I've slacked way off on my blog reading, so I missed when John Scalzi came out with "Redshirts" (They were expendable... until they started comparing notes). Luckily the bookstore that held the first signing for the Team Cul De Sac book had "Redshirts" on display.
Somewhere in the world there's an episode of Star Trek airing 24 hours a day. Everyone should know what I'm talking about when I mention redshirts. They're the people who have no role other than being someone who dies on an away mission. This is so well established that during the recent Star Trek movie everyone in the theater had a good laugh when a guy in a red shirt was assigned to the team assigned to take out the super weapon. Sure enough, that guy got himself flung into the energy beam.
In "Redshirts" there's a universe very much like the Star Trek universe. A space ship crewed primarily with humans explores beyond the outer reaches of a collection of star systems that work together. Only these red shirts have noticed a pattern. If you go on a mission with the bridge crew there's a pretty good chance that you'll die.
The book didn't go the way I expected. Peter David has a book called "Sir Apropos of Nothing" about a guy in a medeval setting who refuses to be the secondary character in his own life. Screw letting his best friend, the prince, take the lead. He's gonna steal the horse, ride the dragon, and save the princess on his own. This was what I was expecting.
What really happened is that someone figured out that they were characters in bad Star Trek knock off. The writers of the show were somehow controlling their lives hundreds of years in the future. To save their own lives they have to go back in time and make them better writers. And they have to kidnap a senior crew member to take with them just to make sure the narrative doesn't make their shuttle explode.
It's a fun and easy read. I finished the main story reading it before bed two nights in a row. But the story ends with something like 80 pages left. There are 3 codas at the end. They tell about 3 people in 2010 who the crew encountered and changed their lives.
As usual with Scalzi's books, I highly recommend it. Get yourself a copy. Buy a few for friends. Or, you can get the audio version read by Wil "Wesley Crusher" Wheaton.
Scalzi had Jonathan Coulton write a song for the book. Someone else put this video together. The song is called "Redshirts".