The Dispatcher

October 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

dispatcherThe Dispatcher by John Scalzi


About a year ago, I saw John Scalzi speak as part of his book tour for The End of All Things, and at the engagement, he read the beginning of a new story he was then writing. The Dispatcher was that story, and it was nice to hear the story in its completed form. It was also interesting to see how little changed between that reading and the final product (that I can recall, at least).

The story is a mystery set around the idea that anyone murdered will revive in their own bed shortly after death. It doesn’t work for all deaths, only murder, so there are people whose job it is to efficiently murder people who are going to die during surgery. Scalzi introduces us to Tony Valdez, one of these people, called a dispatcher, who is caught up in the case of a missing person, another dispatcher.

Scalzi is in his usual form here, with crisp characterization and a satisfying plot that moves at just the right speed. Story-wise, it’s just the right length, and doesn’t feel forced into its shorter form, but there were parts of the story that begged for further development, namely in the revivification process. It’s a capricious process — it only works on people who are murdered, it wipes out all injuries preceding and related to the murder, but only based on a specific time frame that no one can determine, and it doesn’t work all the time — but nothing is explained behind the fact that it exists. For it to be such a large part of the premise, I was looking for more answers, but they weren’t there.

In addition, this revivification would have a huge effect on society overall, and I wanted to see more of that aspect of the story. Scalzi examines to some degree how this process affects life in general, but only enough to satisfy the requirements of the story. I would have preferred a deeper examination of it, like what Drew Magary did in The Postmortal, or even what Scalzi himself did in Lock In. What could have been a social examination is just a standard mystery.

Seeing as this is an audiobook, I would be remiss in not speaking to Zachary Quinto’s performance. His voice is velvet, his characters distinctive, and I could listen to him read stories all day long. I had a minor quibble with the way he voiced the detective — it was unfortunately clear she was a black woman before that was addressed in the narrative — but overall he did a fantastic job.

This is a Scalzi work, so of course it’s engaging and intriguing, but anyone looking for an explanation behind the main premise will be disappointed. I’d recommend this to fans of his work, or anyone looking for a well-told (in both senses of the word) story. It’s available free through Audible until November 2nd, so there’s no reason not to enjoy it.

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