I don’t even know where to start with this one. I loved it so much it hurts. As John Scalzi says about Wil Wheaton in his dedication, I so feel about John Scalzi. “To Wil Wheaton, whom I heart with all the hearty heartness a heart can heart.” It doesn’t hurt to add at this point that I feel pretty much the same about Wil Wheaton as well. (For those who share my love, it’s good to note that Wil does the narration of this audiobook.)
Ok enough of the fangirl ramblings…for now.
Redshirts starts with Ensign Andrew Dahl, a newly assigned officer to the Universal Union flagship, Intrepid. As he begins his work in the xenobiology lab, he notices that the crew seems annoyingly preoccupied with Away Missions, but no one will explain why. He receives seemingly random instructions about how to work and act on the ship, including the use of a Magic Box that spits out remarkable answers to impossible problems in just a few minutes.
After participating in his first Away Mission, Dahl is positive that something strange is going on, and learns that on all such missions, a low-ranking officer (such as himself) is inevitably killed while the five senior officers always make miraculous escapes and recoveries.
It would be such a shame to say any more about the plot, so let’s move on. Redshirts works on so many levels. If you know and love Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), this book is for you. If you want a fun, light, science-fiction read, this book is for you. The inclusion of the Trek Universe is done in such a clever way that if you get the jokes and spot all the easter eggs, it’s definitely more fun, but the entire book is readable and enjoyable even if you haven’t.
But back to the people who love Star Trek. The entire book reads like a single TOS episode. Fun and merriment at the beginning, the introduction of a problem, danger interspersed with learning more about the problem, a daring plan to solve the problem, a harrowing journey/conflict/negotiation, and a happy-go-lucky moment at the end where everyone chuckles at someone’s expense. A happy addition to this plot line is the no-apologies digs at Star Trek and the many unbreakable characters, impossible solutions, blatant disregard for the rules, and the surprising lack of logic in many of the episodes. Scalzi’s brilliance here is to bring all of these elements together. The story is familiar, yet different. He makes fun of Trek while dedicating an entire novel to it. He uses the same shoddy story-telling devices in a few places that Trek relied on. And it all adds up to be a multi-layered story that won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
One more note. Don’t skip the three Codas at the end of the book. I was a little bit put off by the extras at the end, especially because the main narrative ended so hilariously. So I took a couple days break, and went back just for the Codas and they are definitely worth it. They are a little bit like those bits of text you get at the end of a movie that explain what happened after the events you just saw, and I always really like reading those.
One more fangirl “SQUEE!! I loved this book!” and I’ll let it go at that. Now go read it.