A group of low ranking officers on a star ship come to the shocking conclusion that going on away missions is often a death sentence. The odds of dying go up or down depending on how many of the senior officers are also on the away mission.
Our hero is a new member of the crew-one Ensign Andrew Dahl, who discoveries a number of odd things about the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. In addition to the high death rate for away missions, there is also the odd way that many problems are solved-by putting the problem into a Box which solves it, but only after a dramatically long enough time. There is also a crew member who bares a strong resemblance to a Yeti.
I’m good with Red Shirts until John Scalzi goes all Kilgore Trout on us. and spends a lot of time breaking the forth wall. Our hero decides that the only way to save the lives of his friends is to travel back in time and get the TV Show he is a character on to stop killing so many crew members. Even this works pretty well, until our hero makes one more discovery about his life aboard the Intrepid. Then it wanders off course and the last few chapters are interesting enough, but they don’t quite live up to their potential.
Once again John Scalzi brings to mind the late, great Robert A Heinlein. At the end of Heinlein’s long career he came up with the idea of World as Myth. According to this idea, everything that has ever been written by a fiction writer is reality in another dimension. This made Heinlein feel a tad guilty over all the death and mayhem he had caused over the years. So he whipped up a pan-dimensional spaceship which went back in time and rescued all of the characters he had killed and gave them a happily ever after.
This is called cheating-like having Bobby walk out of the shower and say it was all a dream. Having said that, I fully expected the same kind of cheating from John Scalzi-so I was a bit disappointed by the ending of Red Shirts. At the very least I was hoping that there would a be re-write that brought one character back from the dead.
Red Shirts was often very funny, but it was still a pretty serious tale of death and mayhem. Well, sort of. I still liked it. Maybe John can fix a couple of things if he writes a sequel.