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Redshirts

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Overview

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, with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship’s famous senior officers.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship’s senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least ...

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Overview

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, with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship’s famous senior officers.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship’s senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier crew members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs.

Then Andrew stumbles on information that 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.

 

Redshirts is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“John Scalzi sets his imagination to STUN and scores a direct hit. Read on and prosper.”

—Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box

“I can honestly say I can’t think of another book that ever made me laugh this much. Ever.”

—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

“Scalzi takes apart the whole Star Trek universe and puts it back together far more plausibly—and a lot funnier too.”

—Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians

“A real joy to read… It’s hard to imagine a reader who wouldn’t enjoy this one.”

Booklist, starred review

Library Journal
Scalzi is best known for his military sf (Old Man's War), but he's also written some lighter sf (Android's Dream; Fuzzy Nation). His new book is an entertaining look at a universe that will be familiar to fans of a certain 1960s television show. Ensign Andrew Dahl is excited to begin his tour of duty aboard the Universal Union flagship Intrepid. But he and other new crew members soon notice certain odd practices: old hands tend to disappear whenever the bridge crew comes looking for members of an away team. Someone on each of these teams always dies, but it's never one of the senior officers. As Dahl and his friends investigate, they encounter a crew member who's been hiding in the service tunnels and has a bizarre theory: their universe is being affected by an old television show! VERDICT Dealing with issues of time travel, identity, love, and loss, this humorous and thought-provoking novel should appeal to fans of sf (especially Star Trek devotees) who like a good laugh along with their big ideas and space action. [See Prepub Alert, 12/19/11.]—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
Kirkus Reviews
Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation, 2011, etc.) takes a stab at metafiction--and misses. In 2456, when Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the xenobiology laboratory of the Universal Union starship Intrepid, he looks forward to participating in Away Missions. Peculiarly, however, experienced crew members invariably vanish just before the officers arrive with the mission assignments. Capt. Abernathy, science officer Q'eeng and astrogator Kerensky always go along, whether their skills are required or not, along with a handful of anonymous juniors. Worse, each mission always entails a usually unnecessary confrontation with improbable and hostile entities (ice sharks, killer robots with harpoons, Borgovian land worms) during which one or more of the hapless juniors get killed in dramatically horrible fashion. Abernathy and Q'eeng always emerge unperturbed and unscathed, while Kerensky consistently gets mangled but miraculously survives. If all this sounds like they're trapped in a bad episode of Star Trek, you're not wrong: They are. Somehow, and Scalzi declines to discuss the details, the actions taking place are being dictated by the half-baked scripts of a Star Trek clone series back in 2012. This, and its entirely predictable resolution, occupies 200 pages or so. The remainder comprises three codas set in 2012 that attempt to ground the aftermath in some sort of reality. Fittingly, the starship characters, those who aren't ciphers, sound and behave like teenagers. The plot you know about. Intriguing developments, fresh ideas, dashes of originality? Forget it. It's all vaguely amusing in a sophomoric sort of way, which is fine if you're an easily diverted sophomore with a couple of hours to kill. Check the date. If it isn't April 1st, you've been had.
The Barnes & Noble Review

First came Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which reimagined Hamlet from the perspective of two minor characters.

Then we had China Miéville's Un Lun Dun, in which the obvious sidekick figure amusingly — and against readerly expectations — took center stage.

And somewhere else along the way, Harry Harrison delivered Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a space opera takedown, and Tim Allen laughably helmed the fake starship controls of Galaxy Quest. And let us not forget a little book dubbed Catch-22, which had a few amusing and salient things to say about the deceitful insanity of military institutions and the mortality rate among dogfaces.

Such are some of the honorable progenitors of John Scalzi's droll and even touching novel Redshirts, a book that, at first, seems wryly and cynically to posit that a low-level grunt's life aboard a Big Government starship might resemble a Couplandesque cube-farm in space, except with killer ice sharks and carnivorous rock worms when the crew is on-planet. But their throwaway lives are not totally at the mercy of mere bureaucratic incompetence and disdain. No, more sinister cosmic forces are conspiring against Scalzi's crew, in the form of "The Narrative." And these added dimensions open out Scalzi's story into something much more earnest and significant than simple parody.

In the twenty-fifth century (an era that resonates not only with Buck Rogers but also Duck Dodgers), the starship Intrepid is the pride of the Universal Union fleet. Five major officers (who will instantly recall to savvy readers the five leading heroes of the original Star Trek series: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov) are the ship's luminaries. They undergo one perilous adventure after another and emerge basically unscathed. However, nearly every other member of the crew is at risk of a gruesome death under the same circumstances, especially on the dreaded "Away Missions." These "redshirts" perish by the score, and every individual onboard dreads the day their number is called.

Into this scenario drops a quintet of newbies complementary to the five Big Guns. Our viewpoint character is Andrew Dahl, a quick-witted, well- adjusted, and likable fellow. After a short time onboard the Intrepid, Andy begins to realize that enigmatic forces extrinsic to his reality are controlling the destiny of the crew. Eager to save his own life and those of his friends, he embarks with his pals on an audacious mission to the past — the far-off year of 2012. To reveal more would be to thwart Scalzi's deft craftsmanship, which will keep readers turning the pages as fast as is consistent with the protocols of Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics.

Scalzi's tale functions on three levels, each of which interlocks and supports the others. First comes the straight-up satire, which is almost invariably laugh-out-loud funny. This aspect alone will ensnare and satisfy most readers. All the plot holes and idiocies of cinema and television space opera are flayed mercilessly. Sometimes the satire is highly specific, with the trip to the past, for instance, overtly modeled on Harlan Ellison's Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever." Other times the narrative tics being excoriated are generically ideal. It's as if the acidic and comprehensive website TV Tropes had been cast into fictional form.

The second level of meaning relates to the recursive nature of Scalzi's universe. Like Barry Malzberg's Herovit's World or L. Ron Hubbard's Typewriter in the Sky, the act of creation is intimately bound up with the act of existing, and vice versa, as channeled through the interplay between author and characters. The tug-of-war between creator and creations provides high drama.

Finally, Scalzi asks us to consider and compare the primal emotional lives and the existential angst of both "real" and "imaginary" people. He ends up endorsing the proposition that to love and care and live one's life fully is all that matters, not our ontological status. In this he approaches a solution to the modern philosopher's conundrum of whether our universe is all one giant virtual reality game, and how one could ever know.

"And then he got up and went to his station on the bridge. Because whether fictional or not, on a spaceship, a television show or in something else entirely, he still had work to do, surrounded by his friends and the crew of the Intrepid."

And that's as close as SF comes to Voltaire's "We must cultivate our garden" wisdom.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765334794
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 1/15/2013
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 100,134
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Scalzi

JOHN SCALZI is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling Old Man’s War and its sequels and the New York Times bestseller Fuzzy Nation. A winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Scalzi won the Hugo Award for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of essays from his wildly popular blog The Whatever. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

 

Ensign Andrew Dahl looked out the window of Earth Dock, the Universal Union’s space station above the planet Earth, and gazed at his next ship.

He gazed at the Intrepid.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” said a voice.

Dahl turned to see a young woman, dressed in a starship ensign’s uniform, also looking out toward the ship.

“She is,” Dahl agreed.

“The Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid,” the young woman said. “Built in 2453 at the Mars Dock. Flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. First captain, Genevieve Shan. Lucius Abernathy, captain since 2462.”

“Are you the Intrepid’s tour guide?” Dahl asked, smiling.

“Are you a tourist?” the young woman asked, smiling back.

“No,” Dahl said, and held out his hand. “Andrew Dahl. I’ve been assigned to the Intrepid. I’m just waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

The young woman took his hand. “Maia Duvall,” she said. “Also assigned to the Intrepid. Also waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

“What a coincidence,” Dahl said.

“If you want to call two Dub U Space Fleet members waiting in a Dub U space station for a shuttle to the Dub U spaceship parked right outside the shuttle berth window a coincidence, sure,” Duvall said.

“Well, when you put it that way,” Dahl said.

“Why are you here so early?” Duvall asked. “It’s only now noon. I thought I would be the first one waiting for the shuttle.”

“I’m excited,” Dahl said. “This will be my first posting.” Duvall looked him over, a question in her eyes. “I went to the Academy a few years late,” he said.

“Why was that?” Duvall asked.

“It’s a long story,” Dahl said.

“We have time,” Duvall said. “How about we get some lunch and you tell me.”

“Uh,” Dahl said. “I’m kind of waiting for someone. A friend of mine. Who’s also been assigned to the Intrepid.”

“The food court is right over there,” Duvall said, motioning to the bank of stalls across the walkway. “Just send him or her a text. And if he misses it, we can see him from there. Come on. I’ll spring for the drinks.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” Dahl said. “If I turned down a free drink, they’d kick me out of Space Fleet.”

*   *   *

“I was promised a long story,” Duvall said, after they had gotten their food and drinks.

“I made no such promise,” Dahl said.

“The promise was implied,” Duvall protested. “And besides, I bought you a drink. I own you. Entertain me, Ensign Dahl.”

“All right, fine,” Dahl said. “I entered the Academy late because for three years I was a seminary student.”

“Okay, that’s moderately interesting,” Duvall said.

“On Forshan,” Dahl said

“Okay, that’s intensely interesting,” Duvall said. “So you’re a priest of the Forshan religion? Which schism?”

“The leftward schism, and no, not a priest.”

“Couldn’t handle the celibacy?”

“Leftward priests aren’t required to be celibate,” Dahl said, “but considering I was the only human at the seminary, I had celibacy thrust upon me, if you will.”

“Some people wouldn’t have let that stop them,” Duvall said.

“You haven’t seen a Forshan seminary student up close,” Dahl said. “Also, I don’t swing xeno.”

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right xeno,” Duvall said.

“I prefer humans,” Dahl said. “Call me boring.”

“Boring,” Duvall said, teasingly.

“And you’ve just pried into my personal preferences in land speed record time,” Dahl said. “If you’re this forward with someone you just met, I can only imagine what you’re like with people you’ve known for a long time.”

“Oh, I’m not like this with everyone,” Duvall said. “But I can tell I like you already. Anyway. Not a priest.”

“No. My technical status is ‘Foreign Penitent,’” Dahl said. “I was allowed to do the full course of study and perform some rites, but there were some physical requirements I would not have been able to perform for full ordination.”

“Like what?” Duvall asked.

“Self-impregnation, for one,” Dahl said.

“A small but highly relevant detail,” Duvall said.

“And here you were all concerned about celibacy,” Dahl said, and swigged from his drink.

“If you were never going to become a priest, why did you go to the seminary?” Duvall asked.

“I found the Forshan religion very restful,” Dahl said. “When I was younger that appealed to me. My parents died when I was young and I had a small inheritance, so I took it, paid tutors to learn the language and then traveled to Forshan and found a seminary that would take me. I planned to stay forever.”

“But you didn’t,” Duvall said. “I mean, obviously.”

Dahl smiled. “Well. I found the Forshan religion restful. I found the Forshan religious war less so.”

“Ah,” Duvall said. “But how does one get from Forshan seminary student to Academy graduate?”

“When the Dub U came to mediate between the religious factions on Forshan, they needed an interpreter, and I was on planet,” Dahl said. “There aren’t a lot of humans who speak more than one dialect of Forshan. I know all four of the major ones.”

“Impressive,” Duvall said.

“I’m good with my tongue,” Dahl said.

“Now who’s being forward?” Duvall asked.

“After the Dub U mission failed, it advised that all non-natives leave the planet,” Dahl said. “The head Dub U negotiator said that the Space Fleet had need of linguists and scientists and recommended me for a slot at the Academy. By that time my seminary had been burned to the ground and I had nowhere to go, or any money to get there even if I had. The Academy seemed like the best exit strategy. Spent four years there studying xenobiology and linguistics. And here I am.”

“That’s a good story,” Duvall said, and tipped her bottle toward Dahl.

He clinked it with his own. “Thanks,” he said. “What about yours?”

“Far less interesting,” Duvall said.

“I doubt that,” Dahl said.

“No Academy for me,” Duvall said. “I enlisted as a grunt for the Dub U peacekeepers. Did that for a couple of years and then transferred over to Space Fleet three years ago. Was on the Nantes up until this transfer.”

“Promotion?” Dahl said.

Duvall smirked. “Not exactly,” she said. “It’s best to call it a transfer due to personnel conflicts.”

Before Dahl could dig further his phone buzzed. He took it out and read the text on it. “Goof,” he said, smiling.

“What is it?” Duvall asked.

“Hold on a second,” Dahl said, and turned in his seat to wave at a young man standing in the middle of the station walkway. “We’re over here, Jimmy,” Dahl said. The young man grinned, waved back and headed over.

“The friend you’re waiting on, I presume,” Duvall said.

“That would be him,” Dahl said. “Jimmy Hanson.”

“Jimmy Hanson?” Duvall said. “Not related to James Hanson, CEO and chairman of Hanson Industries, surely.”

“James Albert Hanson the Fourth,” Dahl said. “His son.”

“Must be nice,” Duvall said.

“He could buy this space station with his allowance,” Dahl said. “But he’s not like that.”

“What do you mean?” Duvall said.

“Hey, guys,” Hanson said, finally making his way to the table. He looked at Duvall, and held out his hand. “Hi, I’m Jimmy.”

“Maia,” Duvall said, extending her hand. They shook.

“So, you’re a friend of Andy’s, right?” Hanson said.

“I am,” Duvall said. “He and I go way back. All of a half hour.”

“Great,” Hanson said, and smiled. “He and I go back slightly farther.”

“I would hope so,” Duvall said.

“I’m going to get myself something to drink,” Hanson said. “You guys want anything? Want me to get you another round?”

“I’m fine,” Dahl said.

“I could go for another,” Duvall said, waggling her nearly empty bottle.

“One of the same?” Hanson asked.

“Sure,” Duvall said.

“Great,” Hanson said, and clapped his hands together. “So, I’ll be right back. Keep this chair for me?”

“You got it,” Dahl said. Hanson wandered off in search of food and drink.

“He seems nice,” Duvall said.

“He is,” Dahl said.

“Not hugely full of personality,” Duvall said.

“He has other qualities,” Dahl said.

“Like paying for drinks,” Duvall said.

“Well, yes, but that’s not what I was thinking of,” Dahl said.

“You mind if I ask you a personal question?” Duvall said.

“Seeing as we’ve already covered my sexual preferences in this conversation, no,” Dahl said.

“Were you friends with Jimmy before you knew his dad could buy an entire planet or two?” Duvall asked.

Dahl paused a moment before answering. “Do you know how the rich are different than you or me?” he asked Duvall.

“You mean, besides having more money,” Duvall said.

“Yeah,” Dahl said.

“No,” Duvall said.

“What makes them different—the smart ones, anyway—is that they have a very good sense of why people want to be near them. Whether it’s because they want to be friends, which is not about proximity to money and access and power, or if they want to be part of an entourage, which is. Make sense?”

“Sure,” Duvall said.

“Okay,” Dahl said. “So, here’s the thing. When Jimmy was young, he figured out that his father was one of the richest men in the Dub U. Then he figured out that one day, he would be too. Then he figured out that there were a lot of other people who would try to use the first two things to their own advantage. Then he figured out how to avoid those people.”

“Got it,” Duvall said. “Jimmy would know if you were just being nice to him because of who his daddy was.”

“It was really interesting watching him our first few weeks at the Academy,” Dahl said. “Some of the cadets—and some of our instructors—tried to make themselves his friend. I think they were surprised how quickly this rich kid had their number. He’s had enough time to be extraordinarily good at reading people. He has to be.”

“So how did you approach him?” Duvall said.

“I didn’t,” Dahl said. “He came over and started talking to me. I think he realized I didn’t care who his dad was.”

“Everybody loves you,” Duvall said.

“Well, that, and I was getting an A in the biology course he was having trouble with,” Dahl said. “Just because Jimmy’s picky about his companions doesn’t mean he’s not self-interested.”

“He seemed to be willing to consider me a friend,” Duvall said.

“That’s because he thinks we’re friends, and he trusts my judgment,” Dahl said.

“And are we?” Duvall said. “Friends, I mean.”

“You’re a little more hyper than I normally like,” Dahl said.

“Yeah, I get that ‘I like things restful’ vibe from you,” Duvall said.

“I take it you don’t do restful,” Dahl said.

“I sleep from time to time,” Duvall said. “Otherwise, no.”

“I suppose I’ll have to adjust,” Dahl said.

“I suppose you will,” Duvall said.

“I have drinks,” Hanson said, coming up behind Duvall.

“Why, Jimmy,” Duvall said. “That makes you my new favorite person.”

“Excellent,” Hanson said, offered Duvall her drink, and sat down at the table. “So, what are we talking about?”

*   *   *

Just before the shuttle arrived, two more people arrived at the waiting area. More accurately, five people arrived: two crewmen, accompanied by three members of the military police. Duvall nudged Dahl and Hanson, who looked over. One of the crewmen noticed and cocked an eyebrow. “Yes, I have an entourage,” he said.

Duvall ignored him and addressed one of the MPs. “What’s his story?”

The MP motioned to the one with a cocked eyebrow. “Various charges for this one, including smuggling, selling contraband and assaulting a superior officer.” She then motioned to the other crewman, who was standing there sullenly, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. “That poor bastard is this one’s friend. He’s tainted by association.”

“The assault charge is trumped up,” said the first ensign. “The XO was high as a kite.”

“On drugs you gave him,” said the second crewman, still not looking at anyone else.

“No one can prove I gave them to him, and anyway they weren’t drugs,” said the first. “They were an offworld fungus. And it couldn’t have been that. The fungus relaxes people, not makes them attack anyone in the room, requiring them to defend themselves.”

“You gave him Xeno-pseudoagaricus, didn’t you,” Dahl said.

The first crewman looked at Dahl. “As I already said, no one can prove I gave the XO anything,” he said. “And maybe.”

“Xeno-pseudoagaricus naturally produces a chemical that in most humans provides a relaxing effect,” Dahl said. “But in about one-tenth of one percent of people, it does the opposite. The receptors in their brains are slightly different from everyone else’s. And of those people, about one-tenth of one percent will go berserk under its influence. Sounds like your XO is one of those people.”

“Who are you, who is so wise in the way of alien fungus?” said the crewman.

“Someone who knows that no matter what, you don’t deal upward on the chain of command,” Dahl said. The crewman grinned.

“So why aren’t you in the brig?” Duvall asked.

The crewman motioned to Dahl. “Ask your friend, he’s so smart,” he said. Duvall looked to Dahl, who shrugged.

“Xeno-pseudoagaricus isn’t illegal,” Dahl said. “It’s just not very smart to use it. You’d have to either study xenobiology or have an interest in off-brand not-technically-illegal alien mood enhancers, possibly for entrepreneurial purposes.”

“Ah,” Duvall said.

“If I had to guess,” Dahl said, “I’m guessing our friend here—”

“Finn,” said the crewman, and nodded to the other one. “And that’s Hester.”

“—our friend Finn had a reputation at his last posting for being the guy to go to for substances that would let you pass a urine test.”

Hester snorted at this.

“I’m also guessing that his XO probably doesn’t want it known that he was taking drugs—”

“Fungus,” said Finn.

“—of any sort, and that in any event when the Xeno-pseudoagaricus made him go nuts, he attacked and Finn here was technically defending himself when he fought back. So rather than put Finn in the brig and open up an ugly can of worms, better to transfer him quietly.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny this interpretation of events,” Finn said.

“Then what’s with the MPs?” Hanson asked.

“They’re here to make sure we get on the Intrepid without any detours,” said Hester. “They don’t want him renewing his stash.” Finn rolled his eyes at this.

Duvall looked at Hester. “I’m sensing bitterness here.”

Hester finally made eye contact. “The bastard hid his stash in my foot locker,” he said, to Duvall.

“And you didn’t know?” Duvall asked.

“He told me they were candies, and that if the other crew knew he had them, they’d sneak into his foot locker to take them.”

“They would have,” Finn said. “And in my defense, everything was candied.”

“You also said they were for your mother,” Hester said.

“Yes, well,” Finn said. “I did lie about that part.”

“I tried to tell that to the captain and the XO, but they didn’t care,” Hester said. “As far as they were concerned I was an accomplice. I don’t even like him.”

“Then why did you agree to hold his … candies?” Duvall said. Hester mumbled something inaudible and broke eye contact.

“He did it because I was being nice to him, and he doesn’t have friends,” Finn said.

“So you took advantage of him,” Hanson said.

“I don’t dislike him,” Finn said. “And it’s not like I meant for him to get in trouble. He shouldn’t have gotten in trouble. Nothing in the stash was illegal. But then our XO went nuts and tried to rearrange my bone structure.”

“You probably should have known your product line better,” Dahl said.

“The next time I get something, I’ll run it by you first,” Finn said sarcastically, and then motioned toward the window, where the shuttle could be seen approaching the berth. “But it’s going to have to wait. Looks like our ride is here.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by John Scalzi

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Entertaining and quick read

    I have an inherent fondness for Scalzi books. He and I share a similar sense of humor and of drama. Redshirts is a great example of what I'm talking about here. This is a darkly humorous book, somewhat of a send-up of Star Trek, but told from the point of view of the "redshirts" of the crew, those extras whose sole job it is to die horrible deaths so that we know our heroes are in danger. In this case, the protagonists of the book are newly graduated cadets of a Universal Union who all score the most prestigious posting in the Fleet, the Intrepid. As far as they know, they live in a normal universe, leading relatively normal lives. They bond over drinks in the space station bar before the shuttle takes them to their new home. Once aboard the Intrepid, they start to notice that things are very odd there. Whenever the Captain, the Science Officer, the Engineer, or any of the other "main cast" crew members are walking down the corridor, all of the other crew members suddenly find reasons not to be found. Our protagonists discover why, as they go on "away missions" and barely survive. As they talk with other crew members (once they survive their "initiation"), they discover that for some reason, the rules of physics and statistics are severely bent out of shape in the presence of the "main cast" officers.

    There were a few editorial oversights with mixed up names and such. I can generally overlook that, but it was jarring this time. Also, some of the names of the protagonists are visually similar and it took me a while to sort out which backstory belonged to which character. But the biggest complaint I had with the novel was that it seemed to end too soon. I don't mean the book was short; I mean that it felt like one of those TV shows where everything looks like it's wrapped up neatly but you still have fifteen minutes to go, so you expect that there's some big twist that's just about to happen to make the story that much more interesting. This novel seems to set up such a big twist, but then suddenly ends. It was disappointing because that apparent big twist had such potential.

    After the main story ends, the book has three "codas", extensions of the main story with characters that were featured in the main story but were not the main characters. Each of these codas were interesting additions to the story in very unique ways. The first coda is a first-person narrative told in blog/epistolary form. The second coda is written in second-person, a very unusual and difficult style that rarely works. This time I thought it did, exploring the thoughts and feelings of someone who has been told he was in a terrible accident with severe brain damage, and is trying to account for a couple of weeks missing from his memory. Finally, the third coda is in... you guessed it, third person, which tells the story of an actor who learns how profoundly and positively affected someone was by her portrayal of a bit part character, someone who had all of a couple of minutes of screen time. It's sweet and perfectly caps a story line from the main story.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    A Good Quick Read

    It should be said that your enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on being, at least in some small way, a fan of classic Star Trek. And in poking fun of the same old tropes, it uses them all, some repeatedly. I was left wondering if I would have gotten more enjoyment from a standard episode of the show than I did this satirical send up. But that probably says more about my personal tastes than the quality of Mr. Scalzi's work. All in all, it was quite enjoyable.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    What a waste of time and money!

    I can't believe I wasted my time reading this book! OK, to be honest I got 3 pages into the first Coda, and dumped it. The Kirkus Review was being kind in their review of the book when they said, " Intriguing developments, fresh ideas, dashes of originality? Forget it. It's all vaguely amusing in a sophomoric sort of way, which is fine if you're an easily diverted sophomore with a couple of hours to kill. Check the date. If it isn't April 1st, you've been had. " (This review can be found under the Editorial Reviews portion of this page.) The writing is childish and disjointed. If I was John Scalzi I'd offer to pay the people that purchased this drivel out of my own pocket. The one good thing about reading what I did is that I'll know better to buy a book without first considering the reviews. The more I think about the time I wasted, the more upset I am with myself for reading the first 2/3's of the book.

    4 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    Enjoyable but has a strange ending.

    The ending plot twist is very reminiscent of late Heinlein books. When he couldn't resolve the plot, PFM (Pure F..king Magic) happened and the problem was resolved. At least, in this book, the plot heads toward and prepares you for the ending.

    I like the way John Scalzi writes and will continue to purchase his books.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Great concept, funny enough, decently told. Way too short (espec

    Great concept, funny enough, decently told. Way too short (especially for the money). Ironically, in a book about how extras are abused for ease of writing, nearly all the characters are as forgettable as Security Guard #2.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Well, that was fun. If that sounds like faint praise, it might

    Well, that was fun.

    If that sounds like faint praise, it might be. I'd been anticipating this book ever since I heard Mr. Scalzi read the prolog during his tour for Fuzzy Nation. Perhaps I pushed my expectations for it too high. Even so, it was fun.

    In case you can't tell from the title, or haven't bothered to read the backcover blurb, this is a book about the phenomenon of the high mortality rate among low-ranking starship crew members during away missions. When Mr. Scalzi read the aforementioned prolog and asked the audience to guess at the title, the almost unanimous response was "Red Shirt" (if you still don't get it, watch an episode of Star Trek with the original crew).

    This story is told from the viewpoint of the low ranked crew and the lengths they go to in order to avoid assignment to away missions or being stationed on decks that always seem to get opened into space during battle. What they discover about their situation and how they choose to deal with it came as a bit of surprise and a bit of a disaappointment. I'd hoped for a different direction. But decided to go along for the ride and mostly enjoyed it.

    What works in this book is the fast pace and snarky, inside-joke humor. If you get a joke, you're grinning. If you don't, another is coming right up. What doesn't completely work (although I couldn't put my finger on it at first), is that same fast pace. It focuses on dialog and moving the plot along, at the expense of description and introspection. The characters are often difficult to distinguish (you have to remember their names) and scenes take place in featureless voids.

    Even so, it was fun. I wish I could give it another half of a star.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2012

    A Book on the Edge of Tomorrow

    For a book that, at it's heart, is a series of tropes and cliches, John Scalzi has taken a huge risk here. And it pays off. This is book is [i]clever[/i]. It exists entirely to be clever. And Scalzi pushes the limits of how clever he can be. What Redshirts never is, though, is "too clever by half". It manages to stay grounded and focused, even as Scalzi stacks cleverness in top of cleverness, as he gets meta about getting meta, as he deconstructs his own deconstructions of the sci-fi television series.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2013

    Highly Entertaining Read a must buy

    This book is excellent, It takes all the adventure of Star Trek and combines the excitement that only a written page can give.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Entertaining and funny

    I enjoyed this book tremendously. This book takes a comedic look at the science fiction short cuts some of our favorite TV shows have taken. As long as you are able to suspend your disbelief, this is a great read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2012

    Funny Very Meta SF Novel That's Even Touching in Spots

    ::POSSIBLE SPOILERS - POSSIBLE SPOILERS - POSSIBLE SPOILERS - POSSIBLE SPOILERS:
    REDSHIRTS takes its name from the contemptuous slang term for Security crewmembers on STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES - you remember, the ones who always got killed when they went on missions led by Kirk, Spock and/or McCoy? In this story, Ensign Andrew Dahl comes aboard the Universal Union's Interstellar flagship INTREPID raring to go - only to find out there are lots of things that happen on-board that don't make any sense...including, most disturbingly, the sky-high fatality rate among junior officers who go on "Away Teams" (off-ship missions) led by the Captain, the Science Officer, the Chief Medical Officer, or the eternally luckless but still alive Lt. Kerensky. Dahl and a handful of other recently-transferred junior officers, with the initially reluctant aid of a crazed longtime crewman who lost his wife on an Away Team, begin to piece together the awful truth - that they're throwaway characters on a not-very-good SF television series....

    Yes, the premise isn't original, but it's the wittiness and touches of genuine poignancy that Scalzi (OLD MAN'S WAR, THE ANDROID'S DREAM - both of which I've read and liked) brings to the tale that make it worth reading for fans of STAR TREK (the series is explicitly not set in the TREK Universe, and TREK in fact gets mentioned as a television franchise in the book's universe), SF in general, humorous novels, and works of meta fiction. It asks questions about the responsibility of writers to their characters, the nature of reality and fiction, the life stories of those we only know about thanks to a tragic event, and so on.

    For a book that seems like a goof, it has bits or thematic richness that come back to you later and make you think.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2013

    Can't recommend enough for Trek fans - Good read for other Sci Fi fans

    This book had me laughing from the get go. I grew up on Star Trek and even though it goes so far as to make sure you understand it's NOT spoofing S.T. (oh come ON, you KNOW it is!), it does a GREAT job of picking on ALL Sci Fi shows along those lines. There were times where the book seemed to get a little slow, and some things felt a little "forced" (no, I don't mean Star Wars, I mean as in the author kind of jammed a couple things in there un-natural like), but, over all, this book is a good read for anyone who likes Sci Fi and a MUST READ for Trekies ;)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014

    A bit disappointing.

    Reads more like a script than a novel.

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  • Posted August 28, 2014

    Had me laugh a few times, smile several and finished like a cham

    Had me laugh a few times, smile several and finished like a champ.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Fun read

    This isbthe first Scalzi book i read and resulted in me reading all of his other books and ensuring that he's added to my "must read author's list."

    The concept of Red Shirts is very novel and well written. Character development is top notch. The storh is not predictable. All around a very fun read.

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  • Posted August 10, 2014

    Any geek worth his or her salt will know where the title for thi

    Any geek worth his or her salt will know where the title for this book came from. For those of you who aren’t Sci-Fi nerds, it comes from Star Trek and a “redshirt” is a low ranking crew member who accompanies the Captain and other bridge officers on dangerous missions away from the ship. The redshirts almost always die. This concept is so ingrained into Star Trek lore, that J.J. Abrams even included it in his movie re-booting the franchise a few years ago. Here, Scalzi puts his own unique — and hilarious — spin on the idea in his newest novel. 

    Regular readers of my reviews may remember what a huge fan I am of John Scalzi, and will note that I have blogged about several of his books before. So, suffice it to say, that I’ve really, really been looking forward to this one! Ensign Andrew Dahl is a recent graduate of Space Fleet Academy and newly assigned to the Universal Union’s flagship vessel Intrepid. He makes a few friends with other new crewmen (and women) while waiting to board the ship and as soon as he’s on board he’s approached by the Chief Science Officer, Q’eeng. Dahl is accompanied to his assigned department (Xenobiology) and on the way Q’eeng asks him if he if he is interested in participating in away missions. Dahl isn’t necessarily keen to leave the ship on any dangerous missions, but he gets the impression that Q’eeng wants him to agree, so he does. After a few strange incidents in the Xenobiology lab, he and his friends discuss the odd start to their assignments in the mess hall — and they all seem to have noticed some of the same strange things about the U.U. ship Intrepid. Everyone on board, from bridge officers to department heads, to crewmen (and women), behaves VERY strangely about away missions.

    Soon, Dahl and some fellow ensigns accompany a couple of Lieutenants to a space station which emitted a distress call to which the Intrepid has responded. The two away teams find themselves in some very deep doo-doo because the machines on board the space station have gone berserk and are killing all the humans. Needless to say, once the survivors have returned to their ship, Ensign Dahl and his crewmates begin to put two and two together about why everyone board is so twitchy about away missions and working directly with the bridge officers. As the tagline on the front of the book says, “They were expendable … until they started comparing notes.” What follows is a rollicking send up of that old sci-fi show we geeks love, which also has some thought-provoking big ideas and "meta-ness" behind it.

    If you liked Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books, if you enjoyed the movie Galaxy Quest, and definitely if you are a Fan of Star Trek (Trekkie or Trekker), you have got to read this new novel by this award-winning author and all around cool guy.

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  • Posted July 9, 2014

    Another great work by John Scalzi.  He makes his adventures so m

    Another great work by John Scalzi.  He makes his adventures so much fun and his characters are very liable and ‘Redshirts’ are no exception.  Well written and entertaining with enough adventure and wackiness to keep you interested throughout.  Highly recommended for the sci-fi lover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Awesome!!!

    Awesome!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    Evidence of decline ... worst Hugo ever

    I purchased this book because it received a Hugo award for best novel; I now find myself at odds with anyone who voted in favor of the author.

    I want my money back and payment for lost time spent reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2014

    Loved It

    Funny and then thought-provoking at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Fair read

    I might have gone a different way with alot of this story but it had its moments.

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