Book Review: “Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas” by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Have you ever had the urge to read something that is just fun? The urge to read something that will whisk you away and let you escape? The urge to read something light, brisk, and refreshing? If so, than whether you are a fan of science fiction or not, Redshirts is a book you really need to pick up.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by John Scalzi despite being told by several people that his writing is probably right up the alley of my personal preferences. I am so happy I decided to start with Redshirts and now I have every intent of reading all the rest of his work when I get the chance.

The best part about Redshirts for me was the pacing. It seemed very much like Scalzi was trying to keep the extra fat out of the novel and just let the story progress very naturally on its own without the exposition bloat that sometimes plagues the science fiction and fantasy genres. It’s pretty easy to see the moments where the plot jumps a little bit ahead so that the action can keep moving, but I never once felt like I was missing out on pertinent details.

I always care about the characters in a book and if I don’t like them, or cannot connect with them I always have a tough time, but that never happened with Redshirts. The various personalities that Scalzi mixes in with the core group of protagonists had me smiling while reading on the local public transportation to and from work.

Now, of course, anyone who has watched an episode of Star Trek at some point in their lives is going to see the obvious connections, but I found a few scrumptious tidbits that related to a few other shows I’ve watched in the past too. Especially the amazingly awesome twist at the end that had me grinning from ear to ear. I quite enjoyed how Scalzi pokes fun at the oddities of science fiction television shows but manages to turn that into a rousing plot that carried me away.

The codas (or as I like to view them “alternative perspectives”) probably aren’t for everyone, but I think that was the point. If you stop reading when you finish the main plot-line you won’t be missing a thing and can walk away quite happy and content. If, on the other hand, you want to dig a little deeper into how the events of the main plot line would affect other more sideline characters, then read on through the codas, they will provide some interesting material to think on when you’re finished.

Redshirts was exactly what I wanted it to be after seeing all of the pre-release press, and I’m so glad I decided to put down what I had been reading and give it a whirl for the day when it was released earlier this week.

Grade: B
Length: 318 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads   |   Author Site

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