Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

By: John Scalzi

Anyone who’s been attuned to the world of science fiction for very long knows exactly what a redshirt is.  For those of you who don’t, it’s a term applied to the ensigns on Star Trek who would join the officers on away missions.  Invariably, they would then die while on those away missions.

It’s with a serious nod to the idea of the “redshirt” that Scalzi wrote Redshirts.  It’s a story about a new recruit.  The new recruit is, of course, an ensign.  Quickly, he finds that there are some very strange things going on aboard his ship.  His crewmates seem to always find a way to be busy elsewhere when an officer is on the way to find “volunteers” for an away team.  And, more often than not, someone from that away team dies.  He and his friends dig into the phenomena and find something that is deeper than any of them could have imagined.

I can’t go on with the plot without giving away some major spoilers, so that’ll have to suffice to get you started.  The writing is typical Scalzi.  Well thought out, and not so full of technical jargon that it makes it hard for anyone but a scientist to read.  In fact, if there’s one thing that I like about Scalzi’s writing is that it’s not complicated, and reads very easily.  It makes it quick and enjoyable.  The structure of the book, a novel with three codas, is a bit odd.  Parts of me wonders if the “novel” part was a bit short for the publishers liking, and so Scalzi added in the codas to flesh it out some.  It’s possible that it was meant to be that way all along as some sort of experiment on Scalzi’s part too.  Either way, I found it odd.

Overall, the book was a fun read, with plenty of sci-fi humor and a good story and plot to help it along.  If you’ve enjoyed any of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novels, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.


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