The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Monday, June 12, 2017 at 10:10AM
TChris in John Scalzi, Science Fiction

Published by Subterranean Press on May 31, 2017

A dispatcher attends high-risk surgeries and, when it appears that a patient is about to die, steps in and uses a device to kill the patient. The body then disappears and the patient almost always wakes up in his or her home. Insurance companies love this. The patient still needs surgery, but maybe the do-over will be successful.

The device has nothing to do with the resurrection, which happens to all murder victims … but only to murder victims. Everyone else who dies is staying dead. Why the laws of nature have decided to make an exception for murder victims is a mystery to everyone.

It is such a mystery, in fact, that its defiance of reason or even religious dogma (you can believe in resurrection if you want, but why only murder victims?) sends the story into the realm of fantasy. But that’s the premise, and you need to suspend disbelief if you want to enjoy the story.

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher. He’s substituting for another dispatcher in a hospital. After performing a dispatch, the police tell him that the other dispatcher has disappeared and that Valdez seems to be the last person who spoke to him. At that point, the story becomes a mystery (although presumably not a murder mystery since the dispatcher has not resurrected) as Tony is enlisted by a police detective to help find the missing dispatcher.

The plot is reasonably clever and, given the brevity of the story, the characters are sufficiently developed. I wouldn’t shelve it with John Scalzi’s best works, but I can recommend it as a fun diversion … assuming you can buy into the premise.

Note: I review without regard to price because prices fluctuate and books can often be purchased at a reduced price as remainders or from stores that sell used books. They can also be borrowed from libraries or friends. The Dispatcher is available in a "deluxe" hardcover edition that, at the time of this review, is selling on Amazon for about $24. That's a lot of money for a 128 page book, but it may be sufficiently deluxe to appeal to collectors and fantatic Scalzi fans. The Kindle edition, on the other hand, is $5.99 at this writing. I have only seen the text (which doesn't seem like it would easily fill 128 pages) in an ePub review copy, and I cannot comment upon what makes the hardcover edition "deluxe."

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