Meta and clever is the best way to describe this book. It pokes fun at itself while poking fun at the Star Trek universe. The first two thirds of the book reads like a mystery sci-fi thriller and after the big reveal a whole other story opens up. The last third of the book, where the story within a story gets told, gets ultra meta but in the context of the narrative the author did not lose me.
If you aren’t at least causally familiar with “Star Trek the Original Series” then you might want to skip this one as some of the tropes that are being lambasted are quite specific to the Trek Universe.
For example the basic premise of the book without spoilers is:
A young officer is off to a new assignment and from the the very first moment he notices small details that do not make sense. low level crew members keep dying at an alarming rate while the senior crew like the Captain, and science officer, among others, defy impossible odds on a regular basis.
This sounds like a description of a generic Captain Kirk adventure and that is what RedShirts is, but flip-flopped where the main focus is on the minor characters and they are fed up with the status quo. John Scalzi tells this story while at the same time he weaves an overarching plot that makes the book so much more.
I consumed this media via audiobook and the narration of Wil Wheaton was spot on.
Chocked full of wickedly funny scenes and situations that lampoon cheesy science fiction RedShirts is a fun read that does not disappoint.