Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ever wonder what the life of a Redshirt is like?  You know, the guys from Star Trek who go on the away missions and get killed by whatever mysterious threat is creeping about the planet.  Andrew Dahl and a few other new crew mates are assigned to the Intrepid, the flagship of the Galactic Navy.  The quickly find that the existing crew members are terrified of going out on away missions since someone of low rank always dies, usually of something stupid and pointless, like ice sharks and land worms.  More, the Captain, Science Officer and a couple of others seem to get into really strange and unlikely scenarios on a weekly basis, often surviving debilitating injuries and diseases only to recover and do it all again, like clockwork.

One word of warning: this book is not a at all what you expect.  Like I Am Not a Serial Killer, there is a bit of a twist that could potentially kill any interest in the book if you aren't prepared for it.  This book is deeply philosophical and quite amusing at the same time, but isn't what I expected.  In fact, it reminded me something of Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder.  What the heck, I'll *spoilers* it: It's a TV show.  This is a work of meta fiction, and the characters in the book discover that they are being controlled by the writers of a science fiction series that's a bad knock-off of Star Trek.  It gets even deeper than that, but I'll save at least some surprises for later.  Suffice it to say, they need to find a way to get to the writers to prevent any further deaths.

The book is capped off with three codas, sections that take the premise a little more seriously and are the most philosophical part of the book.  Looking for a fun romp, skip these, but otherwise they make for a surprisingly thoughtful story.

Point being, Redshirts is a fascinating read, and, like the aforementioned Sophie's World, is great for guys with a taste for philosophy.  It's a bit unsettling for aspiring writers, though, since it calls into question the power and control you have over your characters, but it's pretty neat.  Onoe other note: language and some sexual discussion.
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