Story: Freewheeling Dave Lister has ignored a great deal of advice in his time, but he may yet live to regret not following the advice of whoever told him never to go into space. After a few benders and a few misadventures, Lister winds up signing on to the mining ship Red Dwarf, where he lands a low-ranking technician job and bunks with an undeservedly snobby fellow technician named Rimmer. But then Lister gets busted for bringing an unquarantined animal aboard, is sentenced to stasis, and – in suspended animation – rides out a catastrophe that kills everyone else on Red Dwarf. The ship’s increasingly senile central computer, Holly, doesn’t awaken Lister until the radiation drops to a safe level – three million years or so, give or take a century – and that’s when things get really interesting.
Review: Obviously, the first Red Dwarf novel has to duplicate a lot of the TV series’ legwork in setting up the characters, though the book offers quite a treat to anyone who’s already seen the series by tracking events a lot further back than the pilot episode, following Lister’s slow descent into the shoes of a third-class technician aboard Red Dwarf. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor created the show and the characters, so they’ve got the voices of the characters down to perfection.
One of my favorite things about the novels vs. the TV series is that the books have a little more scope; they have more time in which to deal with the grim reality of Lister being the last human being alive, as opposed to the extinction of the entire human race being reduced to something of a recurring joke onscreen. That grim tone extends to the book’s surprisingly downbeat cliffhanger, which takes the second season episode Better Than Life into a whole new – and very, very dark – dimension. I actually made the mistake of reading the book before ever having seen so much as an episode of the show, so as hysterically funny as Better Than Life was on TV, it was a bit of a letdown to me compared to the “how’re they gonna get out of this one?” ending of the novel.
It may retread a lot of ground you’ve already covered watching the series, but “Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers” is still very much worth a read.
Author: Grant Naylor