I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now – the premise of a comedic send-up of the ‘Red Shirt’ principle on classic Star Trek sounded like so much fun! (For those who don’t know, the ‘Red Shirt’ principle is the phenomenon where an away team on original series Star Trek is composed of all first-string main characters, plus one random Ensign in a red shirt…who is definitely going to die horribly ten seconds after the mission starts.) And Redshirts definitely delivered on the fun, though what I didn’t expect was for it to turn out to be a book with a lot of heart and tear-jerkers in it as well.
The sci-fi plot is well-crafted, with just enough of a whiff of Original Series silliness to be entertaining without it being heavy-handed. Scalzi takes the premise and uses it to explore the larger philosophical themes of destiny, free will and meaningful fiction writing in a way that turned out to be a little ‘meta,’ but in the best possible way. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and since it was such a quick read, I will definitely be reading it again.
Oh, for those of you interested in this sort of thing, John Scalzi also commissioned indie Geek Rocker Jonathan Coulton to write him a theme song for this book, which you can find at Coulton’s website. It’s a great power ballad, whose chorus starts with the immortal line that kind of sums up the whole book, “They said this air would be breathable…”