If you are a fan of science fiction, you probably get the joke about redshirts. In the original Star Trek whenever there was an away team that visited another planet or ship, there was usually one extra person (that was wearing a redshirt). The extra person was supposed to be just a general crew member, but it was almost always that person that got killed or hurt.
In this book, Scalzi takes the idea of the Star Trek meme and writes a world where the redshirts are aware of the problem and try to avoid the captain and upper officers as much as possible.
The first four or five chapters are hilarious, at least as a fan of Star Trek who gets all of the inside jokes. Then the story shifts a little and it focuses less on the humor and more on an actual science fiction plot (dimensional time-travel, life aboard a star ship, etc.)
One interesting part of the book is the three part coda. For reasons I won’t reveal, there are three characters that are not really part of the book but are impacted by the story line of the book. So each of those characters have a coda written to wrap up their own stories. The codas are written in three wildly different styles. One is in the form of a blog and is mostly humorous. Another is a mostly sad grief story that ends in a little romance. A third is a ‘decent into madness’ narrative.
This is a pretty uneven book. I loved the beginning. I thought the middle was fine but nothing special. The codas were an interesting format but were so wildly different in style from each other (and the rest of the book) that I wonder about how different readers will react to them.
Again, enjoyed Will Wheaton’s narration (I have listened to all of Scalzi’s books that I have read so far.) But the more I listen to him, the less I noticing that it is him. (No more, hey that’s Will Wheaton.)