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Redshirts Cover

ISBN13: 9780765334794
ISBN10: 0765334798
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Ensign Andrew Dahl looked out the window of Earth Dock, the Universal Unions space station above the planet Earth, and gazed at his next ship.

He gazed at the Intrepid.

“Beautiful, isnt she?” said a voice.

Dahl turned to see a young woman, dressed in a starship ensigns uniform, also looking out toward the ship.

“She is,” Dahl agreed.

“The Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid,” the young woman said. “Built in 2453 at the Mars Dock. Flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. First captain, Genevieve Shan. Lucius Abernathy, captain since 2462.”

“Are you the Intrepids tour guide?” Dahl asked, smiling.

“Are you a tourist?” the young woman asked, smiling back.

“No,” Dahl said, and held out his hand. “Andrew Dahl. Ive been assigned to the Intrepid. Im just waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

The young woman took his hand. “Maia Duvall,” she said. “Also assigned to the Intrepid. Also waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”

“What a coincidence,” Dahl said.

“If you want to call two Dub U Space Fleet members waiting in a Dub U space station for a shuttle to the Dub U spaceship parked right outside the shuttle berth window a coincidence, sure,” Duvall said.

“Well, when you put it that way,” Dahl said.

“Why are you here so early?” Duvall asked. “Its only now noon. I thought I would be the first one waiting for the shuttle.”

“Im excited,” Dahl said. “This will be my first posting.” Duvall looked him over, a question in her eyes. “I went to the Academy a few years late,” he said.

“Why was that?” Duvall asked.

“Its a long story,” Dahl said.

“We have time,” Duvall said. “How about we get some lunch and you tell me.”

“Uh,” Dahl said. “Im kind of waiting for someone. A friend of mine. Whos also been assigned to the Intrepid.”

“The food court is right over there,” Duvall said, motioning to the bank of stalls across the walkway. “Just send him or her a text. And if he misses it, we can see him from there. Come on. Ill spring for the drinks.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” Dahl said. “If I turned down a free drink, theyd kick me out of Space Fleet.”

*   *   *

“I was promised a long story,” Duvall said, after they had gotten their food and drinks.

“I made no such promise,” Dahl said.

“The promise was implied,” Duvall protested. “And besides, I bought you a drink. I own you. Entertain me, Ensign Dahl.”

“All right, fine,” Dahl said. “I entered the Academy late because for three years I was a seminary student.”

“Okay, thats moderately interesting,” Duvall said.

“On Forshan,” Dahl said

“Okay, thats intensely interesting,” Duvall said. “So youre a priest of the Forshan religion? Which schism?”

“The leftward schism, and no, not a priest.”

“Couldnt handle the celibacy?”

“Leftward priests arent required to be celibate,” Dahl said, “but considering I was the only human at the seminary, I had celibacy thrust upon me, if you will.”

“Some people wouldnt have let that stop them,” Duvall said.

“You havent seen a Forshan seminary student up close,” Dahl said. “Also, I dont swing xeno.”

“Maybe you just havent found the right xeno,” Duvall said.

“I prefer humans,” Dahl said. “Call me boring.”

“Boring,” Duvall said, teasingly.

“And youve just pried into my personal preferences in land speed record time,” Dahl said. “If youre this forward with someone you just met, I can only imagine what youre like with people youve known for a long time.”

“Oh, Im not like this with everyone,” Duvall said. “But I can tell I like you already. Anyway. Not a priest.”

“No. My technical status is ‘Foreign Penitent,” Dahl said. “I was allowed to do the full course of study and perform some rites, but there were some physical requirements I would not have been able to perform for full ordination.”

“Like what?” Duvall asked.

“Self-impregnation, for one,” Dahl said.

“A small but highly relevant detail,” Duvall said.

“And here you were all concerned about celibacy,” Dahl said, and swigged from his drink.

“If you were never going to become a priest, why did you go to the seminary?” Duvall asked.

“I found the Forshan religion very restful,” Dahl said. “When I was younger that appealed to me. My parents died when I was young and I had a small inheritance, so I took it, paid tutors to learn the language and then traveled to Forshan and found a seminary that would take me. I planned to stay forever.”

“But you didnt,” Duvall said. “I mean, obviously.”

Dahl smiled. “Well. I found the Forshan religion restful. I found the Forshan religious war less so.”

“Ah,” Duvall said. “But how does one get from Forshan seminary student to Academy graduate?”

“When the Dub U came to mediate between the religious factions on Forshan, they needed an interpreter, and I was on planet,” Dahl said. “There arent a lot of humans who speak more than one dialect of Forshan. I know all four of the major ones.”

“Impressive,” Duvall said.

“Im good with my tongue,” Dahl said.

“Now whos being forward?” Duvall asked.

“After the Dub U mission failed, it advised that all non-natives leave the planet,” Dahl said. “The head Dub U negotiator said that the Space Fleet had need of linguists and scientists and recommended me for a slot at the Academy. By that time my seminary had been burned to the ground and I had nowhere to go, or any money to get there even if I had. The Academy seemed like the best exit strategy. Spent four years there studying xenobiology and linguistics. And here I am.”

“Thats a good story,” Duvall said, and tipped her bottle toward Dahl.

He clinked it with his own. “Thanks,” he said. “What about yours?”

“Far less interesting,” Duvall said.

“I doubt that,” Dahl said.

“No Academy for me,” Duvall said. “I enlisted as a grunt for the Dub U peacekeepers. Did that for a couple of years and then transferred over to Space Fleet three years ago. Was on the Nantes up until this transfer.”

“Promotion?” Dahl said.

Duvall smirked. “Not exactly,” she said. “Its best to call it a transfer due to personnel conflicts.”

Before Dahl could dig further his phone buzzed. He took it out and read the text on it. “Goof,” he said, smiling.

“What is it?” Duvall asked.

“Hold on a second,” Dahl said, and turned in his seat to wave at a young man standing in the middle of the station walkway. “Were over here, Jimmy,” Dahl said. The young man grinned, waved back and headed over.

“The friend youre waiting on, I presume,” Duvall said.

“That would be him,” Dahl said. “Jimmy Hanson.”

“Jimmy Hanson?” Duvall said. “Not related to James Hanson, CEO and chairman of Hanson Industries, surely.”

“James Albert Hanson the Fourth,” Dahl said. “His son.”

“Must be nice,” Duvall said.

“He could buy this space station with his allowance,” Dahl said. “But hes not like that.”

“What do you mean?” Duvall said.

“Hey, guys,” Hanson said, finally making his way to the table. He looked at Duvall, and held out his hand. “Hi, Im Jimmy.”

“Maia,” Duvall said, extending her hand. They shook.

“So, youre a friend of Andys, right?” Hanson said.

“I am,” Duvall said. “He and I go way back. All of a half hour.”

“Great,” Hanson said, and smiled. “He and I go back slightly farther.”

“I would hope so,” Duvall said.

“Im going to get myself something to drink,” Hanson said. “You guys want anything? Want me to get you another round?”

“Im fine,” Dahl said.

“I could go for another,” Duvall said, waggling her nearly empty bottle.

“One of the same?” Hanson asked.

“Sure,” Duvall said.

“Great,” Hanson said, and clapped his hands together. “So, Ill be right back. Keep this chair for me?”

“You got it,” Dahl said. Hanson wandered off in search of food and drink.

“He seems nice,” Duvall said.

“He is,” Dahl said.

“Not hugely full of personality,” Duvall said.

“He has other qualities,” Dahl said.

“Like paying for drinks,” Duvall said.

“Well, yes, but thats not what I was thinking of,” Dahl said.

“You mind if I ask you a personal question?” Duvall said.

“Seeing as weve already covered my sexual preferences in this conversation, no,” Dahl said.

“Were you friends with Jimmy before you knew his dad could buy an entire planet or two?” Duvall asked.

Dahl paused a moment before answering. “Do you know how the rich are different than you or me?” he asked Duvall.

“You mean, besides having more money,” Duvall said.

“Yeah,” Dahl said.

“No,” Duvall said.

“What makes them different—the smart ones, anyway—is that they have a very good sense of why people want to be near them. Whether its because they want to be friends, which is not about proximity to money and access and power, or if they want to be part of an entourage, which is. Make sense?”

“Sure,” Duvall said.

“Okay,” Dahl said. “So, heres the thing. When Jimmy was young, he figured out that his father was one of the richest men in the Dub U. Then he figured out that one day, he would be too. Then he figured out that there were a lot of other people who would try to use the first two things to their own advantage. Then he figured out how to avoid those people.”

“Got it,” Duvall said. “Jimmy would know if you were just being nice to him because of who his daddy was.”

“It was really interesting watching him our first few weeks at the Academy,” Dahl said. “Some of the cadets—and some of our instructors—tried to make themselves his friend. I think they were surprised how quickly this rich kid had their number. Hes had enough time to be extraordinarily good at reading people. He has to be.”

“So how did you approach him?” Duvall said.

“I didnt,” Dahl said. “He came over and started talking to me. I think he realized I didnt care who his dad was.”

“Everybody loves you,” Duvall said.

“Well, that, and I was getting an A in the biology course he was having trouble with,” Dahl said. “Just because Jimmys picky about his companions doesnt mean hes not self-interested.”

“He seemed to be willing to consider me a friend,” Duvall said.

“Thats because he thinks were friends, and he trusts my judgment,” Dahl said.

“And are we?” Duvall said. “Friends, I mean.”

“Youre a little more hyper than I normally like,” Dahl said.

“Yeah, I get that ‘I like things restful vibe from you,” Duvall said.

“I take it you dont do restful,” Dahl said.

“I sleep from time to time,” Duvall said. “Otherwise, no.”

“I suppose Ill have to adjust,” Dahl said.

“I suppose you will,” Duvall said.

“I have drinks,” Hanson said, coming up behind Duvall.

“Why, Jimmy,” Duvall said. “That makes you my new favorite person.”

“Excellent,” Hanson said, offered Duvall her drink, and sat down at the table. “So, what are we talking about?”

*   *   *

Just before the shuttle arrived, two more people arrived at the waiting area. More accurately, five people arrived: two crewmen, accompanied by three members of the military police. Duvall nudged Dahl and Hanson, who looked over. One of the crewmen noticed and cocked an eyebrow. “Yes, I have an entourage,” he said.

Duvall ignored him and addressed one of the MPs. “Whats his story?”

The MP motioned to the one with a cocked eyebrow. “Various charges for this one, including smuggling, selling contraband and assaulting a superior officer.” She then motioned to the other crewman, who was standing there sullenly, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. “That poor bastard is this ones friend. Hes tainted by association.”

“The assault charge is trumped up,” said the first ensign. “The XO was high as a kite.”

“On drugs you gave him,” said the second crewman, still not looking at anyone else.

“No one can prove I gave them to him, and anyway they werent drugs,” said the first. “They were an offworld fungus. And it couldnt have been that. The fungus relaxes people, not makes them attack anyone in the room, requiring them to defend themselves.”

“You gave him Xeno-pseudoagaricus, didnt you,” Dahl said.

The first crewman looked at Dahl. “As I already said, no one can prove I gave the XO anything,” he said. “And maybe.”

“Xeno-pseudoagaricus naturally produces a chemical that in most humans provides a relaxing effect,” Dahl said. “But in about one-tenth of one percent of people, it does the opposite. The receptors in their brains are slightly different from everyone elses. And of those people, about one-tenth of one percent will go berserk under its influence. Sounds like your XO is one of those people.”

“Who are you, who is so wise in the way of alien fungus?” said the crewman.

“Someone who knows that no matter what, you dont deal upward on the chain of command,” Dahl said. The crewman grinned.

“So why arent you in the brig?” Duvall asked.

The crewman motioned to Dahl. “Ask your friend, hes so smart,” he said. Duvall looked to Dahl, who shrugged.

“Xeno-pseudoagaricus isnt illegal,” Dahl said. “Its just not very smart to use it. Youd have to either study xenobiology or have an interest in off-brand not-technically-illegal alien mood enhancers, possibly for entrepreneurial purposes.”

“Ah,” Duvall said.

“If I had to guess,” Dahl said, “Im guessing our friend here—”

“Finn,” said the crewman, and nodded to the other one. “And thats Hester.”

“—our friend Finn had a reputation at his last posting for being the guy to go to for substances that would let you pass a urine test.”

Hester snorted at this.

“Im also guessing that his XO probably doesnt want it known that he was taking drugs—”

“Fungus,” said Finn.

“—of any sort, and that in any event when the Xeno-pseudoagaricus made him go nuts, he attacked and Finn here was technically defending himself when he fought back. So rather than put Finn in the brig and open up an ugly can of worms, better to transfer him quietly.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny this interpretation of events,” Finn said.

“Then whats with the MPs?” Hanson asked.

“Theyre here to make sure we get on the Intrepid without any detours,” said Hester. “They dont want him renewing his stash.” Finn rolled his eyes at this.

Duvall looked at Hester. “Im sensing bitterness here.”

Hester finally made eye contact. “The bastard hid his stash in my foot locker,” he said, to Duvall.

“And you didnt know?” Duvall asked.

“He told me they were candies, and that if the other crew knew he had them, theyd sneak into his foot locker to take them.”

“They would have,” Finn said. “And in my defense, everything was candied.”

“You also said they were for your mother,” Hester said.

“Yes, well,” Finn said. “I did lie about that part.”

“I tried to tell that to the captain and the XO, but they didnt care,” Hester said. “As far as they were concerned I was an accomplice. I dont even like him.”

“Then why did you agree to hold his … candies?” Duvall said. Hester mumbled something inaudible and broke eye contact.

“He did it because I was being nice to him, and he doesnt have friends,” Finn said.

“So you took advantage of him,” Hanson said.

“I dont dislike him,” Finn said. “And its not like I meant for him to get in trouble. He shouldnt have gotten in trouble. Nothing in the stash was illegal. But then our XO went nuts and tried to rearrange my bone structure.”

“You probably should have known your product line better,” Dahl said.

“The next time I get something, Ill run it by you first,” Finn said sarcastically, and then motioned toward the window, where the shuttle could be seen approaching the berth. “But its going to have to wait. Looks like our ride is here.”


Copyright © 2012 by John Scalzi

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Average customer rating based on 7 comments:

Dustin Tran, January 28, 2014 (view all comments by Dustin Tran)
If you are a fan of epic space operas like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica - or, oppositely, get a good laugh at the overly contrived scenarios our protagonists somehow narrowly escapes and complete ignorance of any actual science, this book is for you.

The novel, Redshirts, follows the story of Ensign Andrew Dahl who has been recruited to join the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. At first everything seems to follow an all too predictable plotline - full of aliens and killer robots - that leave crew members dead and replaced while Senior Officers plan the next mission, until characters finally catch wind of the unsettling death pattern and decide to take the narrative into their own hands before they fall victim to flesh eating bacteria, carnivorous worms... or worse. This makes for a unique twist in a familiar world, that will leave both the fans and critics of the genre satisfied and feeling in on the joke.

Redshirts is a quick read, full of wit, space battles, smart dialogue, and is easily one of the funniest books I've read in the last two years. While you truly don't need to be a devoted Star Trek buff to appreciate all the references, it makes them all the more sweeter.
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nrlymrtl, January 17, 2014 (view all comments by nrlymrtl)
Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Xenobiology team of the ship Intrepid, and he is very excited about this. It is a prestigious posting. Once on board, he realizes there is a certain feel running through the lower ranks. No one wants to go on away mission as they seem to always result in some lethal outcome; lethal to those ranks dressed in red shirts. As Dahl unfolds this mystery, he finds that luck plays a part and that an officer that has managed to hide himself in the ship’s innards for years may know enough to solve this mystery.

Oh, and there is a box. Whenever one of the senior officers give the science teams some unsolvable conundrum, they feed it into The Box and let it be for a few hours. Sooner or later it spits out some answer and the mission goes on.

This parody on Star Trek was such a delight to listen to. Joking within the lower ranks intersperses the action scenes, and a dash of more serious emotional content is thrown in for roundness. Of course the answer to their conundrum was quite amusing; I won’t spoil it for you but it made total sense and even if you saw it coming it was still worth a chuckle once it was said out loud. The ending was a bit rushed and I think I could have used another chapter or two in order to keep the same pacing and to allow for the same amount of humor. But taken all together, a very enjoyable, humorous read.
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PM, January 14, 2014 (view all comments by PM)
Fun, hilarious sci-fi novel. Reminds me of Douglas Adams wit. Great characters, twisting plot, and delightful dialogue. Second book I've read by John Scalzi and I am not disappointed.
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Product Details

Scalzi, John
Tor Books
Science Fiction and Fantasy-A to Z
Science / General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Redshirts Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Tor Books - English 9780765334794 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I don't reread books often; I just don't have the time. But this is one book that will get reread annually, if not more often. While the bulk of Redshirts is a comedic romp that gleefully skewers the conventions of sci-fi television, the three codas at the end provide depth and poignancy to what has gone before.

"Staff Pick" by ,

If you're seeking formulaic and uninteresting fan fiction, then this is not the book for you. But if you're looking for adventure, romance, and death-by-ice sharks, then John Scalzi's your man. Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Intrepid, a laudable starship with a nasty reputation for death and chaos. Low-ranking officers are always, always the first to die on away missions. The bizarre and surprising truth behind all the flagellations and vaporizations defies time and reality, and Scalzi uses first-, second-, and third-person narration to stunning effect. It'll be on your Top 5 list, too. Pinky swear.

"Review" by , “A real joy to read….It's hard to imagine a reader who wouldn't enjoy this one.”
"Review" by , “John Scalzi sets his imagination to STUN and scores a direct hit. Read on and prosper.”
"Review" by , “Scalzi takes apart the whole Star Trek universe and puts it back together far more plausibly — and a lot funnier too.”
"Review" by , “I can honestly say I can't think of another book that ever made me laugh this much. Ever.”
"Synopsis" by , Now in paperback: John Scalzi's New York Times bestselling tale of the starship ensigns who were expendable… until they started comparing notes.
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