by John Scalzi
Tor Books New York, NY 2012
John Scalzi is a noted science fiction writer. I have read and enjoyed many of his books and that’s why I picked up this one. Redshirts is pure fan-fiction at it’s finest. Unlike most fan fiction this does not take existing characters and expand on their histories. Nor does it take an existing story and turn it on its head. This is fan fiction about the phenomenon that the guys in the red shirts are the one’s fated to die.
The story is set on a spaceship, the the crown jewel of the star fleet. A ship designed for exploration. A group of new transfers meet waiting for the shuttle to take them to their posts. Ensign Andrew Dahl has our viewpoint into the story. As he is escorted to his posting he’s pointedly asked about his willingness to participate in away missions. He also observes some odd behaviors and weird science going on in the xenobiology lab.
There is a mysterious character, Jenkins whose name is whispered among the crew. He’s “on an independent assignment”. Apparently that means that he’s warning the rest of the xeno team when any of the bridge crew come looking for volunteers for an away mission. A bell rings on one of the crew’s computer screens and they all “disappear” .
Dahl is a curious sort. He actually runs into Jenkins on his way to deliver a message to the bridge. He’s warned “not to let the narrative take hold of him.” Eventually Dahl tracks Jenkins down to confront him about what on earth appears to be going on. He’s told there is a higher death toll on the Flagship Intrepid than on any other ship – including the battle cruisers – in the system. In fact, the only ship with a similar fatality pattern is a ship Dahl doesn’t recognize. The starship Enterprise.
The story was a romp. Although certainly not great literature, it did explore the fourth wall phenomenon. I found it a refreshing summer read. It’s certainly some of the best fan fiction I’ve ever read.