I’ve listened to Zachery Quinto read all three of John Scalzi’s Dispatcher novellas, and I liked them. I think Quinto does a great job with Tony Valdez’ voice and Scalzi’s sensibilities and humor really shine in this noir-ish, fantasy-ish, sci-fi-ish series.
Tony Valdez lives in a world a lot like ours, except if you murder someone, most of the time, they’ll reappear somewhere safe – naked and alive. People still die of natural causes, by suicide, and in accidents. But they don’t die by murder. Tony is a dispatcher – trained, licensed and bonded to provide ethical murders to save lives. The Dispatcher and Murder by Other Means explore all the ways we find to make this gift of a second chance into another way to profit off the misery of others and evade consequences. The wealthy are the worst, just like in our reality.
Travel by Bullet shares a couple of other similarities with our present world – a pandemic, crypto bros, and a bad law. Tony is now working at a hospital in Chicago in the Critical Care Unit, where he’s asked by families to dispatch their loved ones, which likely won’t save their lives, because they’d still be deathly I’ll, but no longer at the hospital where they can get medical treatment. Tony is notified that his friend, Mason, is in the ER, having thrown himself out of a moving vehicle on the Dan Ryan Expressway. When Mason’s involved, you know the shenanigans are going to be morally questionable.
Tony is a great character, comfortable with the morally gray to a point. He’s an active part of the plot while also always an observer of the people and actions around him. He withholds a piece of himself, even from the reader, so that you know what he’s thinking on a surface level, but like everyone around him, you are pretty sure he knows more than he’s telling.
I love this pulpy, but brightly lit cover that Subterranean Press is giving the print release. Noir is often about what happens in the shadows, but when the bad guys are billionaires, they don’t need shadows to hide their corruption.
I enjoyed reading this in print as much as I had enjoyed listening to Zachary Quinta read it to me last year. Audiobooks and print books are equally valid ways of reading, but they are different. I like seeing the way Scalzi plays with words.
CW: pandemic (not gone into detail), minor characters making decisions about a parent’s medical care, life threatening injuries, murder, physical violence, torture (not explicit)
I received this as an advance reader copy from Subterranean Press and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.