AUTHOR: John Scalzi
PUBLISHER: Tom Doherty Associates
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2012
FORMAT REVIEWED: Hardcover
GENRE: Sci-Fi; Comedy
NUMBER OF PAGES: 317
Beam me up, Bookshelf Battlers.
On the old Star Trek TV show, there was no worse fate than being – a redshirt. You see, back in the 1960’s, the writers wanted to add a dose of realism, or at least as much realism as possible to a show about a massive Star Ship exploring the universe and getting into altercations with a different alien species every week. When engaged in constant battle with alien marauders, it is a very real possibility that some crew members aboard a “real” Starship would kick the bucket. Sorry, but you can’t go up against that many alien bad guys without someone buying the intergalactic farm.
The problem? Certainly the main characters – Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Lt. Uhura etc. could not be the ones to cosmically croak because then there would not be a show anymore. Obviously, George RR Martin wasn’t a consultant for this show.
The solution to this conundrum? Enter the redshirts – the extras, the grunts aboard the Starship Enterprise who did the busy work – fetch the Captain’s coffee, stand at a cheesy 1960’s hunk of cardboard with Christmas lights on it attempting to pass as a computer and punch buttons in the background, etc. The writers used these space traveling lackeys as fodder to take the beatings, leaving the fan favorite heroes unscathed.
Watch an old episode of Star Trek. If there’s an away team being beamed down to a planet consisting of Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, and Fred the Extraneous Redshirt from the Enterprise Payroll Department being introduced to the audience for the first time, chances are that Fred would be the one chomped on by a monster, tossed into a volcano, blasted by a lazer, and so on.
In Redshirts, author John Scalzi hilariously lampoons the undesirable plight of the redshirt. Set in a Star Trek-esque universe of Scalzi’s creation, the book follows a group of freshly minted redshirts as they begin service aboard the Universal Union’s flagship, The Intrepid. The newbies quickly discover that strange shenanigans are afoot – namely, that there is a statistically and ridiculously high chance of a low ranking crew member being killed on an away mission, whereas senior officers appear to have almost absurd levels of luck as they avoid death even after being thrust into one dangerous situation after another.
I don’t want to spoil the ending or the various twists and turns but needlessly to say, this is the first book I’ve read in awhile that had me laughing and reading at the same time.