John Scalzi has become one of my go-to authors for enjoyable reading. The Husband bought me Redshirts for Christmas, and it was great fun. Being a Star Trek fan from way back (which was a bit hard with my mother making sure I could never watch Kirk and Company on TV because she disapproved of science fiction), I loved the connection with that series. I would think it would help you appreciate the fun more if you're familiar with the Star Trek meme the red shirt:
but it's certainly not necessary. There's plenty here to consider if you are of a more philosophical bent.
The book won the 2013 Hugo Award for best novel. You can read the first 5 chapters here.
from the back of the book:
The review at The British Science Fiction Association closes with this: "Once again John Scalzi has written a novel that surprises and entertains but that also sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading it. Well recommended in my humble opinion." Wired calls it "a brilliantly funny book with an unexpected amount of emotional heft". io9 says, "It's one part Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one part "Below Decks," and one part geeky nitpicking about the bad science in science fiction television. With a dash of Cabin in the Woods." SFReviews.net concludes,THEY WERE EXPENDABLE...
UNTIL THEY STARTED COMPARING NOTES
Ensign Andrew Dahl had 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 belowdecks 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.
SF might not be the genre you think of when it comes to "you'll laugh, you'll cry" entertainment. But if we must have stories like that, I'm happy to have John Scalzi be the guy writing them. Just as long as he remembers to throw in a few ice sharks and Borgovian Land Worms.SF Signal gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says the book "accomplishes exactly what it was intended to do: entertain the science fiction fan. In that respect, the book wildly succeeds". Kirkus Reviews does not like it at all and says, "It's all vaguely amusing in a sophomoric sort of way, which is fine if you're an easily diverted sophomore with a couple of hours to kill." SFSite.com says, "Not only does Redshirts work as a novel, but Scalzi is able to make the characters come alive." Forbes closes its review with this:
You don’t have to be a hardcore sci-fi fan to enjoy Redshirts, though there are plenty of Easter Eggs for those who are. And the beauty of the book is that it works on multiple levels. If you’re looking for a breezy, fun read for the beach, this is your book. If you want to go down a level and read it as a surreal meditation on character and genre like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, this is your book. If you’re looking for a deeper interplay about the intersections between story and our lives, well, this is your book, too. Suffice to say, I highly recommend it.