Let’s face it: there’s a lot of bad science fiction out there. Some of it we hate, some of it we love, some of it we love to hate. And some of it is so much a part of us that we love it despite–or even because of–the things that make it terrible. For John Scalzi (and, I suspect, most of the people reading this), the classic Star Trek series is of the last type.
In Redshirts, Scalzi shows us a universe very, very similar to the one portrayed in that TV series, complete with all its wonderful little problems and quirks. Problems like the fact that the senior starship officers always seem immune to real harm, but the low-ranked masses seem to get killed off in droves around them. He then asks the obvious question: why the heck doesn’t anyone ever notice? Why don’t the redshirts ever do anything to avoid dying horrible, pointless death?
Scalzi’s answer to that is a hilarious, wild, and thought-proviking romp through our notions of narrative, meta-narrative, and sci fi storytelling. Scalzi uses his trademark snark and witty characters to poke fun at Star Trek, television, and a certain kind of lazy dramatic writing. But this is far from a simple lambasting: the thrills are thrilling, the dialogue is tight, and the plot really will keep you guessing.
And lest you get all nerd-ragey over him bashing TEH BEST SCI FI SERIEZ EVAR(!!!!1!11!1one), Scalzi’s love of Star Trek shines through nearly every page of this novel. He teases because he loves, man. The Trekkies in the audience will find more than a few sly winks and allusions to that esteemed series.
Overall, Redshirts is a quick read that’s full not only of humor, but also real emotion and thoughtful commentary. If you’ve ever wondered why no one on the Enterprise ever stops to notice that sometimes things really don’t make sense, or if you’re like me and meta-narrative hooks you faster than crack, or if you just want a fun but interesting read, you owe it to yourself to go grab a copy of this book.1
If this all seems a little generic, it’s because this novel is sort of like Fight Club: I can’t tell you the thing that makes it really, really awesome without a major spoiler. Or two. But… well… let me just give you this instead:
Trust me, it’ll make sense after you read it. Or, well, as much sense as it can, anyway. Enjoy!
Oh, and watch out for Borgovian Land Worms.