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The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The Dispatcher

by John Scalzi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This is a high concept short story based around one of those clever and fascinating ideas that doesn’t hold water if you think about it for a minute”. But the idea–and the plot lines it creates–are good enough to keep reading. Especially since it’s short.

Essentially, non-accidental death no longer applies. No one knows why or how, but if you are intentionally killed by someone, you wake up back in your bed in same condition you were in a few hours ago. There are loopholes around the rule (e.g. locking someone in a room until they starve to death counts as natural). But for the most part, you can’t be murdered anymore. (Natural and no-fault deaths still occur so the world doesn’t get over-populated. People still die of cancer and choking and heart attacks and car accidents.)

So if you are murdered, you get to come back none the worse for wear. That means if you’re, say, having a heart attack or got hit by a car, this rule becomes a convenient “get out of death free” card. That’s where the Dispatcher comes in. These guys get paid to murder you before a natural death would occur. Like reloading a quicksave.

So yeah, you see how there’s plenty of story ideas in this kind of world, especially ones in the noir vein. But also a lot of headscratchers (I wonder how the Darwin Awards are affected). Nonetheless, I think this is one of the better Scalzi short fictions (up there with Muse of Fire). Note that it originally existed as audio so, yes, it’s dialogue-heavy. Like the latter Old Man’s War books and not like the more recent Interdependency series. It’s a great story, but it’s tight. So if you like plots, you’re set. If you want to know more about the world than the characters in it, you’ll be disappointed. ( )
  theWallflower | Feb 14, 2019 |
Scalzi's "what if" speculative premise is contrived and a bit flimsy but makes for a great sort read nonetheless - his dialogue between characters is entertaining yet effortless to read and propels his stories - i always enjoy it .

But, what is it with Chicago settings that enables characters to move about so (think sort of time traveler's wife abridged and noir sort of scene hopping) ( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
In the world of this story, something happened 8+ years ago that changed how death works. When someone is killed (or murdered?) by another person, instead of staying dead they pop out of existence and reappear, naked and alive, in their own home, wherever in the world that happens to be. Well, most of the time. There's a one in a thousand chance that they'll stay dead.

No one knows how this change came to be, or why, but it has resulted in the creation of a new job, Dispatcher. Dispatchers are people trained and licensed to kill people who are about to die, so that they can come back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher substituting for another Dispatcher at a hospital. It seems like a normal enough assignment until he's roped into an investigation into the disappearance of the Dispatcher he was substituting for.

This was okay. The setup was really interesting, but I had trouble getting a handle on the conditions under which someone would come back to life. I initially thought that their death required the direct and immediate involvement of another human being. However, that would have meant that there was nothing for anybody to worry about in the part where a woman was hit by a truck. Another human being was driving the truck that hit her, so she should have died and then reappeared in her own home.

Near the end of the story, other details were provided that seemed to indicate that intention played a role. Since the driver hadn't intended to kill the woman, she would simply have died. I assume this means that if someone had intentionally poisoned someone, their victim would have come back to life, but if they had accidentally poisoned the person, their victim would simply have died. I'm not sure even that quite fits, however. Wouldn't it mean that Dispatchers' victims would almost never come back to life? Valdez didn't consider what he did to be murder. He was providing a service that was almost guaranteed to save people's lives. Since he didn't kill people with the intention of them staying dead, shouldn't they all have, well, stayed dead? Unless he was lying when he was describing how he viewed his work - quite possible, considering how many other things he lied about or failed to immediately mention.

I have a feeling I'm probably overthinking this, but I couldn't help trying to tease apart the details of how all of this worked, since the details turned out to be very important at several points in the story. One of those instances in particular made it difficult to believe that 1) Valdez had been doing this job for 8 years and 2) that he'd had a great deal of experience with the shadier aspects of Dispatcher work. It shouldn't have taken him as long as it did to figure out how a couple hired thugs were going to make use of one aspect of the whole "killing you, but not really" thing.

The resolution to the mystery of the missing Dispatcher was very emotional, but something about the way the story was written resulted in it having less impact that it should have. Maybe the problem was that so much of the story involved Valdez (and occasionally the cop) visiting people and asking questions. The emotional resolution was mostly pieced together second- or third-hand by Valdez - none of it happened on-page. Heck, even the missing Dispatcher never had an on-page appearance.

All in all, this wasn't bad but could have been better. On the plus side, Zachary Quinto's narration was excellent. I've listened to The Dispatcher twice now, and Quinto was a large part of the reason why.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Aug 11, 2018 |
What would happen if murder could no longer be committed? What would that do to society? Sometime in the near future anyone who has been murdered reappears in their home, stark naked and very much alive. This is the setting for John Scalzi's novella The Dispatcher.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher, a licensed professional who humanely kills people when things go wrong so they can have a second chance to get things right. It's just another night at work when Valdez takes a job at a hospital for another Dispatcher who had a personal issue to take care of. That is until the other Dispatcher goes missing and suddenly Valdez finds himself in the middle of a missing persons investigation.

This is such a cool concept! Written in Scalzi's accessible style, the story follows Valdez as he helps a detective solve the missing person's case. The story twists and turns, exploring a few facets of just how people are able to exploit this phenomenon both for the betterment of society and from the criminal side. While there are not enough pages for the themes to be explored too deeply, nor are the characters very fleshed out, it made for an intriguing read. ( )
1 vote Narilka | Jul 3, 2018 |
Interesting story with an excellent reader. Entertaining. ( )
  schlau | May 17, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionscalculated
Quinto, ZacharyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I take it as a given that no one really likes to see me in my official capacity.
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"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 what they see as a wrong"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)

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