Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

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US hardcover, 1st edition.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas is a novel by John Scalzi first published on 2012-06-05. The story takes place in a future science fiction setting where five low-ranking crew members are assigned duty together on the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union. However, shortly after arriving they realize that there are a staggeringly high number of fatalities on the ship. None of the senior officers see a problem with this, but the rest of the crew lives in a constant state of terror trying to avoid away missions for fear they will be next. The story follows the five crew members as they try to figure out what's going on.


A coworker suggested this book to me, and, after several years of sitting on it, I finally got around to reading it. It was fun, but not without its flaws. I finished it on 2019-09-28.


I don't own this book, but I listened to the audio book read by [[Wil Wheaton].


— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The general concept, that a poorly written science fiction TV show suddenly starts infringing into reality and people start noticing it, is a really clever idea (although Scalzi didn't invent it).
  • I like how the characters who know that they're part of a TV show narrative often have exasperated "seriously?!" moments.
  • The scene where Dahl meets the actor version of Finn is quite touching.
  • The end, where Dahl realizes that he's actually the protagonist of yet another work of fiction and his friend knew all along is nicely meta.
  • The codas are interesting short stories told in the perspective of other characters from the book.
  • I like how, in the first coda, Scalzi lists various other forms of fiction which use the same theme he did, demonstrating that he knows he wasn't being entirely original.


  • Although I generally enjoy sexual humor, most of it seemed a bit forced.
  • It seemed like the crew was able to convince their actor selves of the multi-dimensional TV premise far too easily. Nobody truly freaked out or thought they were going crazy, which seems like a much more realistic reaction.
  • Although interesting, I didn't feel like the codas added anything worthwhile to the book, and I would have been fine without them.


  • Rather than add variety to the end of spoken dialogue with phrases like "Al exclaimed," "Bob stated," or "Carrie expressed," nearly every instance of spoken dialogue ends with "Dahl said." The word "said" is repeated, even when it isn't necessary because we can infer who is talking, over and over... and over again, throughout the whole book. This annoyed me so much in the first couple chapters that I almost gave up on the book. Scalzi needs to be slapped with a thesaurus.


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