An alien planet. A desperate situation. The Captain, the Science Officer, the Chief Engineer, and a random Ensign (on his first away mission) face a terrifying enemy.
Any guesses about which one will become a victim of the Borgovian Land Worms?
While not specifically caricaturing Star Trek or SGU (for which Scalzi served as science advisor), the book obviously owes a debt to both of these shows as it follows a group of young officers on their first adventure together on a giant starship. As the cover blurb aptly describes it, "They were expendable...until they started comparing notes."
Anyone who's read other John Scalzi novels (Old Man's War, The Android's Dream) will recognize the character voices - Scalzi has a sort of signature sound to his dialogue that doesn't always help distinguish one character from another. But what the characters say is frequently hilarious, and in a novel about caricatures, it's an easily forgiven shortcoming.
The plot covers more than just the "random redshirt dies so that main character can live" cliche and ends up winding in, around, and back upon itself in clever ways. Scalzi's novels are always well-plotted and this one's no exception. And while it could have been (and almost reads like) a one-joke novella, the book also includes three codas that help expand and enhance the proceedings on an emotional level.
I remember reading John Scalzi's original announcement that his next novel was going to be called Redshirts, and I immediately thought it was both brilliant and obvious. How could it have taken so long for someone to write this novel? Well, it was worth the wait.
Redshirts is thoughtful, fast-moving, and the most fun I've had reading a novel in quite some time.