Books: Redshirts by John Scalzi

John Scalzi
Tor, 2012

Just finished reading this one on my Kindle, and it was a lot of fun. In the way that, you know, movies where ridiculous coincidences happen can be fun. Except in Redshirts the ridiculous coincidences are kind of the point. Kind of, but not exactly.

Science fiction fans (especially of the Star Trek variety, though the nomenclature has leaked out over the genre as a whole, as these things will do) will understand immediately was is meant by the title. For those of you who may not, allow me to explain: a "redshirt" is a short-lived crewman on the original Star Trek series (and sometimes appearing in subsequent series), someone not known to the audience as a regular character. This person would end up accompanying main characters on an away team mission, or in some other dangerous situation, and inevitably end up dying. Another common name for them is "expendable crewman/crew member."

So without giving too many of the plot twists away, it's at least safe to say Redshirts is about a group of second-string members on a starship and their attempts to keep from getting killed off.

It's a cute, quick read, funny and pithy. Scalzi knows from sci-fi; besides being an author, he worked on Stargate: Universe, so he understands the structure of the sci-fi television universe and puts that knowledge to good use here. Attempts to be touching in Redshirts fall a little flat, and the coda go on a bit too long, but overall a very fine read, perfectly light for summer.

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