Monday, June 04, 2012
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Ensign Andrew Dahl is one of the new group of ensigns assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. Dahl studied xenobiology and linguistics at the Academy before being assigned to this ship. On his first day, he's assigned to the lab, but made the mistake of telling Science Officer Q'eeng that he would participate in away teams. Those away teams left the ship, often on dangerous missions to other planets.
And, it wasn't long before Dahl realized those missions seemed to be particularly dangerous for ensigns. He began to notice the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always managed to survive, but the mortality rate among ensigns were high. So, Dahl began to poke around a little, searching through the history of the ship. He soon realized how strange the Intrepid's record actually was. If he had any hope at all of surviving his posting to the ship, Dahl and a few handpicked friends were going to have to take matters into their own hands.
I don't normally read science fiction, so maybe regular readers won't find Redshirts as fun and original as I did. Here's a rational explanation for what happens on the Intrepid. "The Intrepid takes on high-risk missions. More people die because of it. The crew has developed superstitions and avoidance strategies to compensate. And we use advanced technologies that we don't understand but which allow us to complete missions." But, Ensign Dahl can't quite accept that, especially when it comes to Lt. Kerensky's survival. "In the past three years, Kerensky's been shot three times, caught a deadly disease four times, has been crushed under a rock pile, injured in a shuttle crash, suffered burns when his bridge control panel blew up in his face, experienced partial atmospheric decompression, suffered from induced mental instability, been bitten by two venomous animals and had the control of his body taken over by an alien parasite."
It's fun to follow Dahl to the logical, or illogical, conclusion of Redshirts. Or, at least to the conclusion of Dahl's role in the story. Scalzi switches views three quarters of the way through the story to provide alternate views. The story is humorous and outrageous with interesting possibilities to make the reader think. And, Jonathan Coulton's "Redshirt" is the perfect song to go with this book. Scalzi himself shared the tribute video that includes the song, and fits this book. If you're a science fiction reader, or decide to pick up Redshirts, I encourage you to check out that video on YouTube. Here's the link - http://youtu.be/E90oZSY9M-s. Thanks to John Scalzi for sharing it on his blog. And, once you've read the book, I think you'll have a different view of those Redshirts, the ordinary working crew members.
John Scalzi's website is whatever.scalzi.com.
Redshirts by John Scalzi. Tor. 2012. ISBN 9780765316998 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of Redshirts from the publisher.