DwarfCast 123 - Book Club #6: Better Than Life (Part Three) featured image
Subscribe to DwarfCasts:  RSS  •  iTunes

I know we said we’d be back soon but just count yourself lucky we only made you wait an extra week and not almost 40 years. As we get very close to finishing Better Than Life, join the pale, waxy figures of Cappsy, Danny and Ian as they enter The Book Club Time and are after feasting on Part Three: Garbage World. What are the long term narrative implications of Garbage World? Is Polymorph a show to book conversion too far? What could possibly be next for the poor giraffe? For those of you not of a nervous disposition, listen on and find out.

DwarfCast 123 – Book Club #6: Better Than Life (Part Three) (118MB)

At the time of writing we already have our next DwarfCast – the commentary for a considerably less good Polymorph based story – in the bag but we’ll be recording the episode for Part Four: The end, and after this weekend. We know it’s short notice but it’s 12 pages long, so we’ll be making up the time with some added Waffly goodness to close out the year. So, in an extension to our normal Waffle Men callout, please feel free to throw any question (Dwarf related or not) you want at us with a preference on Christmassy topics but to be honest our egos are so engorged we’d pretty much answer anything you want, so knock yourselves out. Please.

Show notes

33 comments on “DwarfCast 123 – Book Club #6: Better Than Life (Part Three)

Scroll to bottom

  • Waffle Men: a Red Dwarf Christmas special, yay or nay? And if so, would anyone really want anything other than a live-action remake of Red Christmas?

  • What’s the best Red Dwarf-related Christmas present you received?

    Is Red Christmas canon?

    Is Home Alone a Christmas movie?

  • Yes, I’d love to hear some real life Red Christmas stories about your fave (and worstie) Red Dwarf Christmas presents. As it’s week one, why don’t I start…
    1992 – Red Dwarf Companion. Still a wonderful collection of photos with a warm and witty Grant Naylor intro.
    1994 and 1995 – Smeg Ups/Outs. Impossibly exciting to rip open the cellophane on these. Ups is funnier but Outs was a far more interesting prospect with earlier outtakes and convention footage.
    1996 – 1997 calendar/Survival Manual. First glimpses of photos from the upcoming series VII. The whole festive period pondering what exciting adventures were to come and what the hell had happened to Kryten’s head.
    1997 – VII Xtended. I had seen Tikka Xtended at DJ 97 and personally told Doug I thought it was so much better with the extra dialogue and new ending. I think the opposite now but that Starbug separation sequence is still fantastic.
    2007 – Bodysnatcher Collection. Holy cow, it was like the intrigue of Smeg Outs ramped up to 11. John’s G & T review says it better than I could.
    2012 – G & T Psirens Commentary. Still the most Christmassy of all Dwarfcasts
    2015/16/17 – G & T Christmas Day messages. Dispatches from our favourite space chums rounding up all the exciting developments in the epic XI/XII period.

  • Brown bottles: as a drinker of German and Belgian beer, almost all of my personal bottle output is brown. Interesting that English beer tends to be mostly clear or green, something I’d never considered before.

    If the rat’s slobber can end up in Lister’s mouth, then evidently the Polymorph can separate part of itself from its main body, so the chewing gum bit could be it splitting in two.

    Right, thoughts on The end, and after…

    Rimmer following Lister’s will to the last misspelled letter is further enhancing his growth as a character. I have a feeling it’s something we lose with the solo novels, but this really is the nicest Rimmer ever becomes. He’s still self-tortured, sarcastic and a bit of a twat, but he’s guided by his conscience more than ever. “‘Bye, man” is hard to imagine coming from him, yet it’s one of the most moving Rimmer lines in the whole of the entire franchise. He knows he’s lost the only person he has truly cared about.

    There’s a Cinzano Bianco joke here, but I no longer feel qualified to comment on it.

    The sandwich is a rare callback to series two.

    “Holly pauses two of his valuable remaining seconds” is another really lovely moment. Despite having so little time to live, he still takes those seconds to consider Lister’s death.

    Rimmer laughing with joy, for the first time in his life. This really is a lovely chapter, isn’t it?

    Ah, they’re back in White Giant. I’m looking forward to this being the default craft in the coming novels, to ensure continuity.

    Jasmine by his bedside. That’s the first time I’ve ever spotted this reference.

    I feel incredibly sorry for the toaster, even though the moose stuff is quite funny.

    Rimmer works out what’s in Kochanski’s powderpod and walks off, whistling happily. I hope we get to see this Rimmer one day. Seeing him so happy for someone else’s fortune is really nice.

    I hate the way they try to get the backwards universe logic correct in this and then immediately fuck it up with the newspaper.

    It’s an ending. It’s one of two endings Rob and Doug wrote. It actually works pretty well. If there were no more books after this I’d be satisfied with how it ended. It’s comparatively light in humour, but maybe the most emotionally satisfying section of all the books:

    I suppose I ought to start thinking about purchasing a copy of Last Human, then. I remember it least out of the four novels, by some margin, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it, despite its somewhat uneven quality.

  • What would a pan-dimensional liquid beast look like?

    My toilet a bowl after a night on the Guinness

  • “The End and After” is a wonderful title.

    ONE
    To echo what ID says above, Rimmer saying “Bye man” always leaps out of me as totally wrong. Ditto the Cat later calling him “buddy”. Elsewhere in this chapter, um, Cinzano Bianco.

    TWO
    The imagery of Lister here seems to be of a doddery old man who shuffles around. He’s only 61 and in the last part he was said to be in pretty good nick for someone his age. It also always strikes me as how this seems to be set in Nodnol in the late eighties/early nineties (as per Backwards) but there’s no real elaboration on how Lister adapts to being out of his time again. I guess he’s used to be adapting to different circumstances.

    FOUR
    Strange how the ending of BTL is very much similar to INFINITY. Lister reunited with the pinball smile, and not quite where he’s supposed to be..but not having too bad a time.

    Um, that’s all I got.

    >I hate the way they try to get the backwards universe logic correct in this and then immediately fuck it up with the newspaper

    What specifically?

  • ONE

    Inevitably, Rimmer organising Lister’s funeral here makes me think about Lister organising Rimmer’s funeral in Stoke Me A Clipper. In both, it’s a nice moment of resolution for their relationship where they allow themselves to realise that they really do care for each other.

    It’s doubly powerful here though, with the subsequent development after they tell Holly and he helps them take the next step. “It was the laughter of joy” is one of the many lines from this book that burned into my brain forever as it’s such a lovely, cathartic moment for Rimmer (and for the reader) after all the tension that has led up to it.

    (But yes, Cat calling Rimmer buddy jars.)

    As for the Cinzano Bianco, clearly it’s to signify that even when they put Lister in a coffin they couldn’t get rid of him.

  • TWO

    All the backwards stuff is done nicely here, especially Lister describing the feeling of knowing you’re about to uneat or undrink something. One of those passages in the books that enhances the TV counterpart for me.

  • THREE

    The toaster thinking he’s a moose is funny. Maybe Doug read the novels again before writing Trojan and realised just how funny mooses are.

    Incidentally, I remember quite clearly not understanding this section of the book when I first read it, in terms of what the cannister was that they were searching for. I may have read this before seeing Series I, which might explain it. Reading it back though it seems obvious, even if I’m not sure it is on a first read.

  • FOUR

    Yeah, the newspaper is a chronological fuck-up but let’s gloss over that. This is still a lovely ending, and when I first read it, it was *the* ending for the novels. And it works. Lister somehow gets what he has always wanted, albeit with a twist and a time limit of sorts, and the final sentences are a lovely piece of writing. Grant Naylor certainly do know how to finish a novel.

  • OVERALL THOUGHTS ON READING INFINITY & BTL

    Rereading these in this book club has been fun. Most of all, I think what I’ve appreciated this time around is what good writers Rob and Doug are. I mean, I know we know that as fans of Red Dwarf, but not all sitcoms can translate to novels like this, and not all TV writers can craft such brilliant prose on a page. The turns of phrase and construction of specific sentences are frequently a delight, and entertaining in a completely different way to the TV show.

    It’s also great to see the world of the show fleshed out so much. Whether or not you consider this ‘canon’ or an alternate universe, it’s endlessly fascinating to see how Rob and Doug think of the Red Dwarf universe – not only in that amazing opening to Infinity but also in the details around the edges, and in backstory reveals like Garbage World. It’s a window into what they might feel is beyond the barriers of the TV series.

    It’s also given me a renewed appreciation for the characters and their relationships. A lot of sitcom characters wouldn’t stand up to the kind of close examination Lister and Rimmer get in these novels, but truly getting inside their heads is incredibly interesting and only enriches the already well-developed characters from the TV show. Stuff like ME2 has so much more depth in novel form.

    So what doesn’t work? Interestingly it’s the parts where they more or less lift the TV shows verbatim without extra embellishment or a new angle. So the events of Polymorph or Marooned (say) are fine – still solid ideas with good lines and decent plots – but somehow they don’t come to life in the same way the rest of the novels do.

    Which I think demonstrates just what a great job they do in taking the basis of the show and successfully building on it; the sections which are “just” the TV episodes in book form feel somehow flat and overly simple in the context of books that generally develop the world of Red Dwarf so much more than the TV show ever could.

  • Waffle men: which is the better book, Infinity or BTL? For me it’s still Infinity – the beginning of BTL drags too much for me, and there aren’t any moments to match the wonder of the opening of Infinity or the brilliant reimagining of Kryten and ME2, tied together – and I also think BTL is structurally a bit more choppy and jumps about a bit more – but this reread has made me appreciate the good parts of BTL a little bit more than I already did.

  • The end, and after
    As well as the newspaper thing, I think it’s a bit of a shame they did the backwards writing in the novel. Obviously it doesn’t really make sense in the episode either but at least they get a couple of decent jokes and good visuals out of it. But overall I think it’s a great ending.

    An unusual thing about the titles of the Parts in both Grant Naylor novels: they’re like Pet Shop Boys song titles, with only the first word and any proper nouns capitalised. Perhaps tellingly, it’s even ‘Garbage world’ in the title, even though it’s otherwise ‘Garbage World’ as in the renamed Earth.

  • ‘Bye, man” is hard to imagine coming from him, yet it’s one of the most moving Rimmer lines in the whole of the entire franchise. He knows he’s lost the only person he has truly cared about.

    Yeah, it does sound unnatural but I think that’s why it’s affecting really. It’s Rimmer, now that it’s too late, acknowledging the cameraderie he had with Lister, and perhaps admitting to himself that being more like Lister would be no bad thing, and if only he’d gotten beyond the slobbiness, the lack of “ambition”, the snoring etc. he’d have seen an admirable person.

    Completely agree about new Crystal Maze. What Cappsy says is in large part why, for me, Tudor-Pole was *at least* as good a host as O’Brien, which seems to be a minority view. Can’t get on board with Ayoade.

  • Incidentally, I remember quite clearly not understanding this section of the book when I first read it, in terms of what the cannister was that they were searching for. I may have read this before seeing Series I, which might explain it. Reading it back though it seems obvious, even if I’m not sure it is on a first read.

    Well, the canister bit was a deleted scene in the show, and it’s not depicted in Infinity either, which makes calling back to it more odd and obscure.

  • Thinking about it, given that Kochanski was killed by a radiation leak/explosion I wonder if she had to be unkilled in the same way on Backwards Earth. Lister has a heart attack and then un-has one, after all.

    Also, her remains are three million years older than Lister so I wonder what the rules are about exactly when a dead body comes back to life when you place it on Backwards Earth – immediately, presumably, or they would have had to wait another three million years for her remains to undie.

    I suppose this is all covered by “Somehow, Holly had done it.”

  • Chapter 1 –

    Rimmer’s, ‘Bye, man’ comment feels a little wrong to me. Presumably he is meant to be aping Lister’s speaking style, but it’s something that I can’t really imagine working if this were a TV show.

    ‘Born to Brutalize’ is another song that deserves to be heard in the TV show some day.

    It still seems so odd that they are forced to give chase in White Giant as opposed to one of the more familiar vehicles.

  • Chapter 2 –

    I think it’s a very neat use of the Backwards idea to wrap up this book. Both a clever means of taking the reader on another path, and a good way of including one of the most popular concepts from the TV show.

    Chapter 3 –

    One of the notable things about this short section is that Rimmer comes across as the smart and decent one. Another notable thing is that the toaster returns for no narrative reason at all.

  • Chapter 4 –

    While they didn’t know it at the time, I think this makes for a very strong ending to the Grant Naylor novels. Kochanski is obviously a key figure in them, and it is right that Lister is with her and also right that it is still not an entirely conventional happy ending.

    If they had completed another joint novel though, I might be less enamoured with it. Lister living in a different universe (again) for decades would turn him into a completely different person, and I think it would have been tricky for them to know exactly where to go from here (maybe the early chapters of the 3rd novel might leak at some point and we will find out).

  • Also, her remains are three million years older than Lister so I wonder what the rules are about exactly when a dead body comes back to life when you place it on Backwards Earth – immediately, presumably, or they would have had to wait another three million years for her remains to undie.

    The logic of forwards people on backwards Earth is a hole isn’t not worth going down. I mean, what if they both stayed there until they were unborn. Who would their parents be? Even if we ignore the Ouroboros reveal, they would have to be genetically identical to their real parents, only living on Earth in the 1960s.

  • Also, it’s slightly tragic for that version of Kochanski that one day her husband goes out, gets mugged, has a heart attack, dies, and then his corpse gets stolen by a backwards-talking robot, hologram and humanoid Cat in a spaceship from a parallel universe.

  • The logic of forwards people on backwards Earth is a hole isn’t not worth going down. I mean, what if they both stayed there until they were unborn. Who would their parents be? Even if we ignore the Ouroboros reveal, they would have to be genetically identical to their real parents, only living on Earth in the 1960s.

    Maybe if hologram-Rimmer had stayed there long enough the real Rimmer would have come back to life somehow.

  • Also, it’s slightly tragic for that version of Kochanski that one day her husband goes out, gets mugged, has a heart attack, dies, and then his corpse gets stolen by a backwards-talking robot, hologram and humanoid Cat in a spaceship from a parallel universe.

    On the plus side, she’ll forget about it as soon as it happens.

  • Is it still the intention to move onto Last Human next?

    I know another poster requested Backwards first, so just wanted to check before I start re-reading.

  • I do feel Backwards is much more a sequel to Better Than Life than Last Human (the Backwards part obvs, but also the way Holly is utilised and the way Kochanski is not).

    Being totally honest, the prospect of revisiting Last Human isn’t filling me with much glee. I will still join in, mind.

  • I feel the same about Last Human, but that’s based on memories that are decades old now. I hope revisiting it will change my mind a little bit.

    Personally I think it makes sense to deal with the books in chronological publication order, but I agree that Backwards always felt like the truer sequel to Infinity and BTL.

  • So yeah, Last Human is next because we’re nothing if not pedantic arseholes. From my point of view of someone who agrees that Backwards is better, I’m glad we’re finishing on that one.

  • When I set out my pitch for the Red Dwarf Four Season Limited Series Comedy Drama Based on the Novels, I’ll be placing Backwards in third, and suggesting some subtle retooling to allow them to find Starbug with Rimmer, Kryten and Kochanski on it at the end so Last Human can be the final season.

Scroll to top  •  Scroll to 'Recent Comments'

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.