Redshirts by John Scalzi

redshirts.jpegJohn Scalzi's Hugo-winning book Redshirts is an odd duck, to be certain. As it starts, it seems like an excellent pastiche of the sci-fi phenomena of the 'Red Shirt'. For those not up on their tropes (and haven't gotten themselves trapped reading everything on the site I just linked), the Red Shirt is a character who is introduced solely to die for dramatic effect. In the original Star Trek, it was the plethora of security officers (whose uniform included a red shirt) who went on away missions with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy only to die a horrific death to prove the danger that faced the main characters.

Scalzi's book starts with that concept in a universe that is actually quite closely modeled on Star Trek itself, complete with the seemingly ridiculous high rate of fatalities amongst the lower ranks of the starship the Intrepid. When the characters become aware of this strange and seemingly improbable part of their existence, things start to get even more weird, and even more metatextual.

So here's the thing about Redshirts: if you're not someone really up on your sci-fi tropes, you're not going to have as much fun as someone who knows Star Trek like Montgomery Scott knows the back of his hand (and if you understand that reference, Redshirts is definitely going to appeal to you more than most people). Scalzi takes a lot more clich├ęs, concepts, and the like that have ingrained themselves into our cultural sci-fi subconscious, and he deconstructs them, turns them on their head, smashes them with hammers and then pieces them back together in as funny a way as he can. In a sentence, he lovingly sends up all the dumb things that have become seemingly standard practice in sci-fi, and it's a wonder to read. It gets really weird by the end (and even more bizarre with the three different codas), but as long as you're aware this book will subvert all expectations, you're in for a fun ride. For those up on their sci-fi, definitely check this one out. I even highly recommend the audiobook version, read by Star Trek alumnus Wil Wheaton, as it has excellent comedic timing and makes for a great listen.

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This page contains a single entry by Tim published on March 1, 2014 11:07 AM.

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