Last year, Redshirts was high on everyone's lists of best novels. It's one of the few novels that got to be popular among critics and readers. And what's surprising is that Redshirts appealed to even among those not into the sci-fi genre. Woot woot!
Anyway, we're in the year 2456 aboard the huge spaceship Intrepid, which is the flagship of the Universal Union. People who get posted to Intrepid feel privileged. But there's a catch though. For some reason, the casualty rate of those in Away Missions is suspiciously high. Also, even though there are a lot of deaths involved in these missions, it is always the low-ranking crew members who always die. The captain, the chief science officer, and the lieutenant always survive.
Andrew Dahl, who has just recently been posted to the Intrepid, notes these weird goings-on in the ship. Together with his fellow rookies, as well as the help of a more experienced crew member who apparently has gone rogue, they find out one unsettling fact. In their universe, they're all playing out roles based on a sci-fi TV series on Earth! And guess what, the high-ranking officials, who should have been dead 3 times over based on the number of Away Missions, are the show's main characters! The rest, well, the ones who wear the redshirts, are just extras who are expendable.
While Scalzi does provide solid scientific groundwork on the nature of parallel universes and time travel, Redshirts is still so charmingly non-threatening to the non-sci-fi reader. It's a book that plays around with the concept of identity but doesn't take itself too seriously. If you find out that your life is just based on a fictional role, does this mean that your living a bogus life? The answer is no. In the universe where Dahl exists, everything is real even though their existence is based on the fate of a character in another universe.
Scalzi is one funny writer, and Redshirts is probably one of the most comedic novels that I've read. The characters just pile one hysterical one liner after another. Some of the scenarios may toe the line on being slapstick, but everything works though.
The ending of Redshirts is very memorable too. While the overall feel of the novel is humorous, the ending is very heartwarming and affirming. Characters in the two universes find redemption and discover their purpose. There's also a bit of romance and nostalgia that never becomes cloying. A lot of reviews say that this novel is mind bending. I couldn't agree more.
Read this book if:
- You're a big Star Trek fan.
- You're not a Star Trek fan but you want to find out what the fuss is all about.
- You know that there's another you in another universe.