John Scalzi never disappoints. He writes very solid and entertaining stories, but with Redshirts he's letting his geek flag fly at all-time heights. Even further than he did with The Android's Dream. If you've been a fan of Sci-Fi and Star Trek: TOS in particular then you understand the idea of being a red shirt means you're probably going to die or at least be relegated to a bit player. Redshirts shows us a future where being issued a wardrobe of red is a very bad thing.
It is true that Redshirts skewers early Trek and it does it very, very well. And it contains the best BJ joke you've probably heard all year. Yet Scalzi goes much deeper as things progress and just gets out and out strange in the last third. The story begins simply enough with new ensign level crew members coming aboard the Universal Union flagship Intrepid, which just always seems to be running low on crew. They quickly realize they are the expendable type, but something more seems to be going on then that. Improbable things keep happening and then things get meta and weird. Or is all meta weird?
The story is not without its faults. Very little character growth occurs and some of the characters aren't very indistinguishable from others. There are many instances of some clunky bits especially in the aforementioned final third. However, this hardly ever dampened the grin the story continual caused me to sport. Either way Scalzi has written the book he's probably been dying to get to for years and the Star Trek parody I've always wanted. And while it is in a similar camp as Galaxy Quest it's setup rather differently and explores the trappings of Sci-Fi in a very unusual manner. To go into it much more would ruin things. Suffice to say if the initial hook works for you I can't help but recommend this to most Sci-Fi fans, especially those of an older generation that are looking for more than a few laughs.
It is a much stronger showing then Fuzzy Nation, but still doesn't reach the level of detail or characterization that the Old Man's War books achieve. Redshirts is most definitely Scalzi's lightest and funniest novel to date. I give Redshirts 4 out of 5 hats. The story ends with 3 codas that are ancillary short stories closing off some loose ends brought up in the main narrative. The first was overly long and the third felt unneeded, but these parts are the more emotionally fueled sections.
P.S. If you haven't read/seen Stefan's Redshirts photo review get thee to Civilian Reader.
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