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 facts 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.
I really, really loved Redshirts. It was funny, clever, and nerdy as all get out. Every time I thought I had a lock on it I was surprised. I got completely lost in this book. It helps that it's short in that department! I couldn't put it down until I read it through. I was delighted every time I found another clever bit, and they came thick and fast.
One of the things that is so fun about Redshirts is how Scalzi plays with television tropes. It goes deeper the further you look. The whole book is based on skewering bad TV shows. Like what's up with the group dynamic? Oh yeah, four guys and one girl, and the girls the beat 'em up character. There’s no very little by way of description because it wouldn’t be in a script. There's a thousand more examples just like those. There were a few times I wish Scalzi would have filled something out more but he stuck to his concept. I can't say I blame him. It felt like I could have been watching an episode of a favorite show.
I really should mention the codas at the end. They were only barely necessary and dragged the fast moving plot down to a crawl. If you're reading this book I would suggest giving them a shot and then skipping them if they don't work for you.
P.S. A few sequels has come out to the books I've recommended so I updated their entries. Promise of Blood had a sequel that was less the amazing and turned me off that series. Sarah Rees Brennan finished the last book in her Lynburg legacy trilogy and it was amazing! You can check my original recommendation for the series out here.