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Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas Audible – Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

©2012 John Scalzi (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

283 of 319 people found the following review helpful By K. Sullivan VINE VOICE on July 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Redshirts" is founded on a fairly clever conceit. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the original "Star Trek" television series is surely aware of the disposable crew members who were slaughtered in sordid ways when the Enterprise visited strange, new worlds. They were frequently ranked "ensign" and clad in red shirts. In each episode, the viewer could reliably predict the fate of the "away team" members, often by shirt color alone. Scalzi affectionately lampoons this and various other conventions of the sci-fi television series.

In his novel, new crew members aboard the Universal Union flagship Intrepid recognize some alarming patterns, not the least of which is that those of their ilk don't tend to live long... or prosper (sorry!). They slowly discern that there's a "Narrative" dictating the outcomes of their missions. While the more senior crew members have adapted by avoiding recognition and staying off the proverbial radar, the new crew members decide to challenge the "Narrative".

While Star Trek provides fertile ground for this type of satirical treatment, there really isn't enough substance for a novel. The primary narrative of "Redshirts" is only 231 pages, but that's at least a third longer than necessary given the story. The plotting is uncomplicated and straightforward despite the metafictional elements which Scalzi, to his credit, took a bit farther than expected. Characterization, another good potential use of space, was nonexistent. This wasn't a clever metaphor on Scalzi's part (i.e., symbolic that "redshirts" aren't fully-fleshed out characters in the series) but because, rightly or wrongly, he chose to focus on the ideas underpinning the story instead of character-building.
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133 of 167 people found the following review helpful By Mathachew on June 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
John Scalzi has some great stories, but Redshirts is not one of them. When I heard about Redshirts last year, I was very psyched. A typical Scalzi novel is filled with wit and humor and given the premise, Redshirts sounded like it was going to be full of that and so much more, while potentially delivering a fascinating story. Instead, we are treated to a curse laden short story that got stretched into a novel, and because it was still short and lacked depth, had three afterthoughts attached. What does it say when the codas contain more character depth than the novel itself? Sad, but true.

A Scalzi protagonist is typically consistent between his novels: pun master, sarcastic, stubborn, and usually acts on behalf of the greater good. With Redshirts, all major characters felt like they were the same person because they all acted the same. Despite the novel's short length and that I read it in two days, I found myself getting confused with some of the main characters, not only because they all acted the same, but also because several names started with the same letter. Some disparity would have been appreciated.

I really had high hopes, and while Redshirts is a very quick and easy read, ultimately it is only mildly amusing. It does not feel like Scalzi put as much focus as he has with his other novels. Redshirts is a respectful nod to Star Trek, but it constantly separated itself from any Star Trek kind of atmosphere with the often unnecessary and excessive swearing. Despite that, I welcomed the absurdity of the story's twist, which handily added to the attempted humor of the story, but it is still that same story that ultimately fails to deliver. Compared to Scalzi's other works, it is pretty easy to recognize why Redshirts falls short with the story, characters and humor.
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122 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Jeff the Zombie on August 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set on a bad 21st century rip-off of Star Trek, the young ensigns aboard the starship Intrepid discover that their ship has an astonishing turnover of junior officers. They soon set out to investigate why so many of their shipmates are destined to die, while the senior officers (and one dashing young lieutenant) survive unscathed. The answer leads to a breaching of the fourth wall and a quest that draws its cues from a certain Star Trek cliche that I won't reveal here.

There were two ways John Scalzi's Redshirts could have gone: 1) it could have been a brilliant and clever deconstruction of the plot contrivances of Star Trek; 2) it could have been a one-note satire, too smug and self-satisfied for its own good. Unfortunately, Redshirts takes path #2.

I really wanted to like the novel (and three codas) -- in the hands of a stronger writer, this idea could have become a multilayered satire, but Scalzi is unfortunately not up to the task. Instead, the Star Trek jokes are obvious, and the pseudo-Trek universe of the Intrepid is significantly less inspired than the film Galaxy Quest, to which the novel has more than a passing similarity. Unlike Galaxy Quest, which was a loving send-up of Star Trek (and indeed is more entertaining than the Next Generation films), Redshirts seems at times to have a smug contempt for the source material. It focuses on the bad science and plot problems of Trek, rather than the sociopolitical commentary and iconic characters that made Trek great.

In many ways, Redshirts feels like something Scalzi wrote for fun and never intended to publish. It lacks the creative heft of much of his other work and is probably not worth purchasing at full price. It's not terrible, but it's not worth the brief amount of time it takes to read it.
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