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Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Like every good Star Trek fan, I was eagerly awaiting John Scalzi’s book. I’d purchased a copy for my sister for her birthday and she’d loved it. Which meant that I’d probably end up loving it, too (and, well, I did). I’ve been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember. I’m too young to have watched the original series, but I grew up watching TNG. I’ve seen almost all the movies in the theater (perhaps not the earliest ones, though my earlier ST memories involve VGER — my parents even humored my sister and I by naming our Voyager Minivan VGER), as I was growing up and throughout college and beyond.

Of course, it wasn’t until the reboot (which I was quite sure was going to be simply awful) that I realized just how much of a fan I am. Once I got over the fact that someone else could, in fact, play Spock (Nimoy will always be Spock for me and perhaps my most favorite character, after all The Voyage Home is my favorite of the films), I feel in love with this new take on the story. It even inspired my sister and I to watch The Original Series on Netflix (which we have also grown to love, in spite of its’ shortcomings).

Which brings me back to the topic at hand, Redshirts. I firmly believe that Scalzi’s book is a love letter to both fans of science fiction as well as the Star Trek universe. I don’t know if many people disagree, nor do I much care (my review, not yours!). It was everything I would want in a book about redshirts. Everyone knows who the redshirts are. They blend into the background, we’re not really meant to care much about them (aside for a momentary sadness at their passing) except in the most ironic of senses. Scalzi plays on all of these stereotypes about redshirts, and then some. In fact, he goes out of his way to bring these redshirts to life in a way that most people would only write about in fanfic. And, perhaps, in some ways Redshirts is also an ode to all those fanfic writers who take such a creative view on the things they love.

I’ve read that some people were hung up on the fact that it was a book about characters on a tv show becoming self aware, but honestly, that’s what made it so good. It’s not really Star Trek, but it didn’t need to be. The novel itself referenced the original show(s), it made sure we knew what we were reading and then it took everything we knew, dumped it in a blender and gave us this fantastic, fun and moving novel. I especially liked the three codas (which I know were a sticking point for some people). I like conclusion, I think well thought out conclusion and while the tv show within the novel had an open ended conclusion (which I liked, because the actual ST shows ended in a similar fashion), I liked that we got a sneak peek into some other major players in the novel itself.

It’s not a book for everyone. I’ve noticed that people my parents age (60s+) tended not to like it as much. I’m not entirely sure why, but young people (20s and 30s) seemed to love it. Of course there are always exceptions, but that’s just my personal experience. I loved the book, teh characters and the idea that these redshirts finally got a story of their own.

Recommended? Of course. A must for Star Trek fans of all types. For science fiction fans who like a good, entertaining (and amusing) story. But also for fans who are into meta fiction (it’s a nice musing on Hollywood/movies/tv writing as well as ST itself). If you’re looking for a quick read, something a little different and much lighter than your average George RR Martin-esque epic, definitely check out Redshirts.

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