Friday Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi (Audiobook)

The DispatcherThe Dispatcher by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Narrated by Zachary Quinto

In the not too distant future, it is almost impossible to murder someone. Or for most people to die- permanently. Unless you die of natural causes or suicide, within hours you return to life, naked, but alive. No one knows how or why it happens, but 999 times out of a thousand, it does. When a person is close to death, trained and bonded professionals, called Dispatchers, are called in to, in effect, murder you so you can come back. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher, on call at a hospital when a detective comes to see him about a friend and fellow Dispatcher who has disappeared. Jimmy had been doing side jobs- unauthorized Dispatches for the wealthy and powerful, and sometimes, the more unsavory element of humankind. As they dig deeper into the disappearance, it becomes clear that they are in a race against time to find Jimmy, before not even a Dispatcher can help.

This was quite a good story. The premise is unusual and interesting. How far would you go to preserve your own life? Or the life of a loved one? And what would you do, how far would you go to exact revenge, if things went wrong? At the beginning of the story, Tony is secure in his job. He doesn’t really question what he does. He doesn’t have many moral issues with what is essentially legalized murder, since the returning from the dead was a spontaneous, seemingly natural thing. As he and the detective probe deeper into Jimmy’s disappearance, Tony is forced to question some of that solid ground he stood on, especially when things get rather personal.

There are, of course, many moral issues with a premise like this, and they are handled, for the most part, quite well for a shorter story. There isn’t a lot of extraneous preaching or extended exposition. And yet, the issues are there, and if not neatly tied up (when are moral issues ever?), they are given room to breathe without sacrificing the action and movement of the story itself.

This is an audiobook, and it is performed by Zachary Quinto, who does an excellent job. The reading is smooth and nuanced, and characters are voiced without seeming forced. It was enjoyable to listen to.

The audiobook is free for the next couple of weeks, I believe. If you are a fan on John Scalzi, you really want to get this. If you have not yet sampled his work, this audiobook would not be a bad place to start.

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