Redshirts begins with a simple premise science fiction fans have been pondering since the original Star Trek series aired in the 1960s, when the extras on away missions always wound up dead, and they always wore a red uniform shirt. John Scalzi takes this idea and runs with it--showing a mastery of the extrapolative process while building a tale that's equal parts hilarious and thought-provoking.
Ensign Andrew Dahl is excited about his posting to the Universal Union's flagship, the Intrepid, until he begins to notice something about every away mission. Though the captain and chief science officer always survive the alien encounters, and chief astrogator Lt. Kerensky is always injured (but miraculously heals before the next mission), at least one crew member of lower rank is killed, every time.
As he joins forces with other low-ranking crew members to uncover an explanation, Dahl eventually turns to a reclusive former officer hiding below decks who has theories of "the narrative" and advises the whole crew to stay off the bridge. As Dahl and his friends begin to suss out the truth of their situation, they must bend space and time to save all of their lives.
Redshirts is fast-paced and infused with loads of humor and Star Trek lore. A set of "codas" after the main story concludes show a poignancy rarely seen in comic novels, but Scalzi handles the potentially jarring disconnect with care, extending his established themes and plotlines as he winds down a multi-layered story that will appeal to a broad range of readers. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor