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John Scalzi – Redshirts

August 6, 2014

61. Redshirts by John Scalzi (2012)

Read By: Wil Wheaton
Length: 7h 41m (317 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction, Humor

Started: 16 July 2014
Finished: 24 July 2014

Where did it come from? Downloaded from Audible.
Why do I have it? Recommended by one of my friends when I was asking for a good audiobook; plus: John Scalzi and Star Trek.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 07 July 2014.

Life on a starship:
Not all it’s cracked up to be,
unless you’re captain.

Summary: Ensign Andrew Dahl’s first posting in the Universal Union is to the starship Intrepid, as a member of the science team in the Xenobiology lab. Dahl’s pretty excited about it, but he hasn’t been on board very long before he starts noticing some very strange things. Things like Away Missions that have an unusually high mortality rate – except it’s always some low-ranking crewman that gets killed, and never one of the senior officers (although Lieutenant Karensky does seem to get severely injured – and miraculously healed – surprisingly frequently). Most of his fellow crewmates deal with this by avoiding the senior officers at all costs and trying not to think about it too hard, but Dahl and a few of his fellow new crew members start doing some digging to uncover what’s really going on – and the answer just might be stranger than any one of them could have imagined.

Review: Awesome. Totally awesome. I enjoyed the heck out of this. I was raised on Star Trek – not TOS, but my dad got me started on TNG at an early age – so this book was right up my alley. It was funny, it was clever, and it was meta in a way that was funny and clever and not meta in the way that makes me want to throw things (good job, too, since I listened to it on my phone). I also kind of love that because of the meta-ness, it can be read on multiple different levels. On the surface, it’s a fun and fast-paced sci-fi action adventure about these guys on this weird ship trying not to die, and you can read it just for that and it works just fine. But on a deeper level, it also gets into ideas of free will and fate and coincidence and destiny… and then on an even deeper level, it starts asking some questions about the nature of fiction vs. the nature of reality, and authorial intent, and the relationships between writers and their characters and their readers. It’s pretty impressive that Scalzi can pull all that off while still keeping the story up and running and packed with jokes. Even some of the things that I might ordinarily complain about – some of the secondary characters felt a little flat, some of the plot twists seemed kind of arbitrary or convenient – even those things were almost certainly done purposefully, because it all ties back into the central theme of the book. (Either that, or Scalzi very cleverly found a theme that could be used as the perfect cloaking device for any flaws in his story… which is still an impressive achievement.)

Wil Wheaton does a great job with the narration for this book. He doesn’t necessarily have the most varied voices or the smoothest narration out there, but he’s a natural fit for a book about a young ensign assigned to a spaceship, and I have to imagine that his experiences practically growing up on the set of TNG lent a little extra bite to some of Dahl’s sarcasm and incredulity. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Recommended for Star Trek fans (primarily ones who loved one or more of the series, although if you come to Star Trek fandom from the recent movies: welcome! You’ll probably still have fun with this book.) I’m not going to say it’s absolutely necessary to be a die-hard fan, but you need to be fairly familiar with the world in order to get most of the jokes… and they’re jokes worth getting. Basically, if you “get” the title, you should read the book.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bunches of them at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: From the top of the large boulder he sat on, Ensign Tom Davis looked across the expanse of the cave toward Captain Lucius Abernathy, Science Officer Q’eeng and Chief Engineer Paul West perched on a second, larger boulder, and thought, Well, this sucks.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2014 9:22 am

    This sounds perfect for my sister or husband!

    • August 15, 2014 4:43 pm

      I definitely bought a copy for my dad, who was the person who introduced me to Star Trek in the first place.

  2. August 6, 2014 5:19 pm

    I did get the title, but only by cultural osmosis — I haven’t seen any Star Trek apart from the first one of the recent movies. Still good for me, you think? Or should I circle back to it once I’m a little more familiar with the Star Trek universe?

    • August 15, 2014 4:44 pm

      Jenny – Yah, I think you’ll be okay. There’s some throwaway jokes and some references that might go over your head but the basic concept/storyline should be fine.


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