Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Redshirts by John Scalzi

From Goodreads:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) 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, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

This was my first sampling of John Scalzi's work, and it was excellent! It was funny and convoluted and action packed, and also emotional. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton (yep, this is the one I was referring to in my last review) and once again I was completely hooked by his reading of a fantastic story. I laughed, I cried, I loved it!

I am a casual Star Trek fan. While I enjoy it, I've never been to an ST convention, I haven't seen every episode, or even all the movies yet, but I am well acquainted with the Redshirt principle.  The main story here is a hilarious yet terror filled sci-fi romp where all the crew live in fear of the next away mission being their last.  They hide when the officers come around, leaving only the newest crew members out in the open, and sadly the victims of being sent on the away teams.  They avoid certain decks of the ship, because those are ALWAYS the ones that get hit.  They are able to come up with miraculous solutions to problems that even they don't understand.  It's over the top drama and goofiness, and the officers are completely unaware that anything is wrong.  But the newest crew members of the Intrepid are not as complacent as the previous crew, who are mostly concerned with making sure that it isn't their turn to die.

While the story is hysterical, and Wil Wheaton's animated reading adds depth to the humor, this story is much more than that.  I'm not kidding when I said I cried.  The codas after the main story are not just afterthoughts or quick flashes of "where are they now", they demonstrate the moral of the story, which is to be responsible for own destiny, to stop waiting around for things to happen to you, and to make something of your life.

This was fast, fun and completely engaging, and I am so looking forward to listening to another Scalzi/Wheaton partnership.

John Scalzi's Website

Wil Wheaton's Blog which currently has a hysterical post parodying political ads, featuring Mr. John Scalzi! You have to check it out!  Evil Cat-bacon-taper!

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