Redshirts by John Scalzi
Read: July 24 – August 6, 2012
Other Information: Owned book, e-book, 211 pages, Book Club selection
Book 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.
My Opinion: This was the first book of Scalzi’s that I have read. And even though I wasn’t really a huge fan of Star Trek when I was younger (nor am I now, for that matter) I still enjoyed the book. I think the key is to not take it too seriously. This might be easier said than done if you are a Scalzi fan, as I understand his work can be quite deep. But aside from some existential questions, this book is all fun and spoof.
Scalzi is light on the descriptive prose, which makes the book very lightweight and streamlined, but it also makes it hard to follow at times. I lost track of which person was which at times, and had to go back and remind myself. We don’t really get a sense of what any of the characters look like, nor what the environment looks like. It is a little unnerving, coming from a high fantasy background where everything is descriptions and backstory heavy to something so slick and streamlined.
The narrative has a great voice, and there are a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments. The humor is relatable and at no time did it feel like it was being pushed too hard.
Plot-wise, I know the very last chapter upset a lot of people, but honestly I thought it was great. The thing that made me the most upset was that Scalzi never seemed to take the time to get invested in his characters or his plot. Was this a product of the subject matter? Was it because the characters were supposed to be “expendable”? I don’t know. But it lessened the reading experience. And I hate that nothing was really explained in the end.
Scalzi is a good writer. This is illustrated exceptionally well in the second of the three codas, which are essentially epilogues. The second coda is written in second person. It is still an awkward way of writing, but it is the least awkward second-person prose I have ever read. Bravo, Mr. Scalzi.
Bottom Line: A fun and fast read that is not to be taken too seriously. Very meta, and highly recommended for the Trekkies out there.