Review of Redshirts by John Scalzi

SFFaudio Review

Redshirts by John ScalziRedshirts
By John Scalzi; Performed by Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 11 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours

Themes: / Star Trek / humor / space /

Publisher summary:

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 even more thrilled to be assigned to the ship’s xenobiology laboratory, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers. Life couldn’t be better . . . until Andrew begins to realize 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, and (3) sadly, at least one low-ranked crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is . . . and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

A John Scalzi book making fun of Star Trek? Read by Wil Wheaton? YES PLEASE! I had heard some mixed things about this book (and the audio in particular coming in). That didn’t really deter me, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Things sort of converged where I got the chance to review it for this site and it was the alternate July pick for the Sword & Laser book club.

This book really cracked me up. I found myself going between chuckling to myself and bursting out into embarrassing fits of laughter. Thank goodness no one was around to see it. And you won’t tell people about it, will you internet?

In the book, Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union. Oh so he’s an Ensign in Starfleet on the Enterprise? Got it. The book extrapolates on the ridiculousness of sending Kirk, Spock, Mccoy and Ensign Timmy, in his bright red shirt, down to the dangerous planet on an away mission. One of them dies. Guess which one?

The original series was before my time (I’m a Next Gen/DS9 Trekker), and I’ve only really watched the movies and very few episodes, but the meme of being the Redshirt on an away mission is well known to just about everyone at this point. The book gets pretty Meta, but I found it to be an enjoyable book, even if it loses a bit of steam as it goes along. The main story was very enjoyable and the three Codas were alright. I liked the first one the most. The second two were OK, but I don’t think either added too much to the story.

This is the second audio book I’ve listened to that is Narrated by Wil Wheaton (The other being Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.) I really enjoy him as a narrator, especially for a book like this. I couldn’t think of a more perfect reader for a Star Trek Parody book.

That said, this book does suffer what I like to call “Unabridgedness”. That’s where the author does something that in print would likely be ignored or read differently (like an image, or specially printed text) that is a bit painful to listen to.

I won’t say the particular issue with this book so as not to plant it in your head (like it had been in mine before listening). Maybe you won’t notice :)

Despite that, I think this is great to listen to in an audiobook, and I especially enjoy the way Mr. Wheaton reads sarcastic statements (of which this book has many). Oh, and he does a great drunk voice!

It’s a quick read (~8 hours for the normal speed audiobook), and the perfect summer/vacation book.

Review by Rob Zak.

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