Redshirts by John Scalzi

Stars: 3 out of 5

For about 80% of this book I thought it would be a solid 5 stars… then the weird codas happened that turned me completely off. But since I was engaged with the story and the characters for most of the book, I am willing to still give it 3 stars.

Most of us watched Star Trek and noticed that nameless redshirt crewmember that usually dies horribly on an away mission in almost every episode, right? Well, what happens if the story is told from the perspective of some of those redshirts? Suddenly, they aren’t nameless anymore. Suddenly, they have a backstory, needs and wants, and friends. And they start wondering why so many of their crewmembers die so horribly on this one ship and not the others. Or why their commanding officers survive encounters that should have killed them ten times over. Not only do they wonder about it, but they decide to right that wrong once they discover the truth, no matter how crazy it seems.

I really got attached to these characters and was just as intrigued as they were to discover what was happening on the Intrepid. It’s an interesting take on the weekly scifi shows that kill off random characters just for shock value. You know that the core team (usually the captain and officers on the bridge) would always survive to the end of the episode, but what happens to the rest of the crew? More importantly, how do they feel about this? Well, how would you feel if you work on a spaceship where any mission suddenly becomes a life and death crisis, laws of physics and space-time stop applying, and your superior officers behave in a very strange manner from time to time. Oh, and don’t forget the Box. No wonder everyone is terrified. No wonder everyone is hiding when the call comes for an away mission crew members. They might be just extras on a show, but to themselves, they are people, and they don’t want to die.

I wanted them to find a solution to this problem and finally lead their lives on a normal Intrepid, not a ship constantly overtaken by the Narrative. So I was very shocked when that story abruptly ends on a rather negative note and we get “real” life codas instead. Honestly? I don’t care that the main writer for the show has writers block now or how he manages to overcome it. I don’t care that the actress who played Jenkins’ wife in real life finds her happy ever after. I did care a little about Hester’s transformation into Matthew, but that was about the only satisfying closure in this book.

So what had started as a fun story left me frustrated and even annoyed by the end. I know some readers would appreciate this breaking of the fourth wall, but I would have rather gotten more closure with the characters I had grown to love.

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