The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

If The Dispatcher is any indicator of the quality of Audible Original stories, I really need to start using more of my membership.

This was my first experience with Scalzi (though it certainly won’t be my last), and I picked up this audiobook based on how frequently I’ve seen his work recommended. It being free through Audible may have helped, too.

With that in mind, I didn’t read the back cover before I started listening and went in totally blind. All I knew is that Zachary Quinto was the narrator and he sounded fantastic in the sample.

I was more than a bit surprised when the main character callously murdered an unconscious medical patient, who then miraculously vanished and reappeared back at his home, as alive as he was before the failed surgery. But that’s the entire premise of The Dispatcher. Only 1 in 1000 murder victims stay dead. The rest come back.

That one, society-altering change has lead to a world fairly different than our own. As a licensed Dispatcher, Tony Valdez humanely dispatches those on the brink of death to give them a second chance at living. But when his former friend and fellow Dispatcher is kidnapped, Tony realizes that there are fates worse than death.

This was a fun buddy-cop murder mystery with a creatively fantastical twist. For something so short—and occasionally, predictable—there was surprising emotional depth. Taking killing off the table doesn’t mean death isn’t impactful. And there are always loopholes.

For a fast-paced murder mystery with a ticking clock, there wasn’t much suspense. Actually finding Tony’s missing friend—or acquaintance, as he insists on reminding everyone—is less the end goal and more the reason keeping the characters together. But with such a unique premise and fantastic writing, I was hooked from start to finish.

One comment

  1. I was at a Scalzi reading a few months before this was announced and he read the first bit of the story to us without really any intro — “more than a bit surprised” is a great way to sum up the reaction of the packed audience. Am pretty sure most of us went home and pre-ordered it so we could find out what happened after that first shooting. Great opening, right?

    Liked by 1 person

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