Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The concept of this book is a fascinating one – where people who are murdered instantly returned to life in their own home, transporting across the wold if necessary.

What are the implications to the world where murder is no longer possible – or almost not?

What does it mean when the most surefire way of providing emergency first aid is to kill a person rather than let them die from disease or accident?

What does it mean in a world where someone shooting you in the head is more likely to save you than an ambulance rushing you to hospital?

What does it mean in a world where deliberate mortal injuries are no more than a temporary inconvenience? What ludicrous things will people get up to if they know death has been taken out of the picture?

And what does it mean when those murders still have a small percentage chance of still leading to death?

And what is the psychological impact of killing someone/being killed?

And are there any terrible implications to a world where life can be extended so?

And the joy of this is all of this is touched on in this book. The whole world is changed – from the obvious like Dispatchers (trained people to kill when required – to save lives) being in hospitals to kill people in case an operation goes wrong, through to the completely bizarre with young fools having outright armed duels without fear even as they hack each other to pieces

We see both the official and illicit uses of the Dispatchers and how that has changed the world – and all of it adds into the story of Tony Valdez. A trained Dispatcher who has stepped on both sides of the tracks, the illicit and all the grey areas between. His experiences excellently get us to see this world and the many many many implications of a murder-resurrection society. And I can’t praise enough

I also like that Tony’s a bit grey. He’s not shiny, he has done some not-exactly-good things in his life (especially in regards to cage fighting) and there’s no suggestion he did this for some geater good. He did it for the money – not every protagonist has to be pure, or even close. But nor do they have to be melodramatically evil

Tony is latino though not overly informed by his ethnicity. But the second character is    a police detective and a Black woman who is determined to try and get to the bottom of a disappearance of another Disptacher and is willing to jump feet first into this world she knows little about to get to the bottom of this case. Like Tony, I also like that she’s a little grey as well – but not in a “hard bitten cop willing to break all the rules” kind of way because those really annoy me (I fantasise sometimes about how much evidence I would through out of court with most TV detectives. Oh I would destroy them) but definitely not completely pure either. She also has some excellent points to make about the exploitation of poor Black neighbourhoods in the new fighting rings.

We have a minor Asian and latino character as well. We have no LGBT characters

I find myself vaguely frustrated by this book because, by all indications, it’s a single short story and not part of a greater series. And I look at all that original world setting and I feel like… it’s a waste? I mean so many implications of what this means have been touched upon, there’s not just a concept but within the book a hundred different plot points raised and tantalised. We have two excellent characters. We have the ingredients here for so much and we don’t seem to be doing it.

I mean, with this foundation is this all we get? Couldn’t we have had so much more form this, from this concept, from these characters? I enjoyed this book, enjoyed it a lot but there’s still this huge wish that more was done with this