Audiobook Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Narrator: Zachary Quinto
Also by this author: Lock In
Published by Audible Studios on October 4th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 2 hours 19 minutes
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 by John Scalzi may be short, but the concept behind it opens the door for a much larger story. Imagine a world where death is not necessarily final, all depending on how you die. If you die due to illness, natural cause or an accident, then death is the end. However, if you happen to die by the hand of another, if you were murdered, then you will wake up, alive and well, in your bed. At least 99% of the time.
So, consider the implications this can present, the different ways that people will be motivated to game the system of death. People participating in high risk activities, suffering from life threatening conditions, they can see this new option to hopefully reduce their risk of death. Scalzi’s world explores the good and the bad with allowing people to tamper with the natural order of things, as this concept pretty much it grants people a way to cheat death. Enter the facilitators for cheating death: dispatchers. Their job is pretty much to
murder dispatch people just before they would otherwise die in some way that would not ordinarily grant them a second chance at life.
Since this is a novella, I am not going to divulge much more than this is essentially a murder mystery. Yeah, that’s right. A murder mystery set in a world where you supposedly can’t actually murder someone 99% of the time. I am somewhat in awe of how much story was packed into just over 2 hours of listening. There is so much potential in this concept, I would love to see a full length novel, or even a series, in this world. By that same token, some may feel like they needed more. This is a novella length story, so if you are looking for the intricacies of a full length novel, you may not find as much as you would hope for. But judging it for what it is, I have to say it delivers more than I would have expected. I may not understand the why part of the way things are in this world, but the concept and the mystery in this story felt large for the length of the audiobook, leaving my curiosity peaked and I am feeling eager for more.
The narration by Zachary Quinto was fantastic. This is one of those audiobooks that after listening to it, I can’t imagine reading the text version (which in this case works out really well, because the story is only available as an audiobook).