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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
(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.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2012

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About the author

John Scalzi

154 books22.5k followers
John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,381 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 64 books233k followers
February 10, 2017

Simply said, I loved this book.

If you want me to go into more detail, I can. But that's the heart of the matter.

I don't do spoilers. So instead, let me say this: This book was fun. It was clever. It was geeky.

But most of all, it made me laugh. I'm not just saying it was funny. I'm saying I actually laughed out loud in the restaurant where I was reading it. Then later at the coffee shop. Then later still when I was reading it at home, even though I was alone in the house. Even though that's what crazy people do.

I can honestly say I can't think of another book that ever made me laugh this much. Ever.

So yeah. It's good stuff. A+.

My one problem with this book is that it makes me feel a little threatened. I know John Scalzi. I like him. We're both successful authors, and we both live very happily in our respective corners of the sky.

He writes snappy, clever sci-fi with good plot and action. I write huge tangled metafictional fantasy thingers. This is a good thing. It means that while we're neighbors, we're somewhat distant neighbors. This makes it easier for us to be friends, because we're both doing our own thing on our own ends of the street, metaphorically speaking.

But now Scalzi has gone all meta. That's my turf. If this book wasn't so entertaining, I'd want to send some big, broad-shouldered men around to his house to look menacing and say things like, "Mr Rothfuss is worried about some of the writing you have been doing in his neighborhood. When Mr. Rothfuss gets worried about things, sometimes people get mysteriously hurt. With an axe handle."

So yeah. Thanks for the early look at the book, Scalzi. Thanks for the vastly entertaining read.

Just remember. Axe handle.
Profile Image for Joel.
556 reviews1,665 followers
November 30, 2014
I was going to write a review for this one, but then I realized I could basically just cut and paste my review of Agent to the Stars, changing relevant details like "plot" and "character names" and just keeping everything else exactly the same. Because this book, like all of Scalzi's books except maybe Old Man's War and the two Old Man's War books I didn't read because I didn't really like the second book, suffers (or maybe benefits, I don't know, apparently people love this dude) from being written by John Scalzi. More specifically, John Scalzi, Popular Blogger and Honorary President of Internet Nerds.

The plusses of being a book written by John Scalzi: you probably have a good premise, you can be read in about three hours, and you are probably going to sell pretty well. The negatives: you won't be as funny as you think you are, the cleverness of your premise will be worn thin even at a three-hour reading length, and all of your characters will sound exactly the same as not only each other, but all of the characters in all of John Scalzi's novels (more specifically, they will sound like a blog post by John Scalzi). Oh, also on the downside, Wil Wheaton will narrate you as an audiobook, which is bad news not only because you don't work very well as an audiobook (unless your listeners like it when every single line of dialogue is attributed, even during long, quippy back-and-forths, though I guess you could argue it is necessary since everyone sounds the same), but because Wil Wheaton is kind of shockingly terrible as a reader of audiobooks (though he does make all the characters sound the same, so maybe that's intentionally meta).

Speaking of meta: this book is very in love with itself, especially the second half, and especially especially the three codas, which are kind of infuriating, if only because they reveal how lazy of a writer Scalzi is: he hints that there is this deeper level beyond his story, one worth exploring, even though he didn't bother writing a story interesting enough to make me care to do it.

Because Scalzi is kind of lazy. I mean, the incredibly hard-working kind of lazy, where you get everything done, but you get it done just enough, and you think it doesn't matter because your boss didn't notice, or your teacher doesn't grade very hard and you got an A anyway, or you are a really nice guy and your fans are going to praise everything you do regardless of quality (hi, Joss Whedon!).

I mean, consider: all the problems in this book, from the samey characters to the limp plot to the unearned sentimentality to the not-very-funny funny dialogue, could probably have been cleared up with, I don't know, another draft or two. But Scalzi is very busy being Scalzi, so he wrote this one in five weeks (because NaNoWriMo just isn't enough time to do a thorough job), sent it off to his editor, and proceded to write 11 blogs posts and attend five comic book conventions before finally dropping into bed, exhausted, but confident that his teacher was probably still going to give him that A, because he's a really nice guy and always makes funny comments in class.

And, judging by his NYT best-seller status, he got that A! But not from me.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,053 reviews69.5k followers
July 5, 2022
4.5 stars

Re-read 2017
My original feeling for the book stand, but I did find the 3 Codas at the end seemed a tad more tedious and unneeded this time around.

Orignal review: 2015

I could totally slap myself for not reading this sooner.


The premise of this story is that Andy Dahl and a group of his friends, who all work aboard the starship Intrepid, start to notice a troubling pattern happening on the Away Missions.
And they aren't the only ones who've noticed...

Does everyone know what a Redshirt is?
On the off-chance you aren't a Star Trek fan or maybe haven't been exposed to the term before, let me explain where it came from.
On every mission, Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, etc. would get beamed to some uncharted planet to discover...something. But, of course, our main characters never beamed anywhere by themselves.
Not really .
They always took Ensign So-n-So (wearing his red shirt) with them.
And, inevitably, Ensign Redshirt ended up as cannon fodder.

Death by exploding rock!


So, after watching the show for any length of time, you knew what was going to eventually happen to anyone who happened to be wearing the wrong color in an uncharted area of space.

Death by zappy-beam!


Which is hilarious when you're watching re-runs and playing a drinking game!
But maybe it wouldn't be quite so funny if the Redshirts were real characters?
Although, I laughed my ass off at Andy and his friends the entire time I was reading this, so that blows that theory right out of the water.


I wasn't all that surprised that I thought this was funny, but I was really surprised that I was totally invested in the plot. And there is a plot! A really good one!
And the ENDING!
I did not see that twist coming, Mr. Scalzi. Well done, sir!
Alright, so what happens is...

January 30, 2022
If this would have been targeted at a large audience with less special insider puns and humor, it could have been an immediate cult novel.

So it´s Scalzi playing around with perspective and narrative styles, the first time leaving his linear and used techniques behind to do experimentations with a bit more artful elements, by this making the read heavy and difficult for sci-fi prone Trekkies and an average experience for everyone else.

I know a bit of the canon and very much sci-fi in general and I liked it, it´s nothing special, non linear, creative narrative telling styles are always a bit unused to annoying, and whoever picks this as Scalzis´first read may not return to this author. I am not sure if he put a warning sign to the beginning, but he should, because thereby he could avoid that Old man´s war friends get something unsuspected they may not appreciate.

It´s also not as funny as his others works, this might be because it´s more of a satire pastiche hybrid than a comedy, not unleashing the full giggle potential, and because many of the fun has already gone out of satirizing Star Trek, Wars, or whatever ones preferred fandom flame war fraction might be.

On the other hand, Scalzi is pretty brave to dare something new, just as he wrote one part of the Old man´s war series from a teenage girls perspective, didn´t go and end so well, it´s extremely annoying and one of the rare cases I stopped reading a book, maybe ask Brandon Sanderson
it´s said that it´s amazing, how this is done better than most, even female, writers are able to do characterization. What a writer.

But just because someone is trying something new doesn´t mean that the quality controls can be lowered too.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,534 reviews9,935 followers
September 17, 2017
"There's something seriously wrong with this ship," Dahl repeated.
"Yeah," Finn said. "I think you might be right."

My face when I figured out what was going on

I loved the original Star Trek so much and I still watch it to this day 😄 So the idea of this book having references to the show was cool. There are a group of people that are tired of being killed on the show. They don't understand what is going on and are out to find out what it is.

"The red shirt," Abnett said. "You know, in the original Star Trek, they always had Kirk and Bones and Spock and then some poor dude in a red shirt who got vaporized before the commercial. The moral of the story was not to wear a red shirt. Or go on away missions when you're the only one whose name isn't on the opening credits."

Overall I thought the story was great and I loved the characters! 😊

Mel ❤️
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
October 17, 2022
2020 reread: still so much fun.
“Sooner or later the Narrative will come for each of us.”

Thanks to cultural osmosis even I, the person who (according to a colleague of mine) lost quite a few nerd points for having never seen a single Star Trek episode, am somehow familiar with the concept of 'redshirts' - the unfortunate extras whose lot is to die dramatically on screen just to pad the plot and remind the viewer that the near-invincible main characters are indeed, so to say, in a real pickle.
"In other words, crew deaths are a feature, not a bug."

And so the story goes: a bunch of new crew members on a starship 'Intrepid' discover that despite being to themselves very much real, they are little but the doomed 'Redshirts' on the not-so-good Star Trek rip-off third-rate TV show.
“It’s messed up that the most rational explanation for what does go on in this ship is that a television show intrudes on our reality and warps it. But that’s not the worst thing about it.”

“Jesus Christ,” Finn said. “If that’s not the worst thing, what is?”

“That as far as I can tell,” Jenkins said, “it’s not actually a very good show.”

When the bizarre and incomprehensible to any real reason logic of TV 'Narrative' seizes control of their lives, the events and actions quickly turn rather cinematically idiotic, and a few crew members are invariably destined to die gruesome and pointless deaths while a few officers - clearly the show's protagonists - survive despite all odds. Over the years, certain crew members have even learned to semi-successfully game the system in order to survive. Because what else can you do but succumb to the Narrative, no matter how poorly written and unfair it is?
“We've already established whoever is writing us is an asshole.”

This was my first time reading anything by John Scalzi, and it kept me quite entertained, assuring that it will not be the last. There was something about its constantly shifting style and message that suits my easily distractible nature - I guess it was the constant oscillation between smart satire, slapstick comedy, eye rolling 'meta', sappy sentimentality and unexpected infusion of searching for the meaning of life and self-discovery. All together it creates an interesting combination that at times flows smoothly and at times teeters on the verge of losing its footing just a bit.

But overall it worked. It worked even despite the (honestly, quite unnecessary) three 'codas' stuck onto the ending if the book as though their only function was to pad the word count just a little bit. I wish they were left out, and the ending - just the way it was, abrupt and unexpected and yet completely necessary given the internal logic of the narrative - was left to stand on its own. (2020 edit: I did not mind the codas this time - go figure.)

But even with the extra padding, the story worked.
“Whether you're an extra or the hero, this story is about to end. When it's done, whatever you want to be will be up to you and only you. It will happen away from the eyes of any audience and from the hand of any writer. You will be your own man.”

I liked it, I really did. I had fun reading it, and now I'm trying to decide which Scalzi book I want to try next. Thoughts?

And no, I'll never ever again will be able to look at any TV show without imagining the implications of the script governing the lives of real people.
“Other science fiction shows had science advisers and consultants," Hanson pointed out.

"It's science fiction," Weinstein said. "The second part of that phrase matters too."

"But you're making it bad science fiction," Hester said. "And we have to live in it.”

4 stars.


Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
March 24, 2020
March 2020 reread, just because. It's surprising how much of this I forgot since I first read it 5 years ago ... and how much more I liked it this second time around. I loved all the meta stuff; it's pretty mindblowing. And I'm actually very fond of the three codas that make up the last quarter of the book. (I got a good chuckle when I realized that the three codas - First Person, Second Person and Third Person - are about three different minor characters from the main storyline, and the codas are written in ... wait for it ... first person, second person and third person. How did I miss that the first time through? :D

4.5 stars!


What if the redshirt extras low-ranking crew members on Star Trek The Chronicles of the Intrepid realized that whenever one of them accompanies the starship's officers on an away mission to a planet or somewhere, that crew member was extremely likely to be killed?


Naturally, this creates a dog-eat-dog situation where the long-term members of the crew learn to disappear quickly whenever an officer comes around, and the newer members have a very high mortality rate. Finally, a few of the junior crew members decide to try to get to the bottom of this mysterious phenomenon and, if possible, try to find a way to end it.

This book is extremely funny in parts, especially if you're familiar with the original Star Trek and some of its characters and quirks, but it's really kind of an odd book at the same time. Most of the book is a satire, a little on the superficial side and very snappy-dialogue-driven. There's a lot to make fun of with Trek, as fond as I am of it, and it's not all about the callous and weird ways in which random crew members die. (I did think the captain here needed a few sexy alien ladies slinking up to him.) The answer to the mystery of why so many crew members are dying on this particular starship doesn't really hold water logically AT ALL, but I've suspended disbelief on a lot shakier plot lines in my Trek-watching over the years, and I was willing to roll with it.

Then the story gets a little bit more screwy and a lot more meta, and at about the 70% mark the main story ends. The rest of the book is three "codas" written from the points of view of three very minor characters from the first part of the story, telling a little more about what happened in their lives after the main story ended. They're interesting, but so very different in tone from the rest of the book that the contrast is a little jarring. They're kind of sobering, in fact. And no, that wasn't me you saw surreptitiously wiping away a tear as I turned the last page.

3 1/2 stars. I may decide to round up when I see how I feel about this in another day or two. ETA: I have in fact decided to round up, after chatting with Anne in the thread to her very funny review. It made me realize that I recall this book with a lot of affection, despite its flaws.

Content advisory: fairly frequent F-bombs, and some innuendos and crude talk in a few places.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,140 reviews3,569 followers
September 4, 2014
Death... the Final Fate...
These are the voyages of the Starship Intrepid.
Its continuing mission,
to kill naive new crewmembers,
to seek out cheap thrills and easy lamentations,
to boldly go where no redshirt has gone before!

I knew since some time ago about this novel but until now I had been able to read it, and I am truly glad that I did it!

One of the best Star Trek novels without really being about Star Trek.

It's a common knowledge but again for those neophytes to the topic, let me explain that "Red Shirt" is a term that people started to use refering for those poor crewmembers, sometimes even without a proper name, accompanying the main officers of the Starship Enterprise, in the Original Series of Star Trek. Usually they wear "red shirts" due that Security Officers wear uniforms with shirts colored in red. And to add a feeling of "danger and realism" to the series, the scriptwriters decided to kill some low level crewmember in each away mission while visiting some dangerous planet or some mysterious space station.

This recurring gag became so common in the Original Series that the term of "Red Shirt" or "Redshirt" is usually apply to any "extra" killed in any TV series and/or film to obtain thrills from the audience.

John Scalzi, the author, came up with this brilliant story merging smart humor, nasty dangers and wonderful science fiction, consolidating a great novel, obviously appealing to any Trekker, but also to any reader interested in science fiction in general or even looking for an amusing book.

Without a doubt, one of the most polemic topics in any story is when a character is killed off the narrative. People may think that killing a secondary or even tertiary character cannot do a negative effect to the audience, but one has to think about that for some people may be a non-important character but it may be relevant even the reason of why the reader is keeping up with the story. Also, giving less value to the "life" of a character just because he/she wasn't important on the story, in a way, is like provoking an effect of not value a life if they haven't acomplished something worthy of mention in history.

Killing characters always is controversial.

If they became extremely popular, it can't alienate audience to keep up reading/watching any series. Also, it's sad to think about all the lost potential for that character since he/she is no longer in the story. Even worse if one realizes that he/she was killed off just to avoid to became a character more popular than certain other key character that the writer may appreciate more. But definitely, the worst of all is when a character is introduced, giving him/her a lot of developing but is killed off before of acomplishing anything of value to the story.

And of course, we have the issue of returning back from the dead. That happens when the characters are too important to keep them dead and/or to make an event about the resurrection of the characters. That certainly has its positive and negative repercussions.

Getting back to the novel, while it's basic premise is to exploit the recurring gag of killing off characters to get cheap thrills, also this excellent book is a great example of a crafty story with priceless science fiction and fantasy.

The only "bad" thing that I can think of is a section once the story ends, with three "codas" telling like side-stories about some characters whom appeared on the book. Honestly, I didn't need that, it was like anti-climatic having finished the novel and then finding those "codas", that they didn't give me any info of importante to change my impression of the novel. I don't know if they were included only to reach a 300-page level, that in previous times I have commented that if a story is good, it's doesn't need lot of pages to be seen as a worthy material. But again, if you opted of not reading those additional "codas" to the book, well, don't do it. You won't miss much.

However, the novel is indeed a fine masterpiece of crafty reading.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,964 followers
August 3, 2012
Halfway through this book, I was thinking that I could do something funny in this review with Will Farrell’s character from the movie Stranger Than Fiction. But then it had to go and actually reference Stranger Than Fiction and ruin my plans.

Thanks for nothing, Scalzi!

Anyhow, in the distant future the starship Intrepid explores
the galaxy with a crew led by a bold captain and his logical science officer. A group of newly assigned crew members quickly notice that odd and bizarre things happen when they get around the captain and his senior staff. Routine missions become dangerous. The basic laws of physics seem to break down. Common sense is forgotten. And god help you if you’re one of the unlucky bastards who ends up on an away team with them because you’re probably coming back to the ship in a body bag. Assuming there’s enough left of your corpse to bring back at all.

Scalzi took what could be a one-joke premise from the old gag about the extras wearing red on Star Trek being disposable and having a very short shelf life, and he turned that concept into a funny and interesting examination on the nature of fiction and free will. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because the twists and turns are part of the fun, but I liked how the book went off in a couple of surprising directions.

While I had fun with it, Scalzi’s style is becoming a bit odd to me, and that was enough to take it from four stars to three. He skips almost any kind of descriptive writing to focus almost exclusively on dialogue driven plot. For example, there isn’t a single word about what the ship or the characters look like. Skimping on the exposition in the interest of rushing through the main part of the story makes it compulsively readable, but it also makes it feel a bit thin. So while I was completely into the story of the crew fighting against their fate, a few more details about what that looked like would have been welcome.

One other minor nitpick.

Despite some of my problems with it, Scalzi still writes with heart and humor, and sci-fi could use a lot more of that.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,983 followers
August 5, 2017
It's never a good thing to wear a red shirt in sci-fi . . .

Bad things happen to guys in red shirts . . .

You always have a couple of disposable extras for an away mission . . .

But, what if they figured it out and decided to do something about it?

This book was excellent. I am very impressed with how creative, funny, and moving it is all at the same time. It pokes fun at cheesy sci-fi television while honoring it at the same time.

Scalzi has become one of my favorites for his creativity in a genre that can easily get repetitive. If you love sci-fi books and television, you owe it to yourself to check this one out!

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
October 21, 2017
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John “I’m not Gene Roddenberry but I dressed up like him once for Halloween” Scalzi could have also been Redshirts: Existential Musings in the Internet Age by a Satire Minded Child of the Eighties.

Winner of the Hugo and the Locus Award, I can see the spinning wheels in the minds of the award voters / selection committee of both trophies – “A fun, unique twist on an old Star Trek gag but then he goes and ends it with an existential quest for meaning amidst spiritual ennui and isolation with a timely cultural message and pulls a satisfying ending out of the hat.”

No kidding.

I think it was the three codas, told from first, second and third person perspectives that put this over the top, the element in this book that lifted it deep over the centerfielder’s head and into the bleachers. As Jeff Lebowski would say “it really tied the room together.”

A fun mix of Galaxy Quest, Weird Science, Stranger than Fiction, and Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, Redshirts is funny, entertaining, quirky, baffling, mind bending and thought provoking and even, yes, touching. There are some gaps in the narrative, some stretches in the already strained science, and some oddly thin characterizations, but all the same this is a winner.

One recurring theme that I notice in Scalzi’s work is a playful satire/ tribute of sci-fi classics: Redshirts to Star Trek, Old Man's War to Heinlein, Fuzzy Nation to Little Fuzzy and The Android's Dream to Philip K. Dick.

I like what he’s done with the place, Live Long and Prosper!

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,004 reviews10.6k followers
October 4, 2012
The starship Intrepid seeks out new worlds and boldly goes where no man has gone before. However, as Ensign Andrew Dahl soon discovers, low-ranked crew members die more often aboard the Intrepid than brain cells at a Spring Break weekend while the senior officers, besides Lt. Kerensky, always survive without a scratch. As they dig deeper, what will Andy and his friends uncover?

Anyone who's watched more than two or three episodes of Star Trek knows that it's always the extra, or redshirt, that dies when the crew beams down to a planet or any other location that's not on the bridge of the ship. Why is that? That's the question Redshirts poses to the reader.

This is not my favorite book by John Scalzi. It's not even in the top three. I love the Scalz and his brand of wit. Too bad this one was all wit and very little shi... substance. Andy and his friends were an interesting bunch. I liked how they gradually pieced things together. Wait... no they didn't. It was pretty much all handed to them.

The writing actually seemed a little on the lazy side. It was mostly dialogue and very little description. I had no idea how any of the characters looked or even what the interior of the Intrepid was supposed to look like.

The story is meant to be a takeoff of Star Trek but it felt more like several episodes of Red Dwarf, most recently the Back to Earth movie where the crew arrived on earth and encountered the actors that played them. I wasn't a tremendous fan of that one either.

Still, Redshirts had its humorous moments and the absurd logic was consistent. It just wasn't very substantial and I thought it wore a little thin toward the end. I actually enjoyed Fuzzy Nation more. It's a low three and I could have safely missed it. If you're wanting to read John Scalzi, skip this one and pick up Old Man's War.
Profile Image for Scott.
292 reviews317 followers
August 7, 2021
If there was a Booker for ‘Best Concept, Most Poorly Executed’, Redshirts would be hiring a tux and polishing an acceptance speech. This is a novel built on a great idea – imagine if all the disposable non-core-cast characters constantly killed for dramatic effect in sci-fi TV shows realised what was happening to them and rebelled against it, doing their damnedest to avoid going on missions with important, non-expendable crewmembers, trying to get transferred off the ship, etc.

From this great idea comes a thin, ailing novel desperate for a big bowl of Description (of which there is little) and an emergency transfusion of Interesting Characters (of which there are few).

The lack of scene setting and description of the locations and objects in the story really got to me. I read the whole book with no real idea at all of what the central stage for the story – a large spaceship – looked like. The ship could have resembled a gigantic orange phallus wearing a Panama hat and I would have been none the wiser (actually that’s how I’m imagining it from now on- that would make a pretty great flagship). My guess is that Scalzi assumed his readers would be such big fans of the shows he is satirising that they would do all the work themselves, slotting in The Enterprise or Galactica as needed. The lack of descriptive text made every location in the story feeling like a series of shiny white rooms with no distinguishing features- spaceflight as designed by Steve Jobs.

One of the reasons I love SF is the richness of the worlds and environments evoked in the genre – Alistair Reynolds’ gargantuan, baroque Lighthuggers, the beauty of Phillip Mann’s planet Paradise, and the vivid memories I still carry from my time with Dan Simmon’s Hyperion. Redshirts in comparison is a blank slate, and while I don’t expect James Joyce level detail from SF novels I at least need a couple of descriptive hooks to hang my imagination on.

Combined with a tendency for all the characters to sound the same Redshirts is a largely colourless novel. Still, it’s a fairly light story with some good funny bits and it flows OK, or at least it does until about two thirds in. At this point the story shifts location, along with tone, and gets way too meta for me, losing most of what had made it interesting.

The last section of the story, a series of codas, also really jarred with me. What had been in large part a light comedic story is finished with some maudlin, sadly meaningful postscripts that seemed like a last-ditch attempt to make the story more worthy.

Overall, this book was a bit of a bummer. From the blurb I was expecting great comedic SF – something along the lines of Red Dwarf or The Hitchhikers Guide. What I got was a novel that wasn’t consistently funny, or particularly well put together.

I didn’t truly hate Redshirts, but it’s so much less than it could have been.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,969 reviews1,985 followers
February 2, 2019
The Theme Song of the Book! Any song whose chorus begins with "They said this air would be breathable" gets my vote.

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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.

My Review: Yeah, well, you know what? John Scalzi wrote a doozy here. Starship Intrepid and its crew are a steal from classic Trek, and the steal is a new basic cable show (is anyone at Paramount listening?) and one of my main complaints about reality is addressed: Why is it that the really good ones aren't real? Why, to take a recent example of my gritching, can't I apply for a visa and go to Islandia? (They wouldn't let me in, and if they did I'd kick up such a fuss about not wanting to leave that they'd let me stay, and that could get...interesting.)

If the Universe is truly infinite, not just reallyreallyreally big, all of fiction is fact somewhere and somewhen. It can't not be. In Infinity, do the same laws of physics apply everywhere? Perhaps not. Infinity is mind-boggling even to grasp at the edges of, and there is no way my monkey brain with its paltry senses and trivial education can know any more than the merest shadow of what it means.

So somewhere the Enterprise and the Intrepid cruise among the stars and James T. Kirk and Spock do the nasty and Serenity smuggles cattle from moon to moon...and I get a visa for Islandia.

Think about the implications of that for your own life briefly: He *does change. She *doesn't leave. You *do have that baby, adopt that child, build that family—the one you work on in your daydreams.


Glorious. Or maybe not. Maybe this is the life where your loved one dies. Why you? Why do you get the shit end of the stick? Or pause for a moment and think loving thoughts to the you that had that accident, took that fall, bore that loss.

Look, not one of us gets out of here alive. What we have, while we're here, are choices and opportunities. And no choice, no opportunity, comes without a cost. Someyou, somewhere, pays, and this book's scorpion sting is “now you know, so what ya gonna do?”

Dunno what I myownself will do, but now, thanks to a funny, engaging, and still very serious novel, I won't do it unknowingly, blindly, without considering the resonances. And yet, for all the longface puritanism that sounds like I'm feeling, it's less hair shirt than rib-tickler that got me here.

John Scalzi! Yo! Good one, little dude.
Profile Image for Blaine.
781 reviews653 followers
November 15, 2022
“Whether you're an extra or the hero, this story is about to end. When it's done, whatever you want to be will be up to you and only you. It will happen away from the eyes of any audience and from the hand of any writer. You will be your own man.”

“You don't win by getting through all your life not having done anything.”

It’s the mid 25th century, and Andy Dahl has just been assigned to Xenobiology lab on the Intrepid, the flagship of Universal Union. As he and his friends are settling in, they quickly realize that the Intrepid is a very strange ship. Most of the crew is very weird about away missions, probably because the non-officers—the Redshirts, if you will—are always dying on them. And it soon becomes a race against time for Andy and his friends to figure out why and how to stop it before they all end up in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong away mission.

Redshirts could have simply been a delightful parody of the original Star Trek television series. The book is satirical without being mean or mocking, and it is extremely, laugh out loud funny. But rather than taking the easy way out, Mr. Scalzi slowly takes the story in a very meta direction, but in doing so turns the story into something real and thought-provoking about free will and the nature of existence. In some ways, the three codas may be the best part of the novel, exploring the aftermath of the main story—an area that few sci-if stories tackle—from the perspective of minor characters.

Redshirts is an award-winning cult favorite that really deserves a much wider audience. Highly recommended, even if you're not usually a sci-fi reader.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,478 reviews7,772 followers
March 3, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

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Is there anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know what a “Redshirt” is? There is?

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Ha! Just kidding. Okay, for the three of you who aren’t familiar with the term, I’ll let Scalzi ‘splain it to you . . .

“The red shirt. You know, in the original Star Trek, they always had Kirk and Bones and Spock and then some poor dude in a red shirt who got vaporized before the first commercial. The moral of the story was not to wear a red shirt. Or go on away missions when you’re the only one whose name isn’t in the opening credits.”

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After watching various crewmates of the spaceship Intrepid be assigned to away missions where they were forced to battle things like:

Borgovian land worms . . .

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and evil death machines . . . .

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and “ice sharks” . . .

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(See what I did there with the Wesley Crusher and the shark and the eating of him and all? Brilliant!)

only to die an untimely death on said mission while all of the head honchos kept returning to the ship unscathed, Ensign Dahl and his buddies finally start putting two and two together and decide to do something about it before they end up killed by a misfiring pulse gun or some such. And then things get a little . . .

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That’s pretty much all I can say about the plot without ruining the entire story. I will say that you don’t need to be a Trekkie to get a kick out of this one. This was my first Scalzi, and it definitely won’t be my last. It was action-packed, funny, even a little touching in parts - and while I’m sure there are plenty of complaints out there about the dialogue driven storyline, my opinion is when it works it works. In this case it most definitely worked and I plowed through this book in a few hours.

You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this? He says “read this damn book!”

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I bought Redshirts a few weeks ago and, like almost every other book I purchase for myself, had no intention of reading it any time soon due to the vast amount of library books and ARCs I have at any given moment. However, with the passing of an icon this one got bumped to the top of the list. I’m so glad it did. LLAP, Mr. Nimoy . . .

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Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,639 reviews1,509 followers
August 15, 2020
John Scalzi is the Amazon daily deal today 15Aug20 $2.99 I really liked this one.

If you liked Star Trek and Galaxy Quest it might be right up your alley.

4.5 Guy is Gonna Die Stars


Buddy Read with my Sci-Fi loving peeps at Buddies Books and Baubles

RedShirts seems a lot like a combo of Galaxy Quest and Stranger Than Fiction which means I LOVED IT!!! This hit all my Sci-Fi fangirl hot buttons making fun of all the tropes from those early Sci-Fi t.v. shows that didn’t realize were happening back when I grew up watching them.

I think MacGyver was the first show I loved from my childhood, that when I went back to it with my new adult eyes I saw all the problems with it and so we made a drinking game out of it. For every out of date piece of technology, MacGyvered solution and stock footage (a.k.a. every car case) you have to take a drink. I never made it through a single episode without getting drunk. I’m sure I could have played the same type of game with Star Trek for when Captain Kirk kisses an alien chick, an away team picks a random guy to go the planet with them, some science gets all screwy or someone shows up on the bridge when they could have just sent a message.

This book makes total fun of the fact that Redshirts or side crew are just fodder for the Sci-Fi killing machine to die in horrible and sometimes ridiculous ways.
“Ensign Davis thought, Screw this, I want to live, and swerved to avoid the land worms. But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.”


I loved the group of new cadets. They have a great chemistry and the banter between them is a lot of fun. As a girl I especially loved Duvall as she gets to break free of some of the normal gender roles that used to be assigned to woman in a Sci-Fi series . But most of the story is shown to us through the eyes of Dahl who notices that things are not okay on this new ship he is on and people seem to be dying left and right on Away Teams. Also, what’s in the box???
"""What is it?"
"It's the Box."
"That's it? 'The Box'?"
"If it makes you feel better to think it's an experimental quantum-based computer with advanced inductive artificial intelligence capacity, whose design comes to us from an advanced but extinct race of warrior-engineers, then you can think about it that way."

I had the best time as they all discover that something is not quite right with the people on the ship and why that might be. But even when you know what is going on how do you keep yourself from dying?

It’s so sad but really true.


What is really happening and how do they fix it???? Well for that you will need to read the book….muwahhahaha. But if you are a sci-fi geek that loved things like Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica (the original), Buck Rogers etc. then this might be exactly what you need to scratch that itch.

After the main story there are 3 codas. The shift in the story is dramatic at this point. It is almost like picking out a slightly different book and I have no idea how to talk about them without spoiling so click at your own risk.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books581 followers
March 23, 2020
I’m a bit torn on this book. It was funny but not hilarious. I found the character’s to be a bit flat. I love Scalzi’s books, but if I have a complaint, it’s that all the character’s personalities seem too similar, even males and females. It was also short with the main story being about 280 pages. It has three Coda’s that take it to 314, and while they were interesting, they didn’t add a great deal to the story and they weren’t all that funny. So, I guess I went into this hoping for many belly laughs, instead I found myself snickering often.

On the other hand, I read it quickly, and I enjoyed it, and it was fun. Did I go in with too high of expectations? Probably. There is a quote on the back of the book, “I can honestly say I can’t think of another book that every made me laugh this much. Ever.” That might have been my problem. Does every novel have to groundbreaking or incredibly witty or mind blowing? Nope, the reality is that this is a fun, fast read.

If you’re a sci-fi fan, the plot is what you might expect, just from reading the title. Ensign Andy Dahl has been assigned to the Universal Union (the double U – heh) Capital Ship Intrepid. He begins noticing a pattern that ‘redshirts’ assigned to away parties meet their demise on a much too regular basis. The rest of the novel follows Dahl and several other characters investigating this phenomenon and for their own self-preservation, trying to stop it.

Scalzi got the idea for this story when he was working for Star Gate: Universe as a Creative Consultant. He approached it in an interesting way, I’m not sure he’s technically breaking the third wall in this story, maybe he created a fictional third wall, which is then broken. Anyway, I think most serious sci-fi fans will not be able to help being intrigued and entertained by this book.

Three and a half stars, for this funny, fast read, with my rating possibly tainted by high expectations.
March 17, 2020
💥 Free until March 20 for members of Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club! You can sign up (also for free) and get the book here!

[December 2015]

· BR with the BBB gang ·

Okay. Everyone says this book reminds them of Galaxy Quest. And after saying this book reminds them of Galaxy Quest, said people usually start squeaking around in glee like manic mice. Well I have a confession to make: I am one of those freaks who hardly ever watches movies and/or TV. Please don't break down and cry. I know how difficult it must be for you to accept I'm not as perfect as you thought I was, but it's the sad, sad truth. Fear not my friends, for as impossibly intolerable the situation might seem right now, in a few years time this will be naught but a bitter memory. Hmm. I'm pretty sure there was a fascinating point to this paragraph. Can't remember now. Oh yes, Galaxy Quest and the squeaking, manic mice! So the fascinating point was this: I haven't seen Galaxy Quest, and have no idea what the manic mice are squeaking about. That's it. Bye now ← now aren't you glad you read this paragraph? So informative! So captivating! I'm pretty sure it will change the history of reviews for all eternity. And this is where I add a useless Galaxy Quest gif to my review for absolutely no reason. You're welcome.

Anyway, Freaking Galaxy Quest or not, the first part of this book was nothing short of awesome. Now. I kind of hate space stuff. Yes, I've decided to crush both my utter perfection and stellar reputation to bits in this review. I sincerely hope you survive the sore disappointment. So. Space stuff pretty much bores me to death (except from Star Wars. Obviously. And Star Trek. Obviously. And other non-boring space stuff. Obviously). But anyway. I LOVED the first part of the book. It was cool. It was funny. It was goofy. I loved that Scalzi used all the Ancient Super Crappy Sci-Fi TV Tropes (ASCSFTT™) as a base for his story. I obviously loved that the Redshirts (aka lowly crew members) kept dying in the most creative, horrible, painfully hilarious way (what can I say? I love bloodshed and atrocious agony). And I loved the Star Trek Intrepid crew. Oh, and I loved The Box that Goes Ding, too. Yeah, The Box was really cool. And there was that thing about owing people handjobs, blowjobs, and well, err, fucks. Yeah, I really liked that, too.

Ooops, I think we just shocked Kirky and friends . I can't say I'm surprised at their reaction, though. I mean, things like these were just not done, back in the days. And none of the Enterprise crew members would be caught dead engaging in such garish, indecent proceedings. Kirky wouldn't allow it. Besides, I'm pretty sure there were no such things as blowjobs, back in the 60s Oh dear, I guess I was wrong. On both accounts. We really didn't need to know that about Kirky, did we? *shudders* But hey, I did tell you there was something fishy going on with Spocky, so this shouldn't come as such a big surprise. Okay, better change subjects before we start getting filthy Star Trek images in our little heads, right? Right.

So anyway, this was me during the first part of the book:

And this was me after the BIG TWIST:

Yeah, well, not really. So the BIG TWIST happened and the book went FLOP. I could have been great. Except that it wasn't. It could have been exciting. Except that it wasn't. It could have been as cool as the first part of the story. Except that it wasn't. What it actually was? Tedious. And flat. And dull. And tedious. And flat. And dull. And NO I am not going to telll you about the BIG TWIST. Because spoilers. And stuff. Suffice it to say that the space setting went POOF, and I went YAWN.

Damn, to think I was actually enjoying space stuff for once. To think I wasn't finding it tedious. And flat. And dull. John Scalzi, I don't like you very much right now. Why ruin a perfectly entertaining space stuff story by taking said space stuff out of said story? Beats me. Anyway, here I was, yawning and mourning the loss of the awesome space stuff, when all of a sudden the story itself went POOF. One page you're reading and wondering if anything is going to happen to wake you from your slumber, and next thing you know: BOOM, the end. At 70%. Freaking fantastic. Then the author proceeds to feed you three "codas," which are even more boring and uninteresting than the boring, uninteresting part of the actual story. Yay. How positively exciting. Woo hoo. I want more. Yesss. Amazing. Okay. I think that now would be a good time to end this review. If I don't, I might end up lowering my rating. And my opinion about this book is unpopular enough as it is. So I think I'll leave you in the company of Spocky, who is not shocked by the idea of owing his fellow crew members blowjobs, and has a cool cat.

Profile Image for Brent.
355 reviews148 followers
September 11, 2017
Review 2.0 – Commissioned by me, several days after finishing the book and realizing that I had blubbered all over the original review (under the influence of the codas – I must admit.)

Consider it a pre-coda if you will.

What’s up with this book? Why are reviews all over the map on this one?

Because this story is like an ice-cream cone.

A triple scoop ice-cream cone, to be specific, one that presents a series of three distinct flavors that change as you work your way through it.

It begins as a pretty funny, genre-aware, semi-parody of old school Star Trek. Because I grew up on the reruns of the original series, this flavor works really well for me.

Slowly though, the flavor transitions into a more serious, meta-narrative quest reminiscent of the The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. This flavor didn’t work so well for me and I kind of had to prod myself to wade through it at a couple of points. It gets better though and although the original tale ends on this flavor, the ending is still pretty satisfying and left me feeling, “Hmm that was pretty good after all.”

During the first coda flavors start to change again, and as we move out of the super-meta mind trip, I realize I have become emotionally invested in these characters. I tend to avoid sentimental stories and so maybe my threshold was low, but I found the last two codas to be very emotionally moving. (I might have cried, but I’ll deny it if you say anything.) It was in the glorious aftermath of these codas that I wrote my first review.

So I hope this straightens some things out

--------- (Commence Review 1.0) ------------

Thought number 1.)
It is difficult to write characters that you can laugh at and care about at the same time. Getting the comedic distance right is tricky, but Scalzi nails it here.

Thought number 2)
The book is sort of billed as a Star Trek parody but its really not.

Which is good.

Because as fun as they might be, parodies really have no life of their own, like a parasite they rely on the original work for their vitality and relevance. But this story stands on its own, it takes turns being funny, intriguing, and at least to me, emotional moving.

Thought number 3.)
I'm not sure what else I could ask for.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews924 followers
June 23, 2018
In John Scalzi’s The Redshirts, the newest ensigns aboard the Union Capital Flagship, the Intrepid, recognize they are expendable. Not only that, they realize that every episodic confrontation of their ship requires that a low-ranking crew member (namely them) be killed. They do what they can to avoid the captain and the other bridge crew, but they know their days aboard the Intrepid are numbered. With a bit of research, they learn they are in a similar position to characters in a television show, Star Trek, which aired about 200 years earlier. That knowledge doesn’t change their situation, though. The real question becomes: Can they assert control over their lives or does the unseen script completely control their destiny?

Redshirts started out entertaining, but how far could Scalzi take the premise? As it turns out, quite a distance. Three codas worth of distance. Most of the material up to the first coda was enjoyable. That in itself is an accomplishment. I also thought the first coda was okay, but by the time I’d finished reading the last coda the life had gone out of the story. I was more than ready for it to be over.
Profile Image for Char.
1,679 reviews1,551 followers
January 22, 2016
As a big fan of Star Trek in almost all of its incarnations, I thought for sure I would adore this audio book, especially since it was narrated by Wil Wheaton. I was partially right.

I did adore Wil Wheaton's narration. The only problem I had with it were the "he saids" and "she saids". There was one of these tags after (nearly) every single sentence of dialogue. Enough already! I guess this really isn't Wheaton's fault, but maybe he could have de-emphasized the tags a bit?

The story itself was a bit of a letdown. Yes, it was funny, (laugh out loud funny at some points), but the story didn't hold together for me. I found it to be a wee bit silly. Oddly though, I loved the 3 codas at the end. Enough so that I will definitely be seeking out John Scalzi's other works.

Overall, this was a funny story that didn't make much sense, but I'm okay with that. If you're a Star Trek fan and you like Will Wheaton, you might be okay with it too.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,846 followers
November 2, 2013
I started out thinking this would be a 4 star read. As it opens playing on the cliches of science fiction TV (specifically Star Trek) it is funny. In places it's hilarious.

I saw this book reviewed back when it first showed up and I read enough "blah" reviews that I decided I didn't want to put time or money into it. But recently I've had it recommended and seen some "rave reviews" about it so, I decided to give it a try. It's sort of an odd read as it almost travels in an descending arc. At first it's funny. You read the cliches you get the inside jokes and you laugh. So what happens?

You get about a third of the way through the book and the book's outlook, direction and premise change. It takes on a semi-serious tone and then goes for almost a completely serious tone with a "weirdness" factor. To say much more than that is to give spoilers but I will say that by the time you get to the "Codas" it's pretty much moved from a funny tongue in cheek science fiction "take-off" to a sad yawner.

I've read books by Scalzi that are great so I had hope for this and after the "great reviews" I was looking forward to it.

I think now I may return it to Audible. Sorry...sorry I can't truly recommend it, sorry I didn't enjoy it more, sorry that in honesty I have to say that while I didn't hate it I don't really like it.

Too bad as it's a good idea and had it not started trying to take itself seriously it could have been many times better than it is.
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews1,264 followers
April 8, 2015
3.5 stars

What can I say? If you know about Scalzi and his relationship with readers then you already know why I would want to read something by him. To keep it short, I found this book to be mostly clever and entertaining. The part where the characters come to our universe was like breaking the fourth wall, which I just didn’t care for. But I like the way this man’s mind works.

Also, have this meme in memory of our late Blueshirt:

Profile Image for Trish.
2,014 reviews3,433 followers
April 19, 2018
"Because I need to know. I always needed to know."

This is probably how most Trekkies have felt over the years.

For those here, who don't know, here's a little background information:
In the original Star Trek series (the one with Shatner as Kirk and Nimoy as Spok), there were usually one or two people in red shirts that are sent to some unexplored panet together with two or three main characters. These lowly-ranking people had never been seen before - and never again afterwards either. Because they die. Always. Out of 59 killed crew members in the course of the first season, 43 were such Redshirts. It became an instant classic joke, people keep making fun of it to this day (just google Redshirt meme and you'll see).

On top of that, certain plot points just never made any sense. Some effects didn't either (like people getting thrown around the bridge of the starship when they had to do some serious maneuvering).

So in this book, the author addresses all of that by incorporating it in a humorous way and then letting the characters become aware of some senseless plot points and weird ways of dying even.

Make no mistake, this book was written for geeks and nerds. Thus, there are a lot of easter eggs in here - at several points in the book I nodded, remembering exactly which episode the author must have been talking about - on top of the fact that the audiobook narrator is no other than "Wesley Crusher".

However, as amusing especially the beginning of the book was, it kind of suffered from much the same problem the actual series did too. There was a lot thrust in (on purpose, but still), convoluting the story, and at some point it just wasn't all that funny any more (until the end). Since this was most probably done on purpose because that is exactly what always happened on the show, I'll make allowances for it.

After that, we have 3 codas that were less amusing and more tackling some bigger issues.
The first is about writers block. An interesting message addressed here was that it doesnt matter THAT someone dies, because we all do - HOW one dies matters, however. That is true in real life as well, though - naturally - nobody wants to die if it can be helped.
The second one is about , thus talking about some existential questions. This got to me in in a number of ways.
The third one is about Samantha, , talking about the big what-if in life (what other lives could have been). The horrible dating episodes were kinda fun in a tragic way. *lol* And I'm glad to have a character like Brian addressing because that is exactly how I think and feel about it and other people getting it is rare.

And all three tie into the story of the Redshirts, of course, making it all a bit meta. The codas and their more sincere tone prove that Scalzi didn't just mean to amuse and entertain, but also to get readers thinking. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Profile Image for Yodamom.
2,003 reviews195 followers
January 22, 2016
4.2 A twisted tale of the poor Redshirt extras that all became so killed on that classic TV Show. What would happen if they were real, and if they figured out their odds of death ?
Funny, smart, wickedly twisted and just fun.

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
September 19, 2015
This novel had me laughing and crying. It was a very easy read on many levels, but don't be fooled: the ease was entirely due to the craftsman's writing, not the ease of the subjects. I fell in love with all of the characters, their plight, and the plot, all equally. I'm going to be recommending this little gem to everyone I know, regardless of their individual reading proclivities. What fantastic fun this book was! So far, this is my favorite for the upcoming hugo. I'll have to read Bujold's latest and Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon to be sure, but I'm already severely biased. We shall see, and GREAT JOB, Mr. Scalzi!
Profile Image for Ian.
762 reviews65 followers
November 11, 2020
My understanding of what this book was about changed as the story progressed. I take my hat off to the author for the skilful way he did this, and for the way he gets the story to work on different levels. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was a bit reduced by the 3 “codas” at the end of the main novel, which I found a bit saccharine for my taste.

The first quarter of the novel is a very funny send up of “Star Trek”, featuring the adventures of the crew of the Universal Union Ship “Intrepid”. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton. Possibly it was his delivery of the lines, but it’s been years since I laughed this much at a book. Funniest of all was the chapter that featured the crew on shore leave, and Ensign Dahl’s conversation with the drunken Lt. Kerensky. Although I personally found the book funny, I’ll just say that there are many books/films/comedians that others find hilarious that don’t do anything for me. We all have our own sense of humour.

The laughs get fewer after the first quarter or so, but the story does have to move on, as the junior members of the Intrepid’s crew realise their prospects are about as good as those of a WW2 kamikaze pilot, and decide to do something about that.

The 3 “codas” add another level to the complexity of the storyline. Each is a sort of epilogue focused on a particular character. At one point in coda 3, the lead character is accused of talking “like a character in a lifetime movie who’s just been told she has breast cancer.” I had very similar thoughts, and actually I felt all 3 of the codas were written in that style. Ultimately, this becomes one of those novels that’s about the choices we make, and how things might have turned out differently. At the end of the main novel my rating was at a solid four stars. I considered knocking off a star after reading the 3 codas, but decided in the end to err on the generous side.

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