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Book Cover Image: Redshirts by John ScalziTitle: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Audiobook Length: 7 hours, 41 minutes
Genre: Science Fiction

”Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.”

Thoughts: Growing up, my parents subjected me to every Star Trek movie and episode that existed. My mother was such a fan that she could recognize each episode within the first five minutes. The surprising thing is that except for the second Star Trek movie (I never got over the ear worm thing from The Wrath of Khan), I actually enjoyed the series. Star Trek: TNG (The Next Generation in non-Trekkie speak) remains one of my favorite series from childhood, but I never told anyone about it. Thus began my life as a closet Trekkie.

So, when bloggers started raving about Redshirts what was a Trekkie to do but read a story about the infamous Redshirts – those hapless and nameless ensigns who are privileged to go on away missions with the commanding officers but never seem to last more than an episode or two? The opportunity to hear such a story narrated by one of my childhood Star Trek heroes was something I could not ignore.

John Scalzi’s Redshirts is every bit as good as promised and then some. The idea of these young officers recognizing that something is not quite right is intriguing but listening to their dawning realizations of the truth is absolutely hilarious – tears streaming down the face hilarious. Mr. Scalzi takes no prisoners as he spoofs the Starship Enterprise with his Intrepid and its crew. There is at least one joke or sly aside on almost every page, enough to keep even the most lukewarm reader interested.

For all its humor, though, Redshirts is a story about making a difference. Rather than maintain the status quo, the characters opt to try to make changes that will impact not only their lives but the lives of future crew members. Their journey to such an end leads to some surprising and poignant revelations, highlighting the importance of never judging anyone based on appearances.

God bless Wil Wheaton and his amazing sense of humor. Mr. Wheaton has always embraced his inner nerd and accepted his place in the Trekkie world, making him a natural narrator for the audiobook. Yet, Mr. Wheaton is an excellent narrator, balancing the incredulity of the narrators with the sly sarcasm of the book. He knows his strengths and does not try to exceed them. He might not be able to change his voice for different characters or attempt to modify his pitch to indicate female characters, but he is still able to distinguish between the cast through his phrasing, pacing, and tonality. The differences are subtle but there all the same. The fact that he narrates Redshirts  especially with his background on Star Trek: TNG, only adds to the fun of the entire novel.

Redshirts will delight Trekkies but has immense appeal to readers who may not be as familiar with the series. There is something about the entire premise that all readers can enjoy, and Mr. Scalzi’s humor is boundless. The added element of heart that the novel provides is a huge bonus.

Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.

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