The one thing I never expected from Redshirts by John Scalzi is that it would make me sob. Like a baby. At my desk at work. Because I was listening to the audiobook, and I just started crying at the end. Cue my coworkers: “Wait, you’re crying and you’re listening to a Star Trek parody?”
Of course Redshirts is more than a parody. It’s an exploration of what big stories are like from the point of view of minor characters who are, more or less, extras. It’s about finding meaning and rebelling against one’s expected roles to do something bigger or better. And in some parts of it, it’s about love and how we affect each others’ lives.
The plot is simple: Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to work on the Universal Union’s flagship vessel, The Intrepid. On his way there, he meets other new people, including the drug-dealing Finn and the sarcastic and smart Maya Duval. They’re all proud of their assignment until they get on board and notice things are weird. For one thing, away missions have a pretty high mortality rate, but never of key officers. For another, all of the higher ups disapear and avoid the main officers like the plague. And sometimes those officers are melodramatic.
And then there’s The Box. Dahl is expected to create a cure for a space plague in six hours, which is impossible. So he’s told to use The Box. He puts the sample in, the box beeps and out puts nonsense, and he gives the results to the Admiral. Just like that, there’s a cure for the plague. Bam. It makes no sense at all which freaks Dahl out.
Eventually they figure out what’s what and meet Jensen, a man who runs the computers and has a theory that they live in a television show and exist solely to be cannon fodder, which isn’t pleasant to hear. But they decide they have to do something about it and stop the show before it kills them.
Wil Wheaton is, of course, the perfect narrator for this book. His reading is emotive and heart-felt and at times, downright hilarious, just like the text itself. I highly recommend the audiobook if you enjoy that sort of thing. I’m sure it’s a damn fine read on actual paper and/or whatever digital format you prefer.
The funniest part was Coda Two, in which Show ▼
My favorite part was Coda 3 and that’s what made me cry.
All and all an excellent book. It delivers the laughs and jabs at tropes that you’d expect, but still comes to some honest conclusions and tugs at the heart strings.
Recommend for: Fans of Douglas Adams will adore it. People who like books that can be funny and still make you care.