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John Scalzi
Tor, 2012

Redshirts is a comic science fiction novel about being a redshirt, and realizing that you are a redshirt. And then doing something about it.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been posted to the flagship of the Universal Union fleet, and is ready for adventure. And boy, is he going to get it. It becomes immediately obvious that everyone is paranoid about going on away missions, and it takes about two missions to figure out why. The new guy gets killed. If there isn't a new guy, the lowest ranked gets killed. And these rules are invariable unless you try to predict them... in which case the second most junior person dies, instead.

This is clearly, unquestionably insane. What's worse, the crazy guy who lives in the service tunnels (also a matter of some concern, but secondary to imminent death) has a theory. A crazy theory. What if the reason that people keep getting gutted by robots and eaten by Ice Sharks (whatever those are) is simply because the universe is governed by the same rules that guided the plots of early space exploration dramas... you know, Star Wars. No, Star Trek. Star something, anyway.

The only thing going for this theory is that it fits the facts to a T, and then some. And even aside from being quite insane, it's hard to see what to do about the situation. But Ensign Dahl and the other new crew members had better figure something out quickly...

Redshirts is a good, quick read. It is primarily a fun idea explored well, but it has enough of a plot, well-enough developed characters, and enough humor that it is a good read even if you are not particularly excited by Star Trek satire. I would particularly recommend it if you are a fan of Star Trek satire (think Galaxy Quest), or if you like your comic SF fairly down-to-earth with some twists that will distract you from the humor.

It is worth noting that the book ends with three lengthy 'codas', consisting of somewhat less interesting stories (IMHO). These are all epilogues of sorts, and aren't bad. The first and longest one is written as a series of blog posts by an author having a nervous breakdown, which rather breaks the flow of the book. The second and third are pretty good, although perhaps a bit twee. I would recommend skipping over the first Coda if it doesn't grab you in the first few pages, but give the others a fair chance.

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