Thursday, 20 June 2013

Red Shirts

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the flagship Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid.  It's a prestige posting, and life couldn't be better...although there are a few strange things going on...
  • every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces
  • the ship's captain, its chief science officer and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these encounters
  • at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed
Suddenly it's less surprising how much energy is expended below decks on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned an Away Mission.  Andrew's fate may have been sealed...until he stumbles on a piece of information that changes everything, and offers him and his fellow redshirts a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives...

 I had heard about Redshirts and had been waiting for the U.K release for what seemed like an eternity.  A send up of the people who are basically cannon fodder?  Sounds like Hell Train in space to me, I'm in!  So when I finally spotted it for sale in Waterstones last month, it was a case of I HAVE TO HAVE NOW!

While I'm not a Trekkie, I have a basic understanding of the Trek universe as Mum was pretty much into it all.  This means I know what a Tribble is (Matt thought it was a hamster/porcupine...)and that Benedict Cummberbatch wasn't a Klingon in Into the Darkness (Matt's brother Rob had seen the movie twice and provided that nugget that I will always cherish. Especially as it comes from the boy who is smarter than us all, what with his 1st and all his MAs.).  You may be wondering why all this is relevant, but I think it goes to show that Redshirts can be enjoyed without too much prior knowledge of the Trek universe, though a little may be handy.  Redshirts may not have been the all out camp-crazy I was expecting, but it was a fun read nonetheless. 

In fact, rather than just being a zany romp, Scalzi takes his redshirts down the Stranger Than Fiction route about a third of the way in(a comparison I was thinking about during reading, and which was acknowledged in one of the three Codas included at the end), with the overall narrative becoming much more self aware than I expected it to be.  I was surprised as to how it got me thinking about...spoilery stuff that I don't want to ruin for you!  Although if you've seen Stranger Than Fiction (and if you haven't, why not?!), you can pretty much guess what happens.

Overall, I thought that Redshirts had an intelligent plot hidden behind ridiculous situations and over-the top characters.  Straight after reading I had been disappointed that it wasn't solely focused on redshirts in perilous situations.  However, the more distance I get, the more I realise that I did admire that even when dealing with some mind dribbling stuff, Redshirts still didn't take itself too seriously.  So if you want a fun read, with a dash of intelligence dropped in for good measure, then maybe you should track a copy down.   

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