codas where he describes the events of some of the people Dahl met on Earth after the story ends. The third Coda was probably my favorite part of the book. It’s a very nice touch and works well within the story that was told about all of the characters.
The last thing I have to mention is that Scalzi gets big time bonus points for using the word “defenestration” in the book. Likewise, you get bonus points if you know what defenestration means without looking it up in google.
I had some issues with the book, and I’m sure that I missed some of the jokes, but I still had a good time reading it.