Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi #SciFiMonth


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 fact 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
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.



This was a fun book that took a turn for the serious near the end and left off on a much more thoughtful note than I had expected. What you get with this books is a a few laughs and a bit of existential pondering.

Honestly, I can see why this one won the Hugo award. Writers LOVE books about storytelling and the creative process and this book has it in spades. What I had expected to get out of this book was a few laughs at the gentle ribbing of Star Trek and its sometimes silly plot devices, but what I didn’t expect was all the bits about writing and creating.

Let’s start off with the expected. Yes, this was gently making fun of some of the things we have all come to know and love about Star Trek and its writing–the biggest of all of course is that those anonymous crew members who wear red shirts and seem to be expendable every episode and are there basically to ramp up the stakes by dying and showing how dangerous space is! This books takes those anonymous characters and sets it from their point of view, making them the protagonists of the story instead of just extras. This is fun and also leaves room for a lot of jokes. I’ll admit that I did laugh quite a bit on all the inside jokes like ‘the box’ and the non-explanation on how it worked or even why it existed. When you encounter things like that in a show or even a book you don’t always question it because you know it’s something to help move the plot along or just there for dramatic purposes, but when faced with something like this in their reality the characters are very confused and it was pretty hilarious.

The characters are, for the most part, likable. Even those that were slightly more abrasive eventually grew on me after a while. I don’t think any of them stood out as outstanding for me, or favorites, but they were kind and caring and genuinely good people–I wanted to see things work out for them at the end of things. I also think there’s something to be said for having characters that are good people trying to do the right thing. Those are characters I can get behind, every time.

Now, for the unexpected. When the story ended it….didn’t end? There was still about two hours left on the audiobook. So after the main conflict is resolved there’s all these other sections of the book that go into the story of the people in the ‘real world’. There’s a wall that is broken between the creator and their creations. But then it hints that…it’s a story within a story within a story. So the end of the story isn’t the end of the story because there’s this whole other story about the creators of the first story. Confused? I promise it’s not confusing in the book but even though this book is older I’m not trying to spoil it because if you don’t know about some things going in then it might make for more interesting reading. The entire end section really deep dives into the creative process, in a fun way. It examines the relationship between the creator and their work. I also like the way it admits that this isn’t an original idea, either. Even at this level the book is gently having a laugh at itself. I appreciated that.

Overall, this book made me laugh while also making me think about some things. It’s a fun adventure story but it’s also more than that. Had fun with this one! 4/5 stars.

18 thoughts on “Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi #SciFiMonth

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    “””a few laughs and a bit of existential pondering”””
    That was the perfect definition for most Scalzi novels: he distracts you with humor and, before you have time to notice, he leads you to *think*, seriously, about various issues.
    I’m glad you enjoyed this one and I hope you will explore more from this author 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, he certainly does at that! It was a fun and interesting book. I’ve read his Lock In books but I do want to get to more of his stuff. I think I have the first one of his latest series in my TBR. 🙂 You’re welcome!

  2. Susy's Cozy World says:

    I discovered this author this year and I loved it. I have only read The Last Emperox Trilogy, but I want to read other books by him, and this one seems like a good choice! From what you wrote it reminded me a little of Pratchett “Guards! Guards!” (They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to. This book is dedicated to those fine men) for the idea of it, not for the development.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I think I have the first book in The Last Emperox Trilogy so I’m looking forward to checking that one out eventually.
      It is sort of like that? But then it goes off into a TOTALLY different direction. It’s layers and layers of meta fiction which I found pretty interesting. But yes, exactly along those lines is what it’s calling out but it goes an extra step and then another step beyond that haha. 🙂

  3. Realms of My Mind says:

    My experience with Scalzi books have been they have a fantastic premise that’s great fun for 90% of the book, and then some whiplash things happen to wrap everything up. But still worth it for that 90%!

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