The Dispatcher • 2017 • novella by John Scalzi

★★

It isn’t as easy anymore as it was previously to kill someone: All of a sudden, murdered people don’t die any more but just vanish and reappear naked at home. This phenomenon established a whole new profession: Dispatchers kill people, when a surgery just went completely wrong. In this novella, dispatcher Tony Valdez helps … to find his mysteriously vanished colleague in a race of time.

The story concentrates around the thought experiment of reappearing people but focusing only on the detective story. Which is very one-sided, because we don’t really get to know how the mainline religions react on it, what economics or politics have to say about this idea, and also not about scientific elaborations. It is just the shallow, unexplained phenomenon, and doesn’t provide a well-defined setting. From this, I derive that it isn’t Science Fiction – it feels more like a detective noir in a kind of urban fairy tale. Other authors would have pushed this thingy into a short story, but Scalzi expanded it first to a two hours audio play. In the upcoming novella publication, this audio orientation comes through badly, as you have to read endless dialogue alternations without any orientation who said what. In fact, there isn’t much narration, it is mostly dialogue. I can’t say how the audio play was, but as a reader, this didn’t work out for me at all. It was ok, but I can’t say that I liked it.

I recommend it for fans of short popcorn mysteries. At the given price tag it is obvious that I further filter the recommendation to Scalzi fans. Anybody else might just want to skip this waste of time.

 

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