By Borgovian land worms. Longranian ice sharks. That kind of thing. Which is to say that this is a John Scalzi novel, and a reader must expect the unexpected, including a surprising emotional punch as the story unfolds, reconfigures and steps outside itself. Cory Doctorow, an author of science fiction and a friend of Mr. Scalzi explained.

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If we understand fan fiction as work that responds closely and intensely to a prior work, then many classic SF texts fulfill this criterion. What conventionally gets called fan fiction — the mass of copyright-infringing fiction published online, extending, say, the Star Trek universe — is different only in degree, not in kind, from much of what gets published professionally.

He rapidly discovers that events aboard this spaceship tend to take odd turns. The most pressing of these problems is, of course, the first. To be sure, there are some moments of humor as different registers of story clash with each other. There is something very Heinleinian about this work of figuring out. Smart, engaged, snarky people have a problem put in front of them that they tackle by the application of rationality and their never-ending competitive chatter.

Where this book differs from Heinlein is that the universe is absurd—or rather, it only makes sense if you assume that what matters is only what happens to the officers when they go on adventures.

This is, of course, pure Hollywood epistemology: things are only real to the extent that they affect the protagonists. And one remembers the similar, more terrible epistemology of late Heinlein novels: things are only real to the extent that Robert A.

Heinlein cares about them. Everything else is set-dressing. The problem Scalzi has is how to sustain this premise over the length of a novel. He could, I suppose, have structured it around a series of away missions, each progressively revealing the true silliness.

It would be unfair to spell out in detail the nature of that revelation, but it sets Dahl and his gang on a path that closely mirrors that of the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home if not the best, then certainly the most approachable of the movies in the series. There are precursors, of course, for a story with this kind of premise.

That comparison points up something important about Redshirts. In the Stoppard, death or nonexistence is a permanently terrifying abyss, to be skated round but never truly avoided. Rather than feeling driven to the edge of insanity by the constant threat of away-mission fates, Dahl and his colleagues have a way out in the form of their rationality.

The book can be read as doing rather more than just applying logic to a tv series that was never intended to carry this kind of burden. The person who makes your shoes, who drives your train, who hands you your coffee in Starbucks. How much do you think about these people?

So, having empathized with Dahl and his fellow worker-ants in the pages of this book, you might be inclined to think a little more about the Dahls you encounter in real life. Scalzi is far more interested in getting an emotional punch out of his story. He does this principally in the three codas that follow the body of the novel, which step outside the frame of the Intrepid to talk, in various ways, about what stories mean to people and how they reflect back onto our lives.

The last of the three will seem too sentimental for some, but it worked for me — not least because the various resolutions it brings are carefully set up beforehand. In the main, the pleasures of Redshirts are pleasures of recognition.

If you know Star Trek and the other series from which the book grows, this story is a hand extended for you to shake: Hey, did you ever think that was weird about the Enterprise? So did I! For both books, the risk of spending so much time talking about SF is that the reader may feel the world around those texts matters less. Walton tries to address this by loading biographical intensity into her narrative; Scalzi does most of this heavy lifting in his three codas.

But I could never quite buy the blurb of Among Others , which described it as a potential break-out book. It and Redshirts are break-in books.

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Now he aims to change that. His new book Redshirts , about disposable underlings in a Star Trek -style universe, is clearly packaged as humor. Read our complete interview with John Scalzi below, in which he gives advice to aspiring humorists, recounts his tenure as creative consultant on Stargate Universe , and berates himself for losing his laptop yet again. Myers about the Star Trek franchise.


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Redshirts by John Scalzi

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Redshirts by John Scalzi tells the story of the support crew onboard the Universal Union Capital Ship, Intrepid, and all the perils they face on a daily basis. I've been sitting on this review for a while, partly because I've not had much time to write but mostly because it has taken me a long time to come up with the right words for it. I'm a relative newcomer to Scalzi, having heard lots about him and his various sci-fi works but having never sat down and read anything of his until Redshirts. My first impression - if his other work is anywhere near as good as Redshirts then I can see myself devouring the rest of his bibliography in no time at all. The story follows Ensign Andrew Dahl, newly assigned as a junior scientist onboard the Intrepid, complete with red shirt.


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