Last Human (Red Dwarf #3)
By Doug Naylor
Published by HarperCollins Audio
Read by Craig Charles
“Red Dwarf” has been one of the stranger bits of science fiction comedy to hit the television screens since Milton Berle played Louie the Lilac on “Batman.” Yeah, okay, I’m not sure what that means, but it sounded good and Red Dwarf, in all its incarnations/series stands by itself. If you have never watched the show I recommend starting with the first episode (“The End”) and if you are a long-time viewer and interested in the books, do keep in mind that while the characters are pretty much the same and the jokes are often retreads from the series, but the situations are usually different and when not, how they get into them is completely different, so reading the books is not just like watching the shows.
In the stories, Dave Lister is the last remaining human man in existence in the universe three million years from now. He got to be the last by having spent most of that time in suspended animation for the crime have having kept an unregistered cat as a pet on board the Jupiter Corporation mining ship Red Dwarf. Actually, he had made sure the cat was perfectly safe to have on board, had all her shots, etc. and his main reason for having the cat was to be put in suspended animation so that he would not have to actually work for the next eighteen months before the ship got to Earth where he would be toss off without pay. It was a good plan and it should have worked.
Unfortunately he had failed to account for the actions, or rather the failures to act, by his roommate Arnold J. Rimmer (sometimes, well actually constantly, called “Smeghead”). While Lister is in his suspended animation chamber, Rimmer fails to secure a particular hatch on the ship and everyone on board is killed by radiation poisoning… well, except for the cat… who is pregnant and who survives because she is in the radiation-protected cargo hold.
Radiation has a half-life and it takes three million years before the on-board computer (Holly) deems it safe to let Lister out. Meanwhile, the ship has been plodding on through space and is now three million years away from Earth. It is going to take a while to get home. Along the way they discover that the descendants of the cat have developed their own civilization and eventually left the ship, leaving behind the elderly and undesirables of whom two happened to have a child (called “The Cat”) who joins Lister, the hologram version of Rimmer, a mechanoid servant named Kryten and, later, the regenerated girlfriend of Lister, Christine Kochanski.
That’s the back story… and yes, I left a lot out. This book begins with Lister being brought to trial by a regional bunch of genetically engineered life forms (GELFs) and much of the book looks back on how he got there and why he is then sentenced to eighteen years “Hard Thought” in the worst penal colony in the universe, Cyberia. It helps to have read the earlier books, but it is not necessary and a lot is explained or, at least, alluded to as you go along.
The series and the earlier books were written under the pen name “Grant Naylor,” for Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, but this story was a solo effort on Naylor’s part. But to be fair, next week I’ll review a story written by Grant.
The story lags a few times, but happily not for long although the humor falls flat more than a few times when compared to the series, maybe because I have heard most of them before. Still, it is a pretty good story and worth reading if you liked the TV series.
This book was read very well by Craig Charles who is not only well know for playing the part of Dave Lister in Red Dwarf, but also for his long stint as Lloyd Mullaney on Coronation Street as well as many other parts on many shows.
The nice thing about having Charles read the book is that Lister’s voice is always exactly as one remembers it from the show. He does a fair imitation of David Ross’s Kryten. His attempts to sound like Rimmer and the others are close enough, but I cannot help by think that Chris Barrie (who plays Rimmer) does a better job in the books he reads.
Still it’s fun to listen to especially if you are a fan of Red Dwarf.