Over the past couple of years, I have been hearing about Redshirts, mostly good. There were those that said it was a fun book, others said that it was hilariously funny. A Facebook friend of mine started reading it and posted about it a couple of times, so I thought I would give it a try.
First, what is a “redshirt?” As a long time Trek fan, I know that they are the people from The Original Series that would beam down to the planet with Kirk and sometimes wound up getting killed in the opening minutes of the show. Apparently, the title has been given to anyone on any television series, book, or movie that suffers the same fate as those in the early days of Trekdom.
In Redshirts, we follow a group of junior officers that have been assigned to the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union. One ensign, Andy Dahl, takes the lead as he sees that on every away mission from the ship, some junior officer meets an ill fate, while it seems that the senior officers, who are in the same danger, always seem to come out unscathed, with the exception of one. The one senior officer that gets injured in some way always pulls through, usually through some heroic measures that are taken on his behalf. Dahl notices all of this and begins to investigate what might be taking place.
With the help of others, Dahl determines that there is some sort of warp causing an old television show from our current reality to intrude on the Intrepid’s reality. A junior officer named Jenkins has made this assumption based on statistics that he has compiled and by comparing his findings to science fictions shows that have aired in the past. Dahl determines that he must go back in time and stop the production of the television show so that his reality is no longer being influenced by it.
Sounds kind of like Star Trek in the Twilight Zone doesn’t it? That is what I was thinking whlile I read Redshirts.
I have to admit that it took me quite a while to get through this story. I would read a chapter and set it aside for a few days, and then I would read another chapter, and again set it aside. At a few points, I would think about reading, and then find something else to do. I did this until I hit about the half-way point of the book when the story really picks up in pace and gets interesting. Before that, I seriously considered setting it aside for good; from that half-way point on, I finished the book in an afternoon because it was that engaging.
I think that my problem with Redshirts was that it seemed like the exposition was never going to come to an end. The characters in that first half were slogging around trying to avoid being killed and the reason for the problem seemed to take forever to get to, then the solution to the problem took even longer. But once it was determined what had to be done to resolve the dilemma, and the plan was put into action, the story moved at a rollercoaster pace, and was well worth the wait.
The author includes three “codas” that tell more about three of the characters in the story. I found these last three appendices to be amongst the best part of the book.
Scalzi surrounded this story with a lot of dry humor that one might expect to find taking place in the midst of any group of people working together in jobs that are otherwise routine in nature. Some exchanges are quite funny and unexpected, and would never appear in a television show. It is the story of what might take place behind the scenes away from the main cast of a series such as Star Trek or other space opera. While I would say this is a good book, I wouldn’t call it a great book. It is worth the time to read, but don’t expect too much beyond it being good, fun entertainment.
Well, there it is…