Redshirts by John Scalzi
Author: John Scalzi
Reader: Wil Wheaton
Short Review: In the 25th century, several new members have just joined the crew of the Intrepid, the flag ship of the Universal Union. They quickly discover that many things which happen on the Intrepid are hard to explain, and they search for a deeper explanation. Fans of Start Trek will see the parody at work immediately, but the book is much more than a one-trick joke. Told with a nod to cheesy sci-fi and a great deal of humor, Redshirts still manages to give a serious commentary on the nature of characters in science fiction, and the nature of human existence in general.
Long Review: John Scalzi has established himself as a writer who can combine imaginative science fiction universes with believable characters, while telling a story with a decent amount of humor and a surprising touch of human sentimentality. Redshirts upholds that reputation in every regard and provides an entertaining visualization of something that has been a long-running joke to science fiction fans.
Roughly the first half of the story concerns the new crew members joining the Intrepid and discovering the “reality” under which the ship has been operating for the past several years. We get to go along on several away missions, each of which is both a nice parody of a typical sci-fi plot line while also introducing original twists and jokes at the situations themselves. Wheaton’s reading greatly enhances these segments because it really conveys the characters’ sense of dismay and ultimately sarcasm at what seem to them like increasingly unlikely situations.
The second half of the book involves the characters’ attempt to resolve their situation, including the discovery that they might not be completely in control of their own lives.
In a manner similar to the film The Cabin in the Woods‘ critique of stereotypes in horror films, by the end Redshirts has managed to be both humorous and entertaining on its own while also holding up many of the weaknesses of episodic sci-fi television and even offering a solution to the writers of such shows. Given the fact that Redshirts is currently in development to become a show of its own, we’ll soon see if this advice is taken to heart.