Saturday, December 21, 2019

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Author: John Scalzi
Publication: Tor Books; First edition (June 5, 2012)

Description: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn't be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Redshirts is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My Thoughts: When I first began reading this story, I was baffled that it could have ever won a Hugo Award. It seemed like it was only a satirical take on science fiction television programs, most notably Star Trek, filled with in jokes and sly sendups of science fiction tropes. But the codas flipped that assumption around. Now I see why the book won.

The story begins with a group of new Ensigns being assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid. Andrew Dahl is assigned to Xenobiology which is his dream job. But he soon becomes concerned when he learns that the ship has more than its fair share of deaths, especially among those who go on away missions with the ship's Captain, Science Officer, and Lieutenant Kerensky. At least one low ranked crew member dies on each mission.

Needless to say this has been noted and most are eager to find a way to skip away missions. Andrew and is friends want to find out what is going on and are surprised when they learn that their whole world is based on a not-very-good science fiction television series from the 2000s. Andrew has found his life taken over by "the narrative" which leads him to know things he didn't know and do things that are rather stupid when he is taken over.

He becomes determined to go back to the past and convince the writers and producers of the show to change their ways.

I liked the science fiction in jokes and the referencing to absolutely imaginary science that so many of the shows use. I liked the character development both among the crew members of the Intrepid and of the characters in the present (2012) time who formed their templates. The Codas added a lot of depth and heart to the story.

Favorite Quote:
Dahl fixed her with a look and flipped Finn's phone to her. "In the past three years, Kerensky's been shot three times, caught a deadly disease four times, has been crushed under a rock pile, injured in a shuttle crash, suffered burns when his bridge control panel blew up in his face, experience partial atmospheric decompression, suffered from induce mental instability, been bitten by two venomous animals and had the  control of his body taken over by an alien parasite. That's before the recent plague and this away mission."


"Forget the fact that he should be dead," Dahl said. "There's no way he could be alive and sane after all this. The man should be a poster boy for post-traumatic stress disorder." 
I bought this one May 13, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

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