By Rob Grant
Abridged Edition Published by Penguin Audio UK
Read by Mark Williams
There is a difference between satire and humor. Satire is not always funny and if this particular piece of satire was supposed to be funny, I think it missed the mark. As a long-time fan of the TV series Red Dwarf I had expected more from the co-writer, Rob Grant, but this story fell short of those expectations.
It starts out with the protagonist, Eddie O’Hare a man deeply in debt with a probably assassin after him. I must inject at this point that it seems like a particularly stupid thing for someone to put a hit on another who owes them money. Obviously, if killed, they cannot settle the debt. Oh rough them up, make them wish they were dead, kill their loved ones – if you’re the sort of person to put a hit on someone in the first place you aren’t exactly a nice guy, but you don’t kill the one who owes the money unless you realize there is nothing you can get from them and, as written, Eddie merely owes someone a lot of money… oh well, back to the story…
In any case Eddie tries winning enough money to save his life by gambling – a particularly stupid way to do it. Sure you might win, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. However, he spots a guy at the table who looks just like him and is gambling a fortune so on a whim Eddie matches the other guy’s bets and wins the first few bets by letting the money ride, but then gets cold feet. When he does go back to the table and wins, it turns out the other guy has already broken the bank and the casino is not paying off any more bets. That should be the end of it, but it turns out the other guy is about to ship out on an interstellar generation ship, but having won so much money he is not willing to give it up so he trades places with Eddie.
Once on board Eddie discovers he is impersonating the community planner, a slimewad of a man who has made the ship, a totalitarian system in which crew members are born into their jobs and must serve in those job regardless of what they are; ship’s captain, prostitute, etc. Shortly after setting off, though, Eddie is murdered.
He is revived as a cyborg several generations later by people who misidentified his remains and also totally botched up how he was connected to the cyborg body. Fortunately, in spite of being mistaken for the old ship’s doctor he can do the job they need, which is being able to read the obscure “hieroglyphics” (ie normal English) of the ship’s records as by then the society is no longer literate. The captain, by now is an immature and inbred specimen who names some approaching planets in the same manner a juvenile twerp might (Thrrrip, Panties, Jockstrap, etc.). They are about to crash and it is up to Eddie to figure out how to save them.
This should have been a funny story. Certainly all the elements of humor are there, but somehow it just does not work. It’s sort of like watching some of those teen horror comedy movies after reaching the age of sixteen. Having grown up a little, that sort of thing just is not funny. IN this case the humor is laid out, but the jokes just are not there so all; you have left are some rather unbelievable and unrealistic situations.
I would recommend giving this book a miss.
In spite of having mediocre material to read, Mark Williams does read it well. He doesn’t play with funny voices or outlandish speech mannerisms, he just reads the story, trying to give the reading the respect a job well-done deserves and perhaps giving the story itself more respect than it deserves. I would not shy away from the chance to listen to Mister Williams reading something else.
So, a lackluster story at best by an author who probably should have been able to do better, but a better reading of it than the writing might otherwise have received.