A Review of John Scalzi’s REDSHIRTS
by Steve Thomas
In Star Trek parlance, “redshirt” was the term for a character whom the audience had never seen who went on dangerous missions with Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, et al and usually ended up dead (and almost as often, wore a red shirt). Killing off a character with little depth provided cheap drama, a quick and dirty way to convey the danger inherent in a situation without endangering the main cast. It’s easy to imagine yourself in the shoes of a swashbuckling hero like Captain Kirk but what about the poor doomed ensign whose only purpose in life is to die melodramatically?
John Scalzi’s Redshirts tells the story of those unfortunate souls on a spaceship very much like the USS Enterprise and the strange secrets they uncover as they search for a way to avoid their fatal fates, but it’s also much more. The first 100 pages are fun in a light, action-packed way, but once the big twist is revealed, the story takes a sharp turn and whisks the reader through at warp speed to the end. Science fiction comedy is hard to do but Scalzi pulls it off with aplomb. The book is entertaining throughout but gains its real heart with the three codas which examine three of the characters with fascinating depth and emotion.
Part Star Trek parody and part metatextual analysis of the nature of reality itself, Redshirts defies expectations from beginning to end, leading to a novel that feels familiar yet completely new and leaving the reader with a smile on his face and a tear streaming down his cheek. Request it here.