Redshirts by John Scalzi book review: Intertextual trekking
There's a genuinely shocking moment about 70 pages into Redshirts , which we’re about to spoil for you (you have been warned). Two words jump out of the page at the reader: Star Trek .
Y'see, until this point, Redshirts has been a reasonably entertaining, if not quite hilarious, parody of Trek and shows of its ilk. A bunch of ensigns on the Universal Union starship Intrepid are routinely dispatched on away missions, and almost always end up dead, picked off by ice sharks and harpoon-wielding robots. There are a handful of laugh-out-loud lines, but it all feels rather late to the party. People have been making gags about the short lifespans of redshirts for years, after all.
Then the book acknowledges the existence of the TV series that inspired it, and becomes something else entirely. Our heroes realise that the world they live in makes no sense and decide to peak behind the curtain to find out why. It's akin to the moment in The Cabin In The Woods where the teens discover that they're being manipulated, or a play by Luigi Pirandello. Think of it as Six Characters In Search Of A Phaser .
Not all the gags work, and some of the dialogue (and Redshirts is a very dialogue-heavy book) is clunky. But it's also a pacey read that's smart enough to play with the reader's expectations, while remaining exciting – and occasionally moving - enough to ensure it doesn't boldly go up its own arse.
Will Salmon twitter.com/evilrobotbill
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