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.
I really, really don’t want to spoil this novel. I really don’t. I will post a very short review without spoiling this novel. Because really, I just want to talk about how this novel succeeds on so many levels, but in doing so I would have to reveal some key details that everyone should have a chance to discover through reading. You should just go read this book. Or better yet, listen to the audio – Wil Wheaton kills it.
Redshirts is a great addition to humorous sci-fi. It’s hilarious, but it is also a novel with depth and nuance. There’s a lot going on below the surface, and it blossoms and expands as you’re reading. Fans of the sci-fi genre, both books and film, will appreciate some of the meta aspects of the dialogue and plot. As a writer, I appreciated the driving force of “the Narrative,” a mysterious, dangerous force that compels the Intrepid. Scalzi wields his genre knowledge well, and he uses familiar tropes to his advantage.
Oh, and he won the Best Novel Hugo. So Redshirts has that going for it.