Redshirts is well written but seldom serious; it's a quick, purely escapist fluff of a read, but also a lot of fun. Much of my enjoyment of it came as a result of many years' familiarity with Star Trek fandom. Readers without that background would probably find most of the characters, situations, and in jokes either puzzling or inane; for me, instead, they were often laugh out loud funny. Good humor is as hard to do as good drama, but Scalzi has a sure touch with his material. I'm less sure about the codas. Strictly speaking they weren't needed, but 2 of the 3 provided some interesting perspectives I was glad to have (the first coda, from the screenwriters point of view, went on too long without saying much). An entertaining book that will have me looking for more of Scalzi's work.
Redshirts is Scalzis homage to classic the Star Trek television series, where nameless extras, usually wearing red shirts, were routinely sacrificed on the altar of silly plot lines. You can imagine Scalzi thinking, as he watched one of these old shows, Wait a minute. Dont these guys realize that beaming down to a planet with the captain means their untimely death? And then running with the story of how a group of underlings deal with the absurdity that seems destined to come their way.
It winds up being an odd book. I liked it, I did. But the whole novel portion really does feel like a television show, light on the depth and quick to find a hackneyed solution to the problem posed at the start. Scalzi added three codas at the end which explore (relatively quickly) the ramifications of the core novel from the perspectives of other bit players in the narrative. And, interestingly, since these arent part of the television episode part of the book, they feel much deeper and connect much better to me, the reader.
Kind of proving that the core novel really *is* supposed to be mostly gloss and sillyness.
If youre in the mood for goofy, quick novels this is a good one.
A grudging 5 of 5 stars.