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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Review: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

Redshirts: A Novel with Three CodasRedshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Redshirts takes the running joke about the Star Trek original series, that the guy on the away team in the red shirt will end up dead, and does something entirely unexpected with it.

The book starts with the recruitment of five new ensigns to the starship Intrepid: Dahl, Duvall, Hanson, Finn, and Hester. They quickly learn that this is no ordinary assignment, and that low-ranking officers die at an alarming rate, especially when on away missions. Obviously, they don't want to die, so they start looking into what's happening, and how they might fix it.

I'm used to going into books with no idea what to expect of where they'll end up, especially with science fiction. But I wouldn't have predicted where this went if you'd given me 100 years to guess. I'm not going to spoil it, so you have the joy of discovering it for yourself. I will say, though, that it could've been hokey and contrived, but that Scalzi maintains the wry comic tone beautifully throughout the book. He skirts the line of ridiculous so many times within the plot, and instead makes the reader laugh with him, not at him.

Redshirts does some of my very favorite things. It subverts several tropes, calling attention to tired old clich├ęs in order to pound them into a new shape. It uses the science fiction elements to comment on the world we know and recognize. It says something deeper about the world, about writing, and about the human condition within its pages.

This is not the book I expected. It's the book I didn't realize I wanted to read.

I listened to the audio book, read by Wil Wheaton. I thought that was rather an appropriate choice for this book, and Mr. Wheaton is well up to the task of reading a humorous science fiction novel.


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