When Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to his new posting on Universal Union's flagship Intrepid, he is thrilled. But then he finds out that every landing party to a new/alien world results in a hostile confrontation of some sort and the death of at least one low-ranking crew member. Why is this being allowed to happen? And how can he avoid the inevitable? Playing off the old "redshirt" joke about the original Star Trek television series, John Scalzi has written a wry and knowing novel about sci-fi media for fans and non-fans alike.