Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
by John Scalzi
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765316998
Date: 05 June 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Andrew Dahl is fresh out of the academy and is achieving his dream of serving on the flagship of the Universal Union. He doesn't understand why his mentor tried to keep him away. He meets several new crewmates waiting to join the Intrepid crew. Once aboard, strange things start to happen. The crew was a little weird as well. The truly weird things don't start until Andrew goes on his first away mission, and he does things that donít make sense.
As he begins to explore the strangeness, he realizes just how their universe is odd. His adventures will take him further than planned. With his allies in the crew, he can bring an end to the huge loss of life the crew of the Intrepid suffers.
In the Original Star Trek, you didn't want to wear the red shirt on an away mission. The unnamed security detail drew death like a sword goes to a chainmail bra. The rarity was the one who survived and built enough backstory to become a traumatic death or join the bridge crew in relative safety. From that trope, John Scalzi built a novel.
RedShirts isn't hard SF, but it is a good time. Redshirts is the novel equivalent of Galaxy Quest. All of the little things that fans joke about when together are pretty much completely covered. I applaud Scalzi on his ability to not go on too long. I also appreciated the three codas at the end that wrapped a couple of plot lines without forcing the mainline story to continue.
John Scalzi has shown great range since his emergence on the SF scene. He hit military SF with Old Man's War. With Fuzzy Nation he updated a classic and brought fuzzies to a whole new generation. Now he brings humor to the fore.
Scalzi is a good writer with a lot of opinions. He shares his wit on his blog Whatever on a regular basis. To top it off he is the President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and he is still writing novels and attending numerous conventions.
Redshirts would make a great movie. SyFy should get on it now. Worms and creepy crawlies in the first couple minutes, bad jokes, and opportunities for scantily clad woman. What more could they ask for in a movie? And the normal production values would provide the necessary level of camp.
One warning note, donít pick this up unless you have time to finish it.