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Redshirts    by John Scalzi order for
by John Scalzi
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have been an ardent fan of John Scalzi's work since I read Old Man's War, quickly followed by The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale. I loved what he did with H. Beam Piper's Fuzzies in Fuzzy Nation, and recently chuckled all the way through Redshirts.

Though not quite a Trekkie, I watched every episode of Star Trek through the late 60s and early 70s. And, though I grumbled about the senior officers always hogging away missions (who minded the ship?), the regular quaking of the command deck, and Captain Kirk's overacting excesses, I loved the show. But, I have to say, I gave little thought to the sad extras, who died dramatically on every episode - that is, till I devoured Redshirts.

The first to go is Ensign Tom Davis, whom we get to know during an encounter with Borgovian Sand Worms. As he struggles to survive, Davis wonders why 'his brain had picked a funny time to start spouting a whole bunch of extraneous information.' And he has an epiphany.

Next we meet Ensign Andrew Dahl as he joins the crew of the Intrepid, his first posting. Also joining the crew are Dahl's friend Jimmy and new acquaintances, Maia and Finn. Dahl starts noticing strange behavior in his shipmates, who work hard to avoid coming face to face with the senior officers. He discovers that there's a high rate of attrition in away missions. And a hairy wraith comes out of nowhere to warn him to stay off the bridge and 'Avoid the Narrative.'

It takes a while for Dahl to understand how sage that advice is, but when he does, he's determined to do something about it. He enlists his friends - and the mysterious yeti. What follows is a hilarious time travel adventure in the Trekkie tradition, and with all kinds of entertaining twists and turns. But will they be able to fix things before the Narrative comes for each of them?

If you're a Scalzi fan, you'll already have read Redshirts or have it in your reading pile. If you're not a Scalzi fan, you're missing some of the most entertaining SF around. And if you're a Trekkie who's watched those poor extras bite the dust week after week after week, then Redshirts is an absolute must read.

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