I have listened to many other Audiobooks by John Scalzi, and I’m unsure why it has taken me this long to finally dive into his work titled “RedShirts”; which was a Hugo Award winning book. This piece of fiction is a satire, a farce, a parody for those familiar with or have knowledge of the original Star Trek series. It became common knowledge that anytime a team from the U.S.S. Enterprise went on an away mission down to explore a planet, one or many members wearing red shirts never made it for the return trip. These crew members were often part of the security detail who all wore red color shirts. Being a “redshirt” on the show became synonymous with a character that was doomed to be the victim of whatever creature that planet harbored. The term “redshirt” also became standard nomenclature for any extraneous character from nearly any TV series. It was well known these characters were going to be removed from the show for one reason or another. The same term is often used by geeks when they are a target of layoffs, etc. It should be no surprise that this book is about just such a team of expendable crew members as they struggle to survive to the end of the book; or longer.
If you like fun, silly, witty humor and you have a science fiction background, you may want to pick up Redhirts. If you are not a fan of Star Trek, many of the puns used in the book may not land as well as if you were. Either way, the audiobook was exceptionally well narrated by none other than Wil Wheaton; who himself played a character in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. I can say that I have never been disappointed by anything I have ever listened to that Wil narrated. His voice lends well to the story and characters as well. I would have enjoyed more differentiation of character voices from the narration. However, I was quickly able to overcome this and just enjoy the book for what it was. I also did not notice any issues with the audio recording itself during my listen. Very professionally done.
One thing that stood out like a sore thumb for me as I listened was the overly used “He said”, “She said”, “They said”. Whenever the dialogue switched from one character to another, the book make it clear by saying, “he said…” I do not remember this issue with other works by the same author, it may have been because the book was one of his earlier works. I often find this style of writing in more junior authors, and that was what surprised me when it was here in this book. Other than that, I enjoyed the wit and teasing between characters and I thought the author did a decent job of defining the story’s main players. I was also not expecting the rather surprise plot twist about halfway through the book and even another one about two-thirds of the way in. There was fun, teasing, and banter, then suddenly things changed and you must stop and wonder if that just happened or not. If it were not for these points, the book would have been more like the movie Airplane or other slap-stick humor books; but there is more to the story than just humor.
Although the book does not claim to be for younger audiences, based on its name and subject matter focused around Star Trek, some younger readers may be interested in picking up and listening to it. In my opinion, the book is not intended for younger readers as there is frequent use of vulgar language and topics of crude humor along with discussions involving sexual subject matter. If you are at all offended by any of the above items, I would recommend you pick-up a different book instead of this one.
In summary, if you are, or ever have been, a fan of the Star Trek series and you enjoy a good amount of humor, I would recommend you pick up this book. That is if you can get past the few issues outlined above. Wil Wheaton does a great job narrating and the story itself is more than just a book full of humor. It was quite enjoyable.