So, Redshirts, the new John Scalzi novel. Okay. Hmmm.
Look, I’m a fan of Scalzi’s fiction. His Old Man’s War books are excellent SF with a good story, setting, and plenty of humour in the narrative that works well. Agent to the Stars was also a really good read, as was Fuzzy Nation. But Redshirts. Man, disappointing isn’t even the word.
I’ll start with the good: Redshirts is a funny novel, a quick read, and full of references to Star Trek. I enjoyed reading it, plowing through in barely a day, simply because it’s a typical Scalzi novel and his prose is easy to read – it very much has the ‘one more chapter’ effect. I also very much liked the fact that Redshirts focused on the minor crew members on the Intrepid, not on the bridge crew and high-ranking officials as is the case with many novels, and TV shows.
Despite how much I enjoyed reading Redshirts I got the feeling, on pretty much every page, that I’d seen this before. Scalzi pays homage to Star Trek, without a doubt, and manages to do so fairly well, but that’s its biggest failing. It’s too similar, too many plot elements have been seen before. Adding a tongue-in-cheek take on them is good because, lets face it, the source material is ripe for mocking. But Redshirts’ main draw is also its biggest letdown.
I had very high hopes for Redshirts, but ultimately it failed for me on pretty much all counts. It’s a quick – and enjoyable – read, but doesn’t do well when you look below the superficial elements. And the Codas – completely unnecessary, and it felt like they were there simply as padding because the main story was over so quickly.
For a bit of mindless reading if you’ve a spare afternoon, then Redshirts should suit you fine, but if you’re looking for something deeper just give it a miss. I can’t say I recommend it, because I don’t, I’d much rather direct you to his previous novels where you’ll find some of the most enjoyable SF stories I’ve read.