REVIEW: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi (audiobook review)
Zachary Quinto – best known for his role as the Nimoy-approved Spock in the recent Star Trek reboot and the menacing, power-stealing serial killer, Sylar, in Heroes – brings his well-earned sci-fi credentials and simmering intensity to this audio-exclusive novella from master storyteller John Scalzi.
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 is free until November 2, 2016.
Dear John Scalzi,
I’ve read one and a half of your books, and while I liked the book I finished well enough, it did not leave me in a hurry to read your backlist. Still, I enjoy reading your blog entries and follow you on Twitter, so when I learned that you wrote an Audible-exclusive novella/short story narrated by Zachary Quinto, which was free for preorder and will be free till November 2, I could not one-click fast enough.
If I understand your blog post correctly there is no printed version of the story yet, but one will appear in a few months or so. Right now all we have is an audio performance from Zachary Quinto, and what a performance it is!
Readers, let me tell you about my experience with audiobooks – I have not listened to that many of them. If I attempt to listen to an audiobook without doing anything else, my mind starts drifting. My attention is better when I am doing something around the house. II think I have listened to between twenty and thirty titles over last couple of years. This book is quite short by audiobook standards – I believe around two and a half hours. During the whole time I was either sitting on the couch or moving back and forth to stretch my legs, and my mind was not drifting anywhere. I was just mesmerized, and let’s be clear here, while I enjoyed Zachary Quinto in the “Star Trek” movies, I did not consider myself a huge fan of his and was not predisposed to like his performance. Obviously opinions can differ, but from my not very extensive experience of listening to audiobooks, I cannot think of another narrator who made both the male and female voices of the story equally convincing to me. I remember listening to radio shows where several actors played different characters and they were all very good, but that was different; this was listening to one actor doing every voice, and he was very convincing to me.
So what we have here is praiseworthy narration that IMO elevated the story to a totally different level of awesomeness, but you may ask, what about the story itself?
Well, I thought it was quite good. Would I like it as much as I did if I were reading it? I don’t know. I hope so, but certainly the narrator’s appeal enhanced the story a lot.
The blurb gives you the premise of the story well – in this world, which is very close to “our” world, a few years ago (or many years ago; due to the unavailability of a print version I am not sure how to check) murder victions from the past begin to come back to the land of living. In almost every case the murdered person’s body disappears, and then it reappears back at their home or some other place where they feel safe, mostly home in their bed, often naked. The victims of accidents do not come back from the dead, only victims of murders. Would you like to know why this happens? Me too! But this very deliberately left unanswered, and you either accept the premise or you don’t.
Now let’s think about this. Of course there would be people and institutions who would want to take advantage of this interesting turn of events. Insurance companies, for example, now refuse to pay hospitals for difficult operations unless they are allowed to have dispatchers present in the room. These dispatchers can interfere in cases where everything is goes south and doctor declares patient unsalvageable. The dispatcher kills the patient, and a couple of minutes later the patient is back home, without the trauma of an operation. Unfortunately, the underlying need for the operation does not disappear. For example in the beginning of the story Tony safely dispatches an older patient whose heart operation went very badly – but his heart issues do not go away. He still needs an operation; maybe next time it will go better?
We can imagine other folks wanting to use dispatchers’ services, and yes, they do take private gigs sometimes. After the end of Tony’s successful dispatch, a police detective approaches him and wants to know more about the dispatcher who was initially supposed to be at this operation, but who asked Tony at the last moment to substitute for him.
Then the dispatcher disappeared, and the detective insists on involving an un willing Tony in the investigation.
I really can’t spoil the story, it is not long and pretty much everything from that moment feels like a spoiler. I will say that for such short story it felt very suspenseful to me and I had no idea what would happen next.
I do recommend it.
Narration: A. Story: B.