By Rob Grant
Published by Ulverscroft
Read by Rob Grant
Some sites tell me this is the fourth “Red Dwarf” adventure and others inform me it is the third, Yet another site says it is the “alternative third adventure” whatever that means. All I know for certain is that I have not been listening to them in chronological order, if there is a chronological order. Apparently the last one I listened to is listed on one site as #3.5 and also follows the action that takes place in the second… So, okay, maybe the two authors disagreed on how the written version of the story should proceed or maybe they just both felt like going solo. According to Wikipedia “creative differences” were cited as a reason for Grant leaving the show, although Grant himself said “that he ‘wished to have more on his ‘tombstone’ than Red Dwarf.’” Frankly, I wish my own writing was as commercially successful. Would I want to be remembered for more than one series, sure, but first let me make a living at my writing! Oh, never mind, I always say things like that when a writer is not content to actually make a living doing what he or she loves.
I will admit to never having been perfectly happy with any of the Red Dwarf books, although I enjoyed most of the television series they were based on. I don’t really mind that the stories in the books do not exactly follow the way they went on TV. That would have been boring and I had no trouble with the fact that Douglass Adams’ Hitchhikers’’ Guide series stories were each quite different from the radio series, from the TV show and from the posthumous movie. That was part of what I liked about it. I might have known the jokes when they hit me, but I never knew exactly how the story was going to turn out.
Something is always missing from the Red Dwarf books and I am not really sure what it is. Maybe it’s because the writers have tried to stretch two or three half hour episodes into a single book or maybe as novels the stories are just too verbose. In any case I found the jokes less funny because so much of Red Dwarf was physical humor and that just does not translate to words, but also I kept getting the feeling that the writer(s) were trying to explain the punchlines when the punchlines should have been self-evident.
This time, Rob Grant attempted to weave several episodes into a single story which in turn, was apparently an alternative reality from the main series. This comes off one of the earlier books I which Dave Lister (the all-time best slacker/slob in the universe) has died and been buried on a planet Earth in a universe in which time ran backwards. That was done so that through the passage of time he would come back to life and gradually get younger. The crew did visit such a world in the TV series, but Dave had not died. It was just an episode with a few amusing sight gags. In the book the gags had to be described and stuff that was implied became uncomfortably gross. This was combined with the tale of Ace Rimmer, the amazingly cool version (what a guy!) of Arnold J. Rimmer, the universal champion smeghead, travels from his own universe to that of Red Dwarf and eventually rescues our boys from death. That part was pretty good; I have always liked Ace (known for his trademark line “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!”), but there were no surprises in his story and it was fairly obvious by the way the story was told where the difference between Ace and Arnold began, although it was stretched out the length of the book.
It’s an okay book for long-time fans of the series who just want to be reminded about some of their favorite scenes, but the story itself doesn’t hang together well and the backwards physics are inconsistent as presented sop I was very dissatisfied.
Rob Grant read his own book this time around. I am not usually a big fan of authors reading their own, but, actually, he does a pretty good job of it. He imitates the voices of the regular cast well. It might only be that he got their accents right, but I was able to imagine the actual actors were reading their own lines. And he did not go over the top with other non-human characters, some of which never appeared in the show (unless I have forgotten them). All in all, it was a pretty good performance.
So, we have a mediocre book that might only have been written to further cash in on Red Dwarf’s success, but Rob Grant reads it much better than he wrote it.