John Scalzi Signing and Review of Redshirts

Saturday was a really fun and busy day.  Started off at work, then rushed over to the John Scalzi signing at Barnes and Noble, stumbled upon a street fair happening outside my front door, saw Man of Steel and celebrated a friend’s birthday.  I found out about the signing the day before because I follow Scalzi on Twitter and on his blog.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to follow an author you’ve never heard of on social media because it’ll give you an idea about their writing style and personality (or at least persona) before leading you to their books. I’ll admit it was a bit strange going to an author signing for whom I’d only read one book and the book being promoted, The Human Division, is the 5th book in a series I’ve barely even heard of. But we all have to start somewhere with authors, right?

I had heard good things about both Scalzi and Redshirts while I was finishing up school.  I picked it up after needing to put down another book and looking for something escapist, fun, and humorous. Redshirts is definitely all three of those.


Title: Redshirts

Author: John Scalzi

Publisher: Tor Books, 317 pages

Genre: SF, Humor

Rating: 5 stars

Here’s the synopsis for Redshirts from Goodreads:

“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.”

It’s hard to write a review of this book without going into spoilers but you don’t really have to be a huge Star Trek fan to understand what’s going on here: Redshirts do not fair well on that show.  There are references to that in the new Star Trek movies. I don’t really think of that as a spoiler, just a piece of American geek culture everyone should know. So if you didn’t know, I just upped your geek cred a bit. You’re welcome.  That premise alone could make for an entertaining parody, but Scalzi delves deeper than that. This book references everything from Star Trek to the movie Stranger Than Fiction (which, if you haven’t seen, you should) and still feels fresh and unique.  The first three quarters of the book are entertaining and funny and the last 1/4 goes deep in a way that is unexpected but is wholely satisfying.  This is one of those books that I had tried out through the library but will be adding to my own collection when I get the chance.


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