John Scalzi, 2012

Hugo Winner - 2013

Premise: Andrew Dahl and four other new crew members on the starship Intrepid soon learn there is a reason no one wants to go on away missions...

Reading this book in 2022 instead of 2012 comes with one gigantic problem: I've already seen two seasons of Star Trek: Lower Decks. And it's hilarious and fantastic. So Redshirts now has a bigger challenge to convince me that these characters are worth caring about. And that's actually the only place it fails.

There's a smart stylistic choice made here that is both necessary for the plot and the only big flaw in the book. The characters are largely featureless and interchangeable, exactly the way minor characters tend to be on shows like Star Trek. In fact, this very fact is important for some late twists in the plot.

However, being smart and necessary doesn't actually keep it from feeling like a flaw. It means the book is more philosophical exercise and intellectual puzzle about the nature of free will and storytelling than it is an exciting adventure. I don't actually care what happens to the characters except insofar as their presence is required to reveal the next part of the central conceit.

However, it's still a really fun read, and that central idea is good enough that the journey is worth taking. Not exceptional or completely unique, but enjoyable all the same.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


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