Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, that was fun. If that sounds like faint praise, it might be. I'd been anticipating this book ever since I heard Mr. Scalzi read the prolog during his tour for Fuzzy Nation. Perhaps I pushed my expectations for it too high. Even so, it was fun.
In case you can't tell from the title, or haven't bothered to read the backcover blurb, this is a book about the phenomenon of the high mortality rate among low-ranking starship crew members during away missions. When Mr. Scalzi read the aforementioned prolog and asked the audience to guess at the title, the almost unanimous response was "Red Shirt" (if you still don't get it, watch an episode of Star Trek with the original crew).
This story is told from the viewpoint of the low ranked crew and the lengths they go to in order to avoid assignment to away missions or being stationed on decks that always seem to get opened into space during battle. What they discover about their situation and how they choose to deal with it came as a bit of surprise and a bit of a disaappointment. I'd hoped for a different direction. But decided to go along for the ride and mostly enjoyed it.
What works in this book is the fast pace and snarky, inside-joke humor. If you get a joke, you're grinning. If you don't, another is coming right up. What doesn't completely work (although I couldn't put my finger on it at first), is that same fast pace. It focuses on dialog and moving the plot along, at the expense of description and introspection. The characters are often difficult to distinguish (you have to remember their names) and scenes take place in featureless voids.
Even so, it was fun. I wish I could give it another half of a star.
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