“The Dispatcher” by John Scalzi

Took me a while to get around to it, but I finally picked up John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher yesterday morning and polished it off before bed. Some mild spoilers (depending on your definition of “spoiler”) below.

In some respects, The Dispatcher has a bit of a Stephen King vibe to it. The set-up is that if one day people who are murdered come back. If you’re murdered, you (999 times out of 1,000) come back to life a few seconds later. If you die of natural causes, then you still die, for good. If you commit suicide, you’re dead for good. But if somebody pushes you off a cliff? You’ll come back.

Why? That’s never explained.

Instead of a scary story, though, Scalzi uses this premise to do a lightly noir-ish mystery. The main character is a “dispatcher” — somebody professionally dispatches people so that they can live. Operation going wrong? Bang. Now you’re home no worse for wear (bodies “reset” to a few hours before death) and can try again.

It’s a fun premise and a great page-turner. None of the characters are particularly deep, but the dialog and pacing are fine. Some authors might spend 300 pages expounding on the ethics of killing people so they can live, but Scalzi would rather tell a good, fast-moving story than spend a lot of time plodding through a morality play. It’s addressed, but mostly left as an exercise to the reader to dig into that concept if they so choose.

Apparently it was first published as an audiobook on Audible. I haven’t tried the audiobook but I might give it a whirl next time I’m on the road.

In book or ebook form it’s fewer than 150 pages and a really easy read. Enjoyed it a lot, will probably pick up its sequel this week and see what happens with our friendly neighborhood dispatcher this time.

Suggestions for other books I might enjoy? Please leave me a comment with any titles I ought to look into.

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