I don’t remember how I stumbled on the link for John Scalzi’s being poor essay but I have been a follower of his famous website Whatever since then. Even though I have been following him for the past twelve years incessantly, I started reading his books only recently. Old Man’s War series was magnificent and they left me with a taste for more Scalzi.
I started reading Red Shirts with huge expectations and for most of them, Scalzi delivered. The only criticism I have is that Scalzi’s characters always remind me of the man himself, witty, smart and down to earth. After reading a few of his books in a short time, I can not help but recognize some patterns in characters. Yet, characters are fitting into the fictional dream Scalzi builds for us perfectly and the book is very enjoyable.
Every science fiction fan knows about Star Trek and famous redshirts trope. Basically, a redshirt is a filler for the heroes’ side. Their main purpose is to give writers someone to kill who isn’t one of the main characters. In Redshirts, Scalzi starts thinking about the lives of Redshirts before they fulfill their main purpose, which is dying terrible deaths.
In the novel, our redshirts who has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union finds that:
- Every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
2. The ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
3. At least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Then the novel turns to meta-fiction as the redshirts find out that they are actually part of a badly written cable show and goes back in time to confront the writers and producers.
Like most of the books by Scalzi, I finished the book in one sitting and lost myself in his world. I would advise every science fiction fan to do the same.