John Scalzi’s REDSHIRTS
Whether we watched it religiously or not at all we are all pretty familiar with Star Trek. And we’re also familiar with the coloured shirts they wore in the 60s TV series. Captain Kirk, Spock and co wore the blue and yellow ones. And the poor unfortunates who usually got killed off wore the red ones. Well this is the redshirts’ story…
The novel opens like your classic sci-fi story. We are introduced to five characters who are about to the join the crew of the starship Intrepid. However these new crew members quickly realize that all is not well with Intrepid and its crew. Firstly there seem to be an above average number of highly dangerous “Away Missions” where a crew member is nearly always killed except for 5 officers who always manage to escape being killed or narrowly avoid death. The rest of the crew do anything they can to avoid these “Away Missions” and try to hide whenever one of the 5 officers enter a room. The new crew members, led by Ensign Andrew Dahl, soon learn that there is more going on than bad luck and the colour of their shirts.
“Avoid the narrative”
This works on so many levels it may possibly give you a headache as you try to get your head around it. It is a great sci-fi adventure with lots of action and tech. It is also great satire that will have you laughing out loud wherever you’re are reading it. And it is totally brilliant metafiction. It breaks down the sci-fi genre, the writing process and the omnificence of the narrative. John Scalzi does all this while entertaining the pants off you.
The novel finishes with three codas. I had be warned off reading the codas and had heard some dissatisfaction about the end but I think they are great. They take the metafiction up another notch and if your brain wasn’t already spinning enough they give it another few, fast rotations.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and wish it had come out in Australia at the same time as the US rather than 6 months later. But in saying that it is a perfect book for Summer reading and having a good laugh out loud. And it may lead me to read a bit more sci-fi.
“It is to Sci-Fi, what Chinaman is to cricket.” — P.M. Newton