To quote the book itself, “Is it good? It ain’t Shakespeare, but Shakespeare also wrote Titus Andronicus, so you tell me.” Titus Andronicus just happens to be my favourite Shakespeare play. Yes, I know the play has problems, but so does the Republican party and people still support them.
Redshirts is based on a Star Trek trope where someone unnamed crew member, wearing a red shirt, dies on an away mission. The best part is, you don’t have to have any knowledge of Star Trek, but it does add an extra layer. The characters in the book are very serious about the situation they find themselves in, but the book never takes itself seriously. It knows it is metafiction and satire.
The characters also take their friendship very seriously. The friendships forged between the “expendable” crew members creates some memorable scenes ranging from hysterical to awkward. They really do care about each other and they encourage each other in so many ways. For a book that is supposed to be making fun of science fiction TV show tropes, there is a lot of personal growth among the characters and a serious exploration of religion and the existence of God.
John Scalzi is a brilliant writer. He’s funny and writes in a way that makes science fiction accessible to everyone. This means you don’t have to be a card carrying member of your local nerd/geek society to understand what is going on. Scalzi makes science fiction fun and doesn’t overcomplicate things. He also assumes his audience is smart without the need to have every science-y thing understood. Most importantly, he raises questions we all have about our place in the universe without being preachy. This book is brilliant on so many levels and I am going to end up recommending it to everyone I know.