Next up: “Redshirts” by John Scalzi
A comedy-scifi novel.
The crew of the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union, knows something is going on. They’ve been suffering unusually high rates of mortality… but only in the lower ranks. Crewmen sometimes act completely out of character. Scientific impossibilities occur to save the ship just in the nick of time…
Ensign Andrew Dahl is new to the Intrepid, and it isn’t long before he notices the trends himself. In attempting to uncover just what this madness is, he meets Jenkins, another crewmember who has noticed the same things he has. And Jenkins has a theory: The Intrepid is under the occasional influence of scriptwriters from an old-Earth scifi television series. And the only way to stop the numerous, and often senseless, deaths is to travel through space-time and convince the writers to stop using crew deaths as plot-devices.
This book is a love-letter to scifi TV. The biggest influence I can see is Star Trek, of course, which is where the term ‘redshirt’ came from. The original series had a tendency to kill off red-uniformed ‘general security’ personnel to up the stakes of whatever mission the Enterprise was on. It quickly became obvious that, if you were on an away-mission with Spock and Kirk and McCoy, and you were wearing red, you were doomed. “Redshirts” plays with that, and with some other scifi tropes, hilariously. I’ve said before in my Scalzi reviews that I really like the author’s sense of humor, and “Redshirts” gives that humor free rein. It also manages it in a way that makes it a inside-joke for nerds, rather than a joke made at the expense of scifi fans. Like I said, it’s a love-letter. It pokes at all the old tropes but it does it in a way that is good natured and really funny. I about died laughing at the black box segment.
Scalzi is also, again, really good at including a lot of humor along with content that is thoughtful and heavy. “Redshirts” isn’t just a shallow parody, it develops into a meaningful plot with a fair amount of sincere emotional weight. The first half, maybe less, of the book is loaded with a lot of the trope setting and satire, and then it starts branching off into its plot. As with most of Scalzi’s works (it might be all, but I haven’t read everything he’s written), “Redshirts” is clever and funny and engaging.
If you are a fan of scifi television (or movies), you’ll probably get a kick out of “Redshirts” but if you aren’t familiar with the tropes that show up in those mediums, you might not get the full experience.