Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. I finished reading it a couple of hours ago, and since then I've been wondering what the Hugo voters were thinking (or smoking) last year. As of now, there have been 65 novels that have either won or tied for the Hugo (including Retros), I've read 49 of them, and with this page 24 have now been reviewed. Out of those, there is only one other that I feel was less deserving of the award, that being The Forever Machine, one of the worst books I've ever suffered through.
Most of the review blurbs say it is a very funny book. I didn't laugh once. Instead, I was cringing, groaning, sighing or shaking my head. It reads like fan-fiction, and bad fan-fiction at that, and I think Scalzi realized it and reveled in that concept. This may have worked as a short story (or an episode of "Community"), but the concept is stretched incredibly thin for a novel. If it is possible to be too meta, then Redshirts would be the perfect example.
Anyone who is a Star Trek fan doesn't have to have the title explained. This isn't a Trek novel, but that show is referenced by the characters. Instead, this takes place in a future where the Universal Union of Planets conducts the same type of missions as did the Enterprise and other Federation ships. As in Trek, it is typically the lowly, unnamed ensigns who die on away missions. That is, until one of them figures out the problem. They are actually characters in a television show being written in 2012, and they're at the mercy of The Narrative. Slight problem with this idea though. The show, "The Chronicles of the Intrepid," is very popular, in its sixth season. Yeah, like that's gonna happen in today's televison landscape.
The book does have a subtitle, A Novel With Three Codas. I'm not sure if Scalzi considered those codas part of the novel, or just afterthoughts, and I have to admit I only read the first few pages of the first section and then skimmed the rest. It was obvious they weren't going to add any value to the story, and it was hard enough finishing the main part of the book. NOT recommended.
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