Saturday, June 23, 2012

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Andrew Dahl is an ensign in the Universal Union in the 25th century. He has just been assigned as a crew member aboard the Intrepid, a famous flagship of the UU. Obviously thrilled and excited to join the xenobiology laboratory, he is eager to join the ranks and put his knowledge to good use. It starts out well enough with him meeting some other newcomers and becoming friends until things get weird. Away missions are very common on this vessel, but so are deadly encounters with extraterrestrials, the deaths of low ranking officers, and the bizarre survival of the ship's captain, Lieutenant Kerensky, and the chief science officer despite any sort of injury or disease. The older crew members know this and tend to avoid the missions or throw the new crew members into it to save themselves. Why are the mortality rates for this ship so high? Will Andrew even live to figure out why?

John Scalzi is one my favorite science fiction writers ever. His Old Man's War series is made of awesome and if you haven't read it, you need to right now. I was dying to know what he would do with the poor, hapless and nameless characters that died practically each episode in Star Trek. I expected fun and silliness (of which there is plenty), but I was pleasantly surprised that Redshirts had so much more depth to it. It's kind of like a mixture Star Trek and Cabin in the Woods. This book is very meta and self aware. It plays with and pokes fun of the conventions of science fiction while managing to be innovative and new at the same time. I don't want to post spoilers, but the plot twist is awesome and very unexpected. It opens up a philosophical discussion of existence and the purpose of life alongside the perpetuation, condemnation, and examination of sci-fi tropes.

The characters made the book amazing for me. Unlike their Star Trek counterparts, they are fully fleshed out characters with diverse backgrounds, extensive training, interesting personalities, and hilarious comedic timing. I liked seeing their world through their perspective. Usually shows are focused on higher ranked characters, but, through Dahl and his friends' eyes, we view the ship from a much different point of view. The codas at the ends are my favorite part because they detail what the ramifications of the resolution of the story are and they pack an emotional punch. One of them even brought me to tears, which was totally unexpected from what I thought was a light summer read.

Redshirts is a half parody half homage to Star Trek that works on a variety of levels. It's one of my favorite reads this year. I highly recommend this funny, emotional, and thought provoking book to any fan of sci-fi.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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