love John Scalzi’s writing – enjoyed Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire. And I’ll admit I was looking for a light-hearted book, a lampoon of sorts of Hollywood sci-fi franchises and the characters who are in them. Expecting nothing more than a reheating of Galaxy Quest, I dove into Redshirts.
So Ensign Andrew Dahl of the Universal Union has just been assigned to the Intrepid, flagship of the fleet. Since it is a forward exploration and combat vessel, one would expect casualties. But, as the nerd joke goes, the security forces (i.e. the “redshirts”) suffer appalling losses. And they die from incredibly stupid causes, causes totally beyond normal logic.
The crew is not slow to notice this. They realize that the bridge crew is protected from death somehow (unlike those who accompany them on away missions). And so they start hiding from the officers, pushing each other into these hazardous missions. But Dahl and his friends begin to unravel the mystery of their lives, their deaths, and the narrative. And where it leads is amusing and astounding, all at the same time.
I certainly enjoyed reading this book, no doubt. But I found myself considering that it was a Hugo Award winner. It seemed like a high honor for a Bored of the Rings commentary on bad writing and TV. And then, oddly, the book seemed to end 2/3rds of the way through. Or did it? What was writer Scalzi doing?
The final third of the book is where the Hugo comes from. Suddenly we find ourselves examining the lives of other characters touched by the redshirts and their drive to understand their reality. I won’t go into anything about it other than it’s curious, it’s touching, and it’s a deep dive into the narrative of the story. Just fantastic storytelling. And well worth the Hugo.
I’ll mention that I gave my copy to a couple who have just opened a used bookstore, Joybird Books, on Corrine Drive (3018 to be exact, just west of Kelly’s Ice Cream, across from East End Market). Andrew and Ollie have brought a needed store to our neighborhood and can use the support, so even if you aren’t going to buy one of my books, pop into their shop and buy one of theirs. Ollie mentioned that she likes Star Trek so I figured I’d give the book to her to enjoy (and even resell). I wish them all the best.