I downloaded this novella a while back when it was an Audible deal of the day and finally got around to it. This is actually the first time I’ve read anything by John Scalzi despite his popularity among certain nerdy readers, and I am not sure how representative this piece was of his other work, but it left me wanting more. Zachary Quinto was also a great narrator for this, and basically needs to narrate all the things from now on.
I came into this novel cold which meant everything was a surprise. I actually probably would recommend the same but I also want to write about it so proceed accordingly. When the first chapter starts with Tony Valdez, the narrator, supervising a medical procedure much to the surgeon’s irritation, I guessed he was an agent from an insurance company that called the moment of death when the actions had either gone past the patient’s medical coverage. I was very surprised when I realized what he actually was there to do, and what the role of a dispatcher was!
At some point in the last few years in this world, murder has stopped being an effective way to kill people. In most cases, when someone is murdered, the victim wakes up naked in their home or some other location, their body reset to the way it was a few hours before their death. It is this loop hole that insurance companies now use by having dispatchers on hand at surgeries – if a surgery goes south, the dispatcher steps in and kills the patient so the patient can be reset to a time before the surgery. Doctors can then attempt again, knowing of any complications they should expect.
Of course, when murder doesn’t lead to death, it doesn’t take long for some ethically gray practices to develop. When Tony is approached by the police due to a fellow dispatcher’s disappearance, the police officer gets an introduction to the darker side of dispatching and the way some people abuse the ability to brush with death as they try to figure out what happened to Tony’s friend.
I thought the concept was fascinating and enjoyed reading about Scalzi’s ideas of how it would affect the world. The actual mystery was pretty basic and some might consider the story exposition heavy but I was completely pulled in, and would gladly have spent more time listening to Quinto tell more about this world from the perspective of smart and somewhat jaded Tony.