Redshirts by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"This is where it gets really crazy."
Those or similar words are spoken by more than one of the characters in this book, but they never get tired sounding because, no matter how crazy things are, they do get even more so every time.
The story is (on the surface) fairly straightforward. Andrew Dahl has been assigned to the Universal Union flagship Intrepid. It is a prime assignment, and Andrew is thrilled to be given the chance to work in the xenobiology lab on the top starship in the fleet. The excitement starts to wear thin, however, as Andrew begins to discover some disturbing things about the Intrepid. The crew seems to have an extraordinarily high rate of deadly encounters with alien life forms, the top officers, while always involved in the dangerous missions, are never harmed, and there is always a fatality, usually among the lower ranking ensigns. As Andrew digs into these anomalies, he and a few friends begin to discover some unbelievable things about the ship and crew.
Any more would run into spoiler territory, and it would be a shame to ruin an extremely entertaining read for anyone. I simply did not want to stop reading the book, and finished it in about two days.
Anyone familiar with the Star Trek universe will catch onto the reference in the title, and, in part, this is a story about those all to familiar "redshirts," but it is far more than that. The plot is clever and engaging, the action moves along at a fair pace, with only a few slower sections, and the characters are likable and well-drawn. Sci-fi fans will see some familiar types, but each one is more than a stereotype.
One of the most interesting things to me was the "three codas" that end the book. Not only do they tie the individual stories together to a complete whole, but they also address, to a point, the question of what happens after Happily Ever After? The events of a story do not only impact the main characters, but also some of the secondary people that get pulled in. And we, as readers, rarely see how the consequences impact those characters. The main story works out well, and with the three additional pieces tie things up for several others, as well. I found them to be interesting and a nice addition to the main story.
This a fun book, that most sci-fi fans will enjoy, both for the familiar concepts that support the main plot, and for the original and fun treatment of them. Very much recommended!
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