Redshirts by John Scalzi

Read: 31 October, 2018

The concept for the story is absolutely hilarious: What if the “redshirts” (the throwaway characters on the original Star Trek who seemed to exist just so that their deaths could drum up a little drama) figured out that they were redshirts, and decided to try to do something about it?

Given how poorly such a high concept story could go, I was thoroughly impressed by Scalzi’s ability to keep me laughing through almost the entire book. I mean, when a science fiction writer is asked if he’s ever even taken a science class, he responds: “It’s called science fiction. That second part is important, too!”

I was listening to this on audibook in the car, and I must have looked ridiculous, laughing my arse off as I’m barrelling down the road..

Wil Wheaton’s narration took a little getting used to. His voice is so familiar and recognisable that it took some work to hear the characters, rather than Wil Wheaton #3, female Wil Wheaton, older Wil Wheaton, etc. This wasn’t helped by the dialogue’s over-reliance on the “said” tag. So even though only two or three people are talking, and even though they are fast-quipping at each other, every single line ends with “said X”. You could hear the strain in Wheaton’s voice as he tried not to make that sound as ridiculous as it invariably did.

That aside, I did thoroughly enjoy most of this book, and Wheaton’s narration was great once I got used to it. Besides, just having him do the narration was amazing.

I will say, however, that the three codas at the end should never have made it out of editing. There’s a little satisfaction in finding out what happened to various characters, but they don’t fit with the tone of the rest of the book, and try a little too hard to make this a “serious” book. The story was already over by this point, so they really only serve as padding. Up until that point, I loved Redshirts, but I barely got through the codas.