Redshirts by John Scalzi. ★★★1/2
Redshirts is a comedic science fiction novel that riffs off the premise of the disposable “redshirt” characters from TV shows such as Star Trek. Ensign Andrew Dahl has just joined the crew of the starship Intrepid, and he’s noticed that something strange is going on. Every Away Mission involves fatalities… but a certain subset of officers will always survive while a low ranking crew member dies. The Intrepid‘s crew have thus developed an elaborate system of avoiding these officers and the Away Missions at all costs. Then Dahl finds out something that offers him and his friends a chance of survival…
“Ensign Davis thought, Screw this, I want to live, and swerved to avoid the land worms. But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.”
Redshirts was a lot of fun to read. The writing is delightful, and the jokes are hilarious. Even though I haven’t seen much of Star Trek, I still really enjoyed it. Part of what makes it so appealing is the super meta aspect to it. What would happen if you took the narrative devices and have the characters realize what’s going on?
My main problem with Red Shirts was that I found the characterization thin. At most, each character had one or two defining personality traits. Some seemed to lack even that. In terms of female characters, there was only one who had any impact on the plot.
Taking up a substantial amount of page time are three codas, located at the end of the book. They are all extraneous material and frankly not worth the time.
Redshirts doesn’t have a lot of depth to it, but I still found it worth a laugh. If you’re looking for some humor to lighten up your day, it’s a book I’d recommend.