Review | Redshirts by John Scalzi

This is the fourth Scalzi I’ve read, and Scalzi proves again that he has a talent for dialogue, for character, and for crafting a clever plot in a bite size portion.

While I would never call myself a Trekkie–I much prefer Star Wars, and I have never been able to buy into Roddenberry‘s vision of a utopian future where mankind has solved its scarcity problems and given up money, but I digress–I’ve watched enough to know that the guys who die are almost always–always–the guys in the red shirts. They’re unnamed extras, low-level members of Star Fleet that die to provide some level of tension to the episode. And this book is through their eyes, through the eyes of the red shirted members of “away teams” that die at the first sign of danger.

I picked up Redshirts because it looked clever, but I didn’t expect any amount of depth. In fact, Scalzi’s plot begins deceptively simple. He develops his red shirted characters with heavy use of dialogue that is fast and flowing, typical Scalzi, that is more difficult than it looks. That’s part of what make’s Scalzi so good.

However, for the most part, the book starts with a gimmick, and rides that gimmick, for almost three-quarters through the novel. Then, without giving up any spoilers, a shift occurs, and suddenly the writing is serious, smart, and insightful, more a paean to writing than science fiction.

And perhaps it’s better I leave it there. The ending, the shift, was what made the book a four out of five stars instead of just three, but it was unexpected and almost out-of-place. In any case, it’s good writing (despite occasional flashes of vulgarity that is not atypical of Scalzi), and I appreciated the way Redshirts ended, as much for what it said about writing as it said about Star Trek.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.