Book Review – Redshirts by John Scalzi

Cover of “Redshirts” b John ScalziAnyone who is a fan, even just in passing, of Star Trek: The Original Series, knows what is being referenced in the title of this book, ”Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

For those who do not; on almost every episode there would be at least one poor security staff member (from the Operations Division which also included engineering, communications, administration, and yeomen) who died, usually on away missions, during an episode.

When “Redshirts” was first published about 8 years ago I thought about buying it to read because I usually enjoy anything referencing ST:TOS. But, for whatever reasons, I did not.

Hugo Award Winner 2013

Even when it won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel, I still did not buy it to read.

Hugo Awards logo

Through the intervening years I thought about buying it to read, but ultimately did not.

Then, last week. offered the ebook as a free download and I thought, “Well, now is the time”, lol.


I truly wish I had better things to say about this book. Over the years I’ve heard and read good reviews, so I expected a lot. Maybe that’s part of the problem, but I’m not so sure that it is.

The first half of the book was enjoyable and I had high hopes that this would be a story I would remember fondly through the years. Some of the dialogue was…boring and repetitive in nature, but the twist of a “Narrative” being responsible for events on Intrepid (their version of the Enterprise) was interesting. Their equivalent of the red shirts becoming aware that at least one of their number on an away team will die, and their subsequent efforts to avoid being chosen to go, drive a lot of the humor during the early portions of the story.

But things went downhill in the second half of the story and especially, to me, in the three Codas that followed. I get that Scalzi was trying to inject satire into the use of nonsensical plot points to explain away poorly written screenplays, but it just did not resonate with me. I found it confusing and disappointing.

Your mileage may vary.

This is the only work by Scalzi that I’ve read, and based on my experience with “Redshirts” it may be the last. I’ve read posts by others praising some of his following works, but this one just left a bad taste in my mouth and, since I had heard good things about “Redshirts” that did not line up with my reading, I have a real reluctance to take that chance with him again.

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