I love sci-fi. I am an avid fan of it in all formats and I am even more fond of the parodies that bad sci-fi inspires. Galaxy Quest, anyone? So I was particularly happy to hear that John Scalzi had written a new parody entitled Redshirts.
For those of you who are not familiar with the genre slang, Star Trek, in their original series, had a bad habit of sticking extras in red shirts on away teams for the sole purpose of killing them off. Or grievously injuring them. You get the picture: red shirt = bad news for your character.
Now along comes Scalzi’s new book were our protagonist and all his supporting characters are Redshirts; fully expendable, high casualty rate, Redshirts on the good ship Intrepid. Its not long after they are assigned to the ship that they start to notice just how absurd the casualty rate is, nor do they content themselves to hiding from the officers like the rest of the crew seems to be. No, Andy Dahl and compatriots take it into their hands to figure out why such ridiculous things keep happening. I mean, Ice Sharks? Really? That’s almost as bad as the crewman who was eaten by the Morgrovian Sand Worms.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable book, if a bit slow to start off. The prologue had me a bit confused as to who the main character was (he’s not there, fyi, his name is Andy Dahl and he shows up a few pages later) and a lot of the secondary characters I had trouble keeping straight, but that’s because they functioned as tropes, and very well, at that. Once you get past the slow start and into the meat of this story though, you won’t want to put the book down. It takes meta to the meta in poking fun at poorly written sci-fi series and Scalzi certainly did his homework. I wonder just how many bad shows he had to watch for research…and I wonder how I can convince my SO that watching the entire series of Pretender while I’m working is research as well…
Overall, this was a fun, if occasionally mind-bending, read. I can’t tell you much more about it without ruining some of the fun twists, but if you like a good B sci-fi movie, you’ll love this book.