John Scalzi‘s Redshirts is a clever satire with the lasting power of cotton candy. It’s to be consumed, quickly, then melts away from consciousness. There are no challenging questions explored in Redshirts. It’s fluffy entertainment.
If you’re not familiar with Star Trek, you probably won’t enjoy this book. The premise is loosely based on Star Trek, but with one big difference: the crew members in red shirts are aware that they keep dying on away missions while the officers remain unscathed. Are they just unlucky? Or is there something larger happening? Full of meta-fiction fun, Scalzi canon-balls into the pool of lazy science fiction and sends waves across the genre.
Stylistically, the book may turn off some readers as the bulk of the prose is all dialogue and the characters run together. My view is that Scalzi is further playing up the idea of extras being forgettable and mirroring the dialogue-driven nature of screenplays. Where the novel shifts is in the three codas, which take the perspective of minor characters and examines how the main characters’ actions affected them. The codas are playful, smart, and add some weight to a novel that essentially exists in a zero gravity environment. If you’re a fan of Star Trek and looking for something light to read, Redshirts should be on your list.