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Book Review: “Redshirts,” by John Scalzi

Wanna read a book? Good. Want to read it in one sitting because you can’t put it down? Great. Like stuff that’s super amazingly meta? Oooh. Fan of Star Trek in any of its incarnations? Excellent! I have a book for you, and it’s called Redshirts by John Scalzi.

It’s wonderful! Obviously a parody (I’m actually not sure that’s the right word) of our beloved Star Trek, and you don’t HAVE to be a fan to read it (although it definitely helps), Redshirts bridges the gap between hilarious spoof of the pop sci-fi genre and excellent work of fiction because it’s both at the same time. I love that in a book. Fast paced enough to keep you reading and deep enough to keep you in tune with the characters, I can’t say enough about Scalzi’s writing style. Fans of The Android’s Dream should really love this, and if you haven’t read that, do it. In fact, read all of his books. You’ll be reaaalllllly glad you did. Pinky swear.

So, we’re following Andy Dahl, a brand spankin’ new ensign who’s ecstatic to be assigned to the starship Intrepid. He and his fellow ensigns soon notice the obsession most redshirts have with Away Missions, the way veteran crew hide when the bridge is choosing staff to work them, and the mortality rate that accompanies going on one. Death is imminent if you’re a lowly ensign, but if you’re one of the senior officers? You’re cool! Why? Well, that’s what we’re reading to find out.

That said, I’m not sure I want to give away much more because it’s difficult to get into the meat of this without spoiling things. My only criticism would be of the three codas at the end of the book. The ending seemed to come quickly, and then the slower paced codas felt weird, but not in an overly bad way. They just weren’t for me, but I understand why they might be great for someone else. They’re written in first, second and third person, respectively, and are meant to give you a different perspective on the overall story. They did wrap up a few loose ends that irked me, but if they didn’t exist, I don’t think I’d mind. Of the three, I enjoyed the third the most, and it was unexpectedly sort of touching, in a way.

The mix of scifi, hilariousness, smarty pants-ery and amazingness that is Redshirts will leave you wanting more and, unfortunately, there’s no goddamn word on a sequel. You’ll want one! Promise.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s a theme to this book, written and performed by Jonathan Coulton! Here! Look!)

For more book related goodness, check out my podcast! It’s called No Math Allowed! and it’s about books. Sorta. Usually, it’s about whatever tangents we travel. (It’s not that we hate math, by the way, it’s that we had to keep the podcast around an hour so cutting out the whole field was the only way to keep our nerd-ery in check.) You can tweet at me @jessicasayswhat, email me at [email protected] or say hello here! I love hearing from you book nerds. Happy reading!