Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Redshirts

For those that are Sci-Fi buffs, especially Trekkies, and possibly many others, the concept of a redshirt is well known. A Redshirt is one that is expendable and more than likely to die in some horrible yet faintly absurd/contrived manner in order to further the drama and danger of a scene. This concept was formulated under the command of Captain James T. Kirk during the original Star Trek in the 60’s and has become a trope and something of a running joke. John Scalzi (increasingly one of my favorite sci-fi authors) takes this worn literary device and boldly goes where none have gone before.

He begins with the USS Intrepid, a space exploration vessel crewed by brave souls who notice that only certain crewmembers, notably all the commanding officers, seem to return from missions with the others dying in farcical circumstances. The newly assigned Ensign Andrew Dahl, realizing that the crew hides from their commanders and the appalling casualty rates, begins to investigate come to one conclusion, their trials and tribulations are written as part of a sci-fi TV show. But what is worse, it’s a terribly written and cheesy show that kills off hordes of minor characters for rating. They set out to confront the writer put an end to the redshirt carnage.

Scalzi has a well proven knack for storytelling and does not disappoint in Redshirts. He addresses many of the contrived elements that always seem to crop up in sci-fi with his incredible sharp mind and equally sharp wit. It is good and quick read, but still has plenty of depth for those that enjoy delving into plot and character development. The tale of Redshirts is highly enjoyable and I certainly would recommend it, even to those who were not raised by trekkies.

On a side note, I had the pleasure of meeting John Scalzi a few years back. He showed up at a book signing for Jim Butcher, just to say hello and chat with him. We chatted for a while about books as he waited for Jim to appear and I have to say that just talking with him is as pleasurable as reading one of his novels. If you have not had a chance to read anything by this author, or see him in person, I strongly recommend that you try.

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