The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Narrator: Zachary Quinto
Published by Audible Studios on October 4, 2016
Source: Freebie
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
Length: 2 hrs 18 mins
Format: Audiobook
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four-stars

One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher - a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death's crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.

It's a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it's too late...before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

The Dispatcher was one of the the free Audible Originals this month and since I’m a Scalzi fan of course I picked it up.

At heart it’s a mystery. A man is missing, probably kidnapped based on the evidence at his home. One of his co-workers is coerced by the investigator on the case to help her, since he knows the ins and outs of the victim’s job better than she does. The kicker is that the man was a dispatcher. In a world where it’s almost impossible to be murdered—you can die of natural causes or an accident, but those who are murdered come back 99.9% of the time—dispatchers provide a second chance. They kill you if an operation goes awry, if you’re injured beyond hope in a car accident. Then, you wake up at home, naked, but otherwise fine, just like you were in the few hours before the trauma.

Tony is a good guy, at least at the present time, and he has a clear conscience about what he does. He’d rather not be working with the police, but once he is, he puts his life on the line to help find former friend.

The world is interesting. No one knows why the dead come back, they just do. And there are plenty of people out there willing to take advantage of the loophole in the universe’s system. This is a novella and I wish it had been longer. I love when good authors mix science fiction and mystery, and I wish this had been full-length or even a series, because I really enjoyed it. It touched on a lot of the moral questions and I think good sci-fi does that – looks at the ethical and societal impacts of whatever its main theme is. Bad guys—and good guys for that matter—are willing to take advantage of anything they can, even if they don’t understand it. And there are consequences, murder/dying is not free, even when it’s not permanent. And it is possible to kill someone, it just takes patience and time.

Quinto does an excellent job with the narration. It’s a dialogue-heavy story and Quinto really pulls it off. The pacing is good and the distinction between characters is clear.

About John Scalzi

John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, where he has written on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, writing and politics, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

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10 Comments

  1. I enjoyed Scalzi’s The Old Man War series, of which I’ve read a few, though not all of them. I’ve wanted to try some of his others, but just haven’t brought myself around to do so. Maybe this one will get me back into his writing. For some reason, science fictiond doesn’t work as well for me as it did when I was a teenager (when I was reading Isaac Asimov).

    • I haven’t read his The Old Man War series. I have read the two Lock In books which are also mysteries with a sci-fi setting, and first in The Interdependency series. I’m hoping to read the second this summer.

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