RedShirts by John Scalzi
This satire had to happen, in fact in many ways it happened before. It would be easy to compare this novel to Galaxy Quest as it is a send-up of Star Trek, but in many ways it is a send up more of the standard science fiction television narrative that Trek developed and buried deep in the collect subconscious of its fans. Look the bottom line before I go any further this book is super funny. If you are fans of Trek, stargate, or Battlestar Galactica there is lots of subtle but perfect told jokes that are perfectly woven into the story. It is more meta than Galaxy Quest with Phil K. Dick mind bending aspect to the story.
John Scalzi is the perfect writer to tell this tale. His debut novel Old Man's War is my favorite military space opera of the 21st century and the entire trilogy it spawned is ridiculously good. The author has an amazing knack for bringing both humor and the the inventive awe and wonder that is needed in the best speculative fiction. Hell of a story teller who creates vivid and likable characters and that in this novel is the point.
Redshirts you see was inspired by the unfortunate members of the Enterprise crew who went on away missions in redshirts. You didn't know there names, they were extras whose only role was die. In a narrative sense the Trek writers set them up like bowling pins. If this something you knew about Trek and were amused by then you understand the jumping off point of this book.
Taking place on a Trek like ship called the Intrepid the main characters are members of the crew in the lower ranks who start to sense a pattern. The command crew never seem to be in danger but all their friends in the lower ranks can't seem to survive giant worms, diseases, space battles or killer robots.
Look if you trust me that this book is smart, funny and inventive then you already know more than you need to know. Go into this book as blind on the plot as possible. Great concept almost perfectly executed with a laugh-out-loud moment on almost every page. The novel ends with Three “codas” one in first person, one in second person and the last chapter is in Third person. I enjoyed this interesting experiment which adds some insight into the story. However I didn't enjoy it as much as the main narrative of the novel. Considering how much I enjoyed the novel it is a little thing.