Redshirts by John Scalzi
Oh, John Scalzi, how I love you (~swoons~). Your likeable characters, intricate but uncomplicated plots, your passion for science fiction. . . you COMPLETE me. And your latest offering, Redshirts, does not disappoint. I knew the moment I read the title oh, so many months ago, that the Trekkie in me would melt at the book's first words. I was not mistaken.
Growing up in a military family, Star Trek's flaws were constantly pointed out to me. That preposterous notion that the entire senior staff would be sent time and again on dangerous missions with no one with any real command experience left in charge. I didn't care. Star Trek was cool, like bow ties, fezes, and Stetsons. But I'm ashamed to say I never did notice the disturbingly high mortality rate of the red-shirted junior officer on away missions. It wasn't until years later that I heard the term "redshirt" that it occurred to me, oh yeah, those guys were always toast, weren't they? Still, I never really gave them much thought, save for when I heard someone use the term I could go "Hey, I understood that reference! Yeah, those guys died, like, A LOT, didn't they?"
My obvious mancrush, Mr. Scalzi, has taken this oft-bandied word and turned it in an entire novel. Well, novella. It's a little on the short side, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Think about it. One word, one concept, and he weaves a whole story around it. That, in my mind, is brilliant.
The story takes place aboard the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid. Ensign Andrew Dahl, freshly graduated from the academy, is about to join the Intrepid's crew, along with several other new officers. As the story unfolds we discover the reason for this influx of new arrivals is the ship's slaughterhouse-high mortality rate for away missions. And Dahl notices something else strange: in moments of high drama, the senior officers all operate with a total lack of common sense in a manner almost guaranteed to get people killed.
Redshirts takes off from there as Dahl investigates the reason for these strange behaviors and a host of other weird goings-on: why is no one at his post when a senior officer arrives with an away mission assignment? Why in the world would they need to walk all the way to the bridge just to deliver reports? And how can the obvious Chekov clone keep getting beaten, shot, and diseased within an inch of his life only to be back on his feet a few days later? What is going on with this weirdo ship???
Redshirts takes readers' love for Star Trek and its ilk and makes fun of all its oddities and stupidities . . . in a loving way. It's a short, silly, funny read that you can finish over the course of a few summer days that this geek highly recommends.