Any geek worth his or her salt will know where the title for this book came from. For those of you who aren’t Sci-Fi nerds, it comes from Star Trek and a “redshirt” is a low ranking crew member who accompanies the Captain and other bridge officers on dangerous missions away from the ship. The redshirts almost always die. This concept is so ingrained into Star Trek lore, that J.J. Abrams even included it in his movie re-booting the franchise a few years ago. Here, Scalzi puts his own unique — and hilarious — spin on the idea in his newest* novel. (*Dang it, I wrote this review when the book came out last June, but we’ve had too many hold requests on it for us to promote it on our blog until now.)
Regular readers of this blog may remember what a huge fan I am of John Scalzi, and will note that I have blogged about several of his books before. So, suffice it to say, that I was really, really looking forward to this one! Ensign Andrew Dahl is a recent graduate of Space Fleet Academy and newly assigned to the Universal Union’s flagship vessel Intrepid. He makes a few friends with other new crewmen (and women) while waiting to board the ship and as soon as he’s on board he’s approached by the Chief Science Officer, Q’eeng. Dahl is accompanied to his assigned department (Xenobiology) and on the way Q’eeng asks him if he is interested in participating in away missions. Dahl isn’t necessarily keen to leave the ship on any dangerous missions, but he gets the impression that Q’eeng wants him to agree, so he does. After a few strange incidents in the Xenobiology lab, he and his friends discuss the odd start to their assignments in the mess hall — and they all seem to have noticed some of the same strange things about the U.U. ship Intrepid. Everyone on board, from bridge officers to department heads, to crewmen (and women), behaves VERY strangely about away missions.
Soon, Dahl and some fellow ensigns accompany a couple of Lieutenants to a space station which emitted a distress call to which the Intrepid has responded. The two away teams find themselves in some very deep doo-doo because the machines on board the space station have gone berserk and are killing all the humans. Needless to say, once the survivors have returned to their ship, Ensign Dahl and his crewmates begin to put two and two together about why everyone board is so twitchy about away missions and working directly with the bridge officers. As the tagline on the front of the book says, “They were expendable … until they started comparing notes.” What follows is a rollicking send up of that old sci-fi show we geeks love, which also has some thought-provoking big ideas – and “meta-ness” – behind it.
If you liked Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books, if you enjoyed the movie Galaxy Quest, and definitely if you are a Fan of Star Trek (Trekkie or Trekker), you have got to read this new novel by this award-winning author and all around cool guy.