DwarfCast 125 - Book Club #7: Better Than Life (Part Four) featured image
Subscribe to DwarfCasts:  RSS  •  iTunes

We did it, everyone. Almost an entire year of consistent podcasting and all it took was a global pandemic and stay at home orders to make it happen. I even bought a proper microphone. So, in a very nice accident of timing, we are rounding out the year with our final book club for Better Than Life, Part 4: The End and After. Danny, Ian and Cappsy gather round the virtual yule log to discuss the shit out of 12 whole pages, before fully embracing the Christmas cheer with some truly awful parsnip waffles.

DwarfCast 125 – Book Club #7: Better Than Life (Part Four) (78.3MB)

Thank you for sticking with us this year – we’ve absolutely loved the opportunity to podcast more and we’ll be continuing into 2021. Enjoy your Christmas and get started on Last Human as our next Book Club will be covering the Prologue, Part 1: Cyberia and sub-chapers 1 – 5 of Part Two: Time Fork. Phew. Oh, and before then we’ll be commentating on Cured, so keep the waffles flowing along with the book club musings and no one needs to get hurt.

Merry Christmas and we’ll see you on the 31st for our big 2020 round-up!

Show notes

65 comments on “DwarfCast 125 – Book Club #7: Better Than Life (Part Four)

Scroll to bottom

  • That Pan’s People joke. Fantastic.

    Also, the last bit reminded me of Robert Llewellyn failing to say smeg hammer with a straight face. Lovely.

  • That Pan’s People joke. Fantastic.

    Came here to say the same thing. Had a very similar reaction just now with a very breathless laugh.

  • Lovely to have a Christmas Eve dwarf cast waffle. Loved the bit about the 30 second sketch being Christmas dwarf. Merry Christmas to all you smeggers.

  • I like the idea of Rimmer saying bye man through a hitherto unseen rapport with Lister.

    If there’s a Red Dwarf canon, Red Christmas exists in the same universe as the AA adverts.

    Rimmer as George Bailey would be great – I’d love to see a version of Lister without anyone to fight against / support.

    Marooned is in snow and has Rimmer and Lister trapped together sat around a fire, reminiscing and becoming closer to each other. Absolutely Christmassy. A bit like the One Foot in the Grave special with Victor and Patrick in the tarantula house.

    Thanks for a wonderful year of podcasts that have really helped things seem a bit less shitty despite everything else going on. Merry Christmas all!

  • This was a lovely Christmas Eve night listen. Thanks for all the great Dwarfcasts this year and I look forward to Red Dwarf: It’s A Wonderful Carol when it airs at the end of 2021.

  • Ohhhh, Red Dwarf III, Byte 1. My first video, it got played to death.

    I’ve got the Australian ‘The Rest’ vid as well – Back then, I did a few things in Australian fanzines at the time, and got it then. I think I’ve only got one of the UK RDVII vids. Same with RDVIII, only one or two.

  • Marooned is in snow and has Rimmer and Lister trapped together sat around a fire, reminiscing and becoming closer to each other. Absolutely Christmassy.

    This is a really good shout!

  • and, like, “trapped because of a snowstorm” is a stock Christmas plot, even if doesn’t usually involve black holes that are actually grit.

    it’s a wonderful life / “what if you never existed or your life was radically different” episode are quite common after iii. timeslides, dimension jump, inquisitor, back to reality (the bit with the new crew), and skipper. but they’re never seasonal and, well, nobody ever learns anything from it, do they? I mean I guess part of that is part of show’s continued fascination in doing Other Versions of the crew which is in turn a result of the small cast and the ongoing problem of how to write get a guest cast in? but also you don’t write the Bedford Falls bits of the books without thinking a lot about it.

    If it ever did a proper riff on it the big obvious thing would be for someone to wish there had never been the accident, and we would see the consequences of that. And that person I would argue is Rimmer. We know he feels guilt about the accident. We know he hates himself. It’s not a stretch for him to say “I wish I’d never been born” or “I wish I’d never been posted to Red Dwarf”. And while yes there’s the Lewis Pemberton idea – that Rimmer holds people back – there’s also the moonlight idea from the Promised Land. Rimmer has positive qualities that even he doesn’t perceive, because even when he’s being thoughtful or nice he’s a twat about it.

    Anyway that’s how I’d do it.

  • If it ever did a proper riff on it the big obvious thing would be for someone to wish there had never been the accident, and we would see the consequences of that.

    This is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone ask for Series VIII for Christmas.

  • Get onto the actual reading later.
    When this whole Book Club thing started, I’d only recently reread IWCD & BTL, so a quick flick through as the community review went by was enough to tie me over.
    Now we’re moving onto the hard stuff, I’m going to start making notes and allsorts.

  • Cover: I hate the sunglasses on the skull.

    Bio: Interestingly, Doug ‘is’ part of the gestalt entity known as Grant Naylor (present tense).

    Acknowledgments: A whole page dedicated to thanking Rob. Were they on better terms at this point than we’re often led to believe?

    Prologue: Doug’s really going for grand and epic here, isn’t he? Birth of the first human being. The prose here is borderline turgid, feels like a conscious attempt to write something ‘serious’ rather than it coming naturally. The grandeur of it – and the book’s title – is also derailed by the fact this is a book with four main human characters in it.

    Cyberia – Good name

    One – God this is so totally different to where Better Than Life left off. Obviously V and VI find them in a more populated universe, but from a book perspective this is a huge culture shock. A transport ship with 50 or 60 other prisoners in it. It immediately introduces the fact that this isn’t a book about a small group of characters isolated in space. Doug solo Dwarf has always had far more guests than the Grant Naylor era, and that begins here.

    Lister would not have attended the officers’ summer party. I know it’s an alternative Lister, but that bit feels so wrong.

    Why do Alberogs exist? I don’t understand this GELF society. Weird chimera-like monsters that seem to exist just to look weird.

    The unpronounceable words joke gets old pretty quickly.

    Two – The Snugiraffe, its associated vomiting, and threat of sex, do go some way to suggesting that Rob wasn’t necessarily responsible for all the unpleasantness in their collaborative work.

    The idea of the virtual reality personal hell punishment is a bit much, isn’t it? Effectively the prison system makes no pretence towards rehabilitation, instead offering a sentence that is basically just torture that will no doubt lead to severe mental instability.

    It’s a brutal introductory section. It’s not very funny and it tries too hard, and is hugely jarring after the previous book, but it’s definitely a memorable opener.

    Time Fork – I like this name too.

    One – Psirens opening with some nicely placed backwards universe memories. Kochanski is described as haughty – definitely an element of Chloe’s version being seeded here. From memory, the whole book feels like a strange halfway point between VI and VII, you can definitely feel Doug laying down groundwork for his first solo series here. This is still more like the original Kochanski though – I cant imagine the VII / VIII version having “lips spiced with mischief”.

    “What a little raver.” Oh dear.

    “I think she likes a bit of rough, sir” made me laugh.

    I don’t think the emphasis on ‘are’ works anywhere near as well as the one on ‘sick’ in response to “he’s my mate isn’t he?”

    So, where’s Starbug come from? Last thing we saw, White Giant was the only remaining transport craft onboard.

    The word-for-word dialogue here is really weird. We’re used to chunks of episodes being used in the books, but even then the words were changed more than this.

    Two – And suddenly we’re in totally new territory. It’s all a bit jarring.

    Organism incomplete is a lovely psi-scan joke.

    Oh Christ, Star Fleet. Why, Doug, why?

    Rimmer’s reluctant obeying of orders is enjoyable. Cat referring to Kochanski as “this bitch”, less so.

    Kochanski telling Rimmer he can’t help lifting the equipment because he’s a hologram, followed a page later by the reveal he’s now a solidogram. How does that work?

    For all my nit-picking, Last Human has always stood up well as an overall story, and I do love the idea of them finding what they believe is their Starbug, full of dead versions of themselves. It’s maybe a bit of a sci-fi staple, but it’s a very different take on the multiple versions of the characters trope by Red Dwarf standards. Lister’s time loop theory is a nice red herring, it definitely has me fooled on first reading.

    The idea of Kryten overriding his limitation chip does a good job of explaining why there’s finally no hint of David Ross’s incarnation here.

    “A nurse’s hat” being listed as part of the medical equipment is brilliant.

    The reveal that they’re in the wrong reality doesn’t really gel with the idea that the other six universes run backwards, as stated in BTL.

    Three – Another VI opening scene copied verbatim.

    Four – The Blerios 15 section occupies the same place in my head as Identity Within.
    The sperm idea is a good one: it has an inherent comedy value whilst making narrative sense; it also gives them a reasonable way of stocking up and preparing for the rest of the book, as well as setting up a fall later on.

    Five – Kryten is described as a 3000 series on page 48, and a 4000 on page 77. This is some serious continuity buggering, even by Red Dwarf standards.
    Ah yes, Minority Report. I forgot about this bit. It’s interesting that Doug put this in as I don’t recall it adding anything to the overall plot in the long run, other than making Lister seem less evil, but even that could be done by making it a weird niche GELF crime that anyone could have accidentally committed or something.

    My overall feeling towards those seven chapters perfectly matches my memories of the book: there’s a really good plot building, with some good world building involving a unique inhabited asteroid belt, and some darkness and tension involving the alternate crew. It just falls down when it tries to have any relation to previous Red Dwarf – characters and continuity are iffy at best, the replicated dialogue feels awkward, and it’s just not very funny.

  • If this interests anyone then here, Rob Grant did an interview with dreamwatch in 1996 and he gives abit of detail into the whole book deal after their breakup. small details but i found it interesting.

    If anyone would like to see the full article, i’l post it in another section. but here ya go.

  • If this interests anyone then here, Rob Grant did an interview with dreamwatch in 1996 and he gives abit of detail into the whole book deal after their breakup. small details but i found it interesting.

    If anyone would like to see the full article, i’l post it in another section. but here ya go.

    Please do, it sounds interesting.

  • I tried to post it in the forum section but didn’t seem to work. i dunno if the post needs to be moderated before it can be put up or i am just doing something wrong lol

  • Ok, let’s make a start on this.

    COVER

    I quite like the illustration, which gives a sense of this book having a slightly darker flavour to the first two, and it’s interesting that Lister is so recognisable in silhouette. But I’m not sure why the sunglasses are there. Is it to clue in readers that this is a comedy?

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    Without wanting to dwell too long on the Rob/Doug split, this is quite a cordial (even warm) acknowledgement and explanation of what happened. It’s interesting that the date given of summer 1993 is so early, before VI even went out, suggesting that things were drifting apart even at that point.

    SPECIAL THANKS

    Poor Norman.

  • PROLOGUE

    Opening with the origins of humanity feels very consciously 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s even written in a style that’s a bit reminiscent of the 2001 novel, and the jump forward by six million years to the next chapter feels like the jump cut from the bone to the ship in the 2001 movie.

    PART ONE: CYBERIA

    CHAPTER 1

    When I first read this, I can’t remember how long it took me to realise that this wasn’t ‘our’ Lister.

    The bit about the tie and shirt worn to the trial makes me think of Lister’s get-up in Rimmer’s trial in Justice.

    The anecdote about the summer party in the officers’ mess feels like Lister’s version of gazpacho soup. Interesting that it doesn’t seem to have affected him so badly.

    All the funny business around the mix-up with the legal systems feels a bit like a Star Trek pisstake and a bit like a silly H2G2 bit. It’s still funny either way.

    CHAPTER 2

    I’d suspect that the Snugiraffe had been so named just to keep the running gag in the Dwarfcasts going, were it not for the small matter of this book having been published 25 years ago.

    All the stuff about how disgusting it is works quite well in a gross-out way, but it doesn’t feel that Dwarfy, somehow.

    The final bit about a shaved-headed Lister being plugged into Cyberia via burrowing metal rods feels very Matrix. Before the Matrix, obviously.

  • PART TWO: TIME FORK

    Time and Fork are both capitalised, unlike the section titles in Infinity and BTL where only the first word is. This is VERY INTERESTING.

    CHAPTER 1

    It’s Psirens. Sort of. But with Kochanski. And Starbug is back in the novels again too. (Somehow, Holly had done it. I expect.)

    It’s weird how the Backwards stuff is skipped over so quickly. Did Doug know that Rob wanted to focus on that in his solo novel, so avoided doing too much on it himself? Did Doug just not want to bother with all the backwards logic and difficult detail? Either way, it’s batted away as fast as possible so that the book can get on with what’s really important: an awful sex scene.

    Honestly, even as a hormonal teenager I found the stuff in this chapter with Kochanski just a bit awkward and embarrassing. It’s not that there isn’t room for sex in Red Dwarf – although arguably introducing a female regular crew member does ruin the whole concept and the dynamic (as discussed endlessly in Series VII chats) – but the juvenile level of relationship development that Lister and KK have here makes it a weird read. She’s a sex object as envisioned by a 13 year old, basically.

    And that’s before you even get into the ethics of what’s happening given Lister’s amnesia, which I don’t care about that much but which are highlighted so frequently that you can’t ignore it.

    The bit with Kryten and Lister miming to each other behind Kochanski’s back feels *very* Series VII too. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye.

    Space Corps and Star Fleet in the same sentence feels very weird, and just draws attention to the whole thing.

    “Music to emigrate to” is a good line though.

    Overall, it’s interesting that – just as in Psirens – this whole wake-up sequence is a way to reintroduce us to the character and a new status quo, acting as a soft reboot to the novels just as Psirens did for the show (even more so given the addition of KK). And the final hook of the other Starbug is a decent page-turner of a chapter ending.

  • CHAPTER 2

    The discovery of the dead crew is kind of horrible, but also feels in keeping with the tone of Red Dwarf, and feels very Series V.

    The confusion over Rimmer’s hologram status (can he touch things or not?) feels like a gaffe, but essentially I think we just go with the fact that he’s hardlight now. Maybe to lift heavy things his hardlight generator has to work extra hard and uses more battery or something?

    More interesting is the Kochanski-Rimmer relationship, which immediately displaces Rimmer from his position of authority and so wrecks the dynamic in a completely different way. Rimmer feels like he’s essentially just being dragged along with Lister and Kochanski now, with much less choice in anything.

    “Rimmer’s eyelashes fluttered like a cartoon cow’s” is a really weird simile and I’m still not sure I understand what it means.

    The stuff explaining Rimmer’s neuroses is interesting (and gives a very different explanation to The Beginning as to why he’s so different from his brothers). I wonder if the book will come back to that at some point?

    Kryten is a “mechanoid 3000 series”. Hmmmm.

  • CHAPTER 3

    It’s Legion act 1: the novel!

    Seriously, at least the previous novels altered some details or bits of dialogue. Aside from Kochanski getting some of the lines, this is as straight a lift as can be. Even the Space Corps Directive number is exactly the same.

    It’s good stuff, but it feels so familar that you almost skip over it, looking for the new stuff. Which isn’t really until the final pages.

  • CHAPTER 4

    This GELF-market stuff all feels like what Red Dwarf would do with a bigger budget. (It’s not dissimilar in feel to that universally-liked Doctor Who episode, The Rings of Ak-ahk-ahk-ak-akhaten.)

    Sperm as currency is an amusing idea, but also a bit… eurgh. And adds to the teenage-boy feel from the earlier chapter.

    The dialogue between Cat and Kryten over the jacket feels pitch-perfect, like something from the show’s golden era.

  • CHAPTER 5

    All the stuff between Kryten and the Regulator is interesting and well-written, but also feels a bit lifeless. I think part of it is taking Kryten out of the context of the rest of the Red Dwarf crew and making him interact with someone else, on his own. The usual dynamic isn’t there and so comedy doesn’t flow from it as naturally. Still, it at least gets the plot moving along.

  • If we are talking about Last Human I never found it particularly funny nor very good sci-fi. Sorry. Perhaps Doug is just better at doing TV scripts rather than a novel. In the 25 years since he has never gone back to this medium.

  • PROLOGUE
    A bombastic opening, but I like this. Worth it for the segue from the baby to Lister curled up in the same position.

    CYBERIA
    Look, Mickey luv — pictures!
    CHAPTER 1
    The picture followed by Lister waking up on the transport ship with all the other prisoners is certainly intriguing to a first time reader, or someone like me who’s forgotten why he’s there.

    There are a few little bits of overwrought prose here, in particular the description of Lister’s dreads as “like slumbering snakes”. I quite like “his facial muscles accessed the programme ‘No One Home'” however, which made me think of the reveal that Kryten hasn’t used the personality tuck machine on Lister yet in Can of Worms, having just watched it last week for the G&T commentary.

    Hard agree about the unpronounceability gag outstaying its welcome. I did laugh at “the fourth twig of whatsit”, though. And anyone else read “the fourth sand of D’Aquaarar” and think “double A, actually!”?

    CHAPTER 2
    Further to the discussion in the latest DwarfCast about what form Christmas still exists in in the Red Dwarf universe, here we have Rimmer giving Lister aftershave as a Christmas present.

    Cyberia is the opposite of Better Than Life, then?

    So, overall it’s a tonally pretty odd way to kick off the book, and this very different type of setting feels like it could’ve benefited from having more of a set-up. Hubris on Doug’s part perhaps but he clearly wanted to ring the changes right from the off here. Anyway I really can’t remember where it goes from here so consider me in a state of grippedness for Time Fork.

  • If we are talking about Last Human I never found it particularly funny nor very good sci-fi. Sorry. Perhaps Doug is just better at doing TV scripts rather than a novel. In the 25 years since he has never gone back to this medium.

    I actually think Last Human says alot about Dougs Red Dwarf writing material in general. because you can see the type of Red Dwarf Doug prefers to write, and its often not restricted by the original concept.

    One of the things that always stuck out to me about Last Human is just how busy it is while also being slightly disconnected from the previous novels. gelfs and droids are humanised in a way that makes the story feel like it could fit into a Star Trek or Star Wars novel. and that’s sorta close to Doug’s writing in the Dave Era of the show. its a busy universe while also wanting to highlight the “last human” part of it all at the same time.

  • TIME FORK CHAPTER 1

    The opening couple of lines are worded similarly to the Prologue’s. Seems deliberate but I’m not sure what Doug’s going for there. I guess Lister waking up after 20 years is a rebirth of sorts?

    I’ve always remembered “I think she likes a bit of rough, sir.” In fact I could have sworn it was in a Psirens deleted scene or the script in Primordial Soup but no, seems it’s peculiar to Last Human.

    I don’t think the emphasis on ‘are’ works anywhere near as well as the one on ‘sick’ in response to “he’s my mate isn’t he?”

    It’s on ‘are’ in Primordial Soup as well, but yes I agree, so good call by Bobby.

    The explanation about rejected timelines getting stored in the Omni-zone as well as the gateways to the seven Universes being there is kind of a fudgey semi-retcon, but at least it’s addressed I suppose. Obviously Backwards does the infinite realities thing as well, but I can’t remember if the stuff in BTL is acknowledged.

  • Rimmer’s black-and-white when he’s booted up. Is that just while his image is loading, or another retcon? (It would contradict BTL where he loses colour when his light bee malfunctions.) Didn’t Rob and Doug want him to be black-and-white in the series originally, which is why he is in the Smegazine? Seems like it’s an idea Doug’s quite keen on what with The Promised Land.

  • A few random thoughts to start (I might be repeating what some others have said, as I haven’t read the earlier posts yet)…

    For better or worse, it is impossible for me to read either of the solo novels without thinking about the writers’ split (which perhaps is part of what makes them so interesting to discuss).

    While they are obviously both canon, they feel slightly ‘wrong’ to me and as though the characters and the universe are not quite the same as the one that we had known previously (and have never quite known since).

    It was also interesting to read the Rob interview that Dax101 posted where Rob states that, “Doug did a lot of the stuff I wanted to do in Last Human.” This immediately raises the question of how much of the general structure of this book was sketched out when Rob and Doug made their faltering attempts to write alternate chapters of The Last Human.

    Some time after Series VII had been broadcast, Rob was pretty scathing in his comments about that series. One specific thing that I remember him mentioning was that bringing Kochanski back as part of the crew was a long way from anything that he would have considered, so it makes sense that he used her in a different way in Backwards.

    I remember when I first saw the cover that it immediately struck me as not very Dwarfy, partly due to the Dwarf logo being fairly small on both the front and spine (interesting though that I think the cover of Backwards was also designed by Bill Gregory). The image of the bones itself could easily have come from a Fighting Fantasy book, but Lister’s shadow and particularly the sunglasses give it some identity. The latter image always struck me as pretty cool and not the sort of thing that you see on many books.

  • Cyberia – Chapter 1

    I have really mixed feelings about the use of Gelf speak in this chapter. It feels like Doug is reheating an idea from Series VI, and it is probably overdone a little as the repetition is not exactly subtle.

    The setting up of Lister being on his own and unable to remember what has happened is a reasonably dramatic way to kick off the book, though.

  • Cyberia – Chapter 2

    Doug’s Dwarf is notably very well-populated, and that seems to be apparent within the opening 15 pages or so. I do think that Dwarf is generally at its best when it sticks to those early rules of limiting the number of participants, and it is a tad jarring to read of Lister being surrounded by Gelfs and mechanoids and holograms (I’m writing this before I re-read the entire book, so I may well be proved wrong on this and many other things).

    The later “You have had fair trials…”, “I haven’t” and “No, neither have I” all feels very Monty Python to me.

  • Rimmer’s black-and-white when he’s booted up. Is that just while his image is loading, or another retcon? (It would contradict BTL where he loses colour when his light bee malfunctions.) Didn’t Rob and Doug want him to be black-and-white in the series originally, which is why he is in the Smegazine? Seems like it’s an idea Doug’s quite keen on what with The Promised Land.

    Or it might be because, as stated a few pages later, he’s on “battery back-up”, which could also explain why he can’t help with carrying the equipment they need in Chapter 2 — he’s currently soft light so that his battery will last longer, but usually these days he’s hard light.

    TIME FORK CHAPTER 2
    Boarding the derelict with torches and wading through the water etc. is quite nicely atmospheric. Series V vibes.

    The backstory about Rimmer not getting the Encyclo chip like his brothers did is just a bit baffling. Seems like maybe Doug wants to make Rimmer more sympathetic (possibly to set up something for later in the book?) but I think it diminishes something key to his character by giving him much more well-founded reasons to resent his parents and his brothers’ success.

  • Time Fork – Chapter 1

    The use of dialog from the TV show always feels a little odd in the novels, but that is particularly true here. I love Series VI, but many of the lines are out and out gags and have no place in a novel. “Do I have a head shaped like an amusing ice cube?” is a funny line, but seems out of place when written down.

    I wonder how much of Kochanski being a member of the crew was not only a resolution to Better Than Life, but also with a thought towards the TV series (and even possible movie). Ed has said that they expected Chris to not want to be involved in Series VII at all, and Doug may well have already had an eye on how he might have to replace him.

    I find it slightly difficult to visualize Kochanski in my mind’s eye, as this version is neither Clare Grogan or Chloe Annett. I doubt Doug was thinking about Clare at this point, and when Chloe took over the part there certainly wasn’t a “soupcon of something Scottish” in her accent. :)

    The line ‘Holly had performed some miracle to equalize their ages” is entertaining in its complete lack of effort in explaining the Backwards concept.

    The presence of another Starbug is a classic Dwarf idea and, while it is similar to some aspects of the TV show, I still find it an intriguing way to end the chapter.

  • Time Fork – Chapter 2

    The moment of the Cat hauling his own head out of the water always struck me as very visual and could have worked as part of the TV show imo. As Series VII would go on to have a few pre-titles sequences, the Cat screaming at his own dismembered visage could have been much more dramatic than some of what we eventually got.

    Generally speaking I think this is a pretty solid chapter and does a good job of setting up some of the book’s ideas. I can’t say that I feel much emotion at the end of it however, as Kochanski has never been all that popular and an alternate version of her dying doesn’t have all that much impact. Especially as we have experienced alternate versions of the popular crew members dying so many times before.

  • Time Fork – Chapter 3

    A chapter that relies far too much on repeating jokes from the Series VI. As a little best-of compilation from that series it works fine, but it kind of confirms that the criticisms of Series VI being formulaic are partly true. The dialog from different episodes has been bolted together interchangeably with seemingly very little effort.

    An issue with the early part of this book is that a lot of the focus and new material is based around Kochanski – the least interesting of any of the characters.

  • Time Fork – Chapter 4

    The idea of sperm being a valued currency produces some amusing moments, but it feels a little easy to me. It reminds me of the discarded Identity Within script and the resolution that the Cat must have sex with something. It is kind of Dwarfian, and yet slightly off at the same time.

  • Time Fork – Chapter 5

    To my mind, this is the most successful chapter of the book thus far. There is no recycled material, and I can just imagine Robert courteously delivering Kryten’s lines as he is pelted with spittle and bad food (with the two solo novels we pretty much have to imagine how the cast members would have performed them, as I think it’s fair to say that neither Craig nor Rob were quite up to the same standard as Chris when it came to doing voices for the audiobooks). Another moment that could have really worked as part of the show.

    I also enjoy the encounter between Kryten and the Regulator – particularly this section:-
    “He killed you, my lord?”
    “I’m afraid he did.”
    Kryten shook his head. “I’m not sure I understand, sir.”
    “Does anyone? The Regulator snapped. “What possesses a creature to go on such a wicked orgy of murder and mayhem?”

    If this had been adapted for the TV show, then I can imagine a high status actor (someone like Patrick Stewart or Derek Jacobi maybe) in the role of the Regulator, and it would have been the kind of scene that no other sitcom could do.

  • Correction: I have now enjoyed reading the other comments in this thread and I see that Chapter 3 borrows almost solely from Legion. Series VI is so gag heavy that I always forget exactly which dialog belongs to which episode.

  • That in itself does make the point though that the on-board-ship banter is all pretty generic and interchangeable.

  • PROLOGUE
    Never liked this. It just seems so po-faced. It doesn’t seem Red Dwarf to me. The closest thing I can compare it to in Infinity is the cat evolution chapter, but that was broken up by jokes and silliness. The closest I can compare it to in BTL are the sequences about the Polymorph and shadow time, but that was quite a chunk of the way into the novel. To open with this (and it really serves no purpose, plot-wise ) is quite the decision.

    ONE
    Urghhh. These ‘zany’ planet and character names. This trope is not funny written down and there was only a modicum of humour to be derived when Craig had to pronounce them for the audiobook.

    I think if I was proof-reading this book I’d have mentioned that the sentence “Lister let out a sigh, like a newly opened bottle of chilli beer, and wondered when it had started to go wrong”….is more or less identical to “Lister gazed out of the porthole and his facial muscles accessed the programme “No One Home” as he began to catalogue the series of distances that led to this point in Time and space” from about a page earlier. Are you trying to tell me Lister’s feeling glum and being retrospective?

    TWO
    If Cyberia didn’t remind readers of BTL enough, Lister detecting the heat and stench of laser skin, as the rods burrow into his skull helps out.

  • Ed has said that they expected Chris to not want to be involved in Series VII at all, and Doug may well have already had an eye on how he might have to replace him.

    Well Doug has gone on record saying Kochanski was not a replacement for Rimmer. and i believe it was also said that one of the reasons Kochanski was introduced was because to make a movie they needed a female lead. and I’m guessing her introduction into Last Human was like a try out for that and that even if Chris Barrie didn’t leave they would still have brought in Kochaski.

  • I don’t really get the point of the placement of the Cyberia part with its two piddling chapters. I realise there’s a double-twist here when you assume it’s one thing, then later think it’s about something else…then, later still, realise it’s something else…but, um, I don’t think that makes it double-clever. It also means that the call-back to the prologue’s “something monumental was about to happen” (“something imperceptible was about to happen”) as Lister wakes up is a little lost as there’s two chapters separating it, which begin with…Lister waking up.

    Basically, if you told me that It was a last minute decision to lift two chapters from elsewhere in the book and put them between the Prologue and Time Fork, I wouldn’t be hugely surprised.

    Anyway. Time Fork:

    ONE

    Lister’s disbelief about Kochanski being his girlfriend and asking “What am I? The last human being alive” is just clunky. He’s obviously not the last human being alive, as he’s going out with a human. If he’d said “the last man in the universe”, it would have at least worked, without drawing attention to the fact that the title of the book is already a big lie at this point in the narrative.

  • TF TWO

    This is definitely the best chapter so far, in that it’s “new”, our characters are more-or-less as we left them and we’re straight into a strange puzzle. I remember this being a relief when I first read the novel…and then we get to “Star Fleet” Where the fuck is that proof reader?

    We finally get some time to characterise Rimmer…but it’s…not good and nothelped by all that solidgram confusion that initiated this but.

    Launching into more prose about how Rimmer hates being dead, doesn’t really work when you’ve just established that the only thing death has robbed him of – has been addressed with a new solid status. Rimmer’s problem is not that he’s dead, Rimmer’s problem is that he’s Rimmer. This whole bit is a big info-dump about the best character in the show (he’s dead!, he’s a screw-up! he hates himself!), but rather than characterise him properly, it just comes out as a bit of a muddle.

    Oh, and the stuff about the Encyclo chip is the worst fucking thing ever. But we all know that.

  • Regarding the “You are sick” line in TF ONE. I think I prefer the emphasis on the “you” as it relates to Kryten being concerned about Lister’s health following deep sleep. Emphasising the “sick” (as Robert does in Psirens) just seems like a reaction to the “best mate” comment, with no connection to the earlier stuff in the scene.

    I also notice that Doug has amended “One direct hit on that Plexiglass view-screen and our innards will be turned inside-out quicker than a pain of YOUR old underpants” (it’s always jarred with in Psirens me that Rimmer is addressing Lister there).

  • Regarding the “You are sick” line in TF ONE. I think I prefer the emphasis on the “you”

    Isn’t the emphasis either on “are” or “sick”?

  • TF THREE

    I suspect that the bits of Last Human which Rob had wanted to use were…the 5 minutes of Legion that are in this chapter.

    “…Kryten stood quietly in one corner as Kochanski repaired a faulty knee joint”

    Kochanski is repairing Kryten’s faulty knee joint or her own? Umm.

  • By the way, the current plan is that Cured is being recorded this week and the Book Club probably next week so you’ve all got a bit more time to read and get your thoughts together.

  • So having moved house a month ago and seemingly losing my copy of Last Human in that process, I’ve finally got another copy to see and make comment on.

    Apologies if this parrots anything said above, I’ve largely ignored everyone’s input as I wanted to go into this re-read a bit fresh as it’s been over 10 years since I last read it.

    Firstly, Doug omits Norman from the acknowledgements, but includes Hattie who at this point had also left the show. Seems a bit mean.

    Prologue

    The first thing to strike me about the prologue is that it doesn’t feel like any of the writing that has come before it. Backwards, as discussed, feels like a better continuation because the story directly carries on from the end of BTL. But Rob’s writing also feels more Grant Naylor (in that book I’ve not read his others) than Doug’s writing does here.

    This is a different person, and again goes to show Doug being perhaps better at, and having a preference for, long form prose and slightly more seriously written sci-fi.

    And I think it reads better for it. Doug isn’t trying to write the show as a novel, he is adopting his own writing style distinct from the show and previous books and telling a story through it. I’m reminded of someone on Red Dwarf Night talking about the books being proper novels rather than novelisations, which is true to an extent but definitely more true here I think.

    Part 01 Chapter 01

    Lister has always been shown to think he is good at guitar, but does anyone believe he has ever wanted to be a soft-metal icon? That’s completely at odds with his humble farm life on Fiji.

    “Had he never has the breaks” is a Rimmer though, Lister doesn’t think like that. Unless Rimmer has rubbed off on him a little, which again we have never seen to be the case in show or in the previous two books.

    Lister worrying about how he is dressed feels a little out of character too. Of course this a guy that since his 23rd birthday back on Earth has been taking a beating at every turn, especially with the events of Infinity and BTL, so perhaps he does view the world slightly differently.

    Though I wouldn’t have thought Lister would even attempt to show up at the Summer Party with the Officers, unless it was just for the free booze. But there’s no mention of that. He seems to have just wanted to attend.

    I know it’s all meant to be alien, and Gelf etc, but I do hate it when sci-fi and fantasy writers come up with names and nouns that are entirely unpronounceable. I know that’s the joke here but all the Txhhnabkleyhal nonsense just makes me glance of it and not pay much attention.

    Part 02 Chapter 02

    If Doug was writing this now, United Republic of Engineered Life Forms would spell out something rude as an acronym.

    Something I hadn’t pondered before, Lister is sentenced to his own VR hell, which he will obviously want to escape. In the last book he was in his own VR heaven, which he ultimately wanted to and did escape.

    The way Lister in shaved and suspended in liquid in a pool of pink goo reminds me of how people in the Matrix are stored.

    A very short part but an intriguing one. Despite knowing I won’t have enjoyed the book by the end of it, I’m left looking forward to reading what comes next.

  • Part 02 Chapter 01

    What is it with Doug and appendectomies?
    And how is it possible for breasts to pout?

    Sort of interesting that the first thing Cat says about himself is that he is descended from cats. Presumably one of the first things Kryten tells him about himself.

    But logically, why? They don’t tell Lister his common ancestors are apes. And clearly this is a universe in which species is important as nearly everything is something different.

    It’s interesting watching Doug weave the intro to Psirens into the start of this story, whilst adding Kochansk in. But unlike the previous chapters that felt his own, this feels more like Infinity where parts of scripts are almost inserted whole sale. And no more is that apparently than Kochanski almost being forgotten about until the very end of the scene.

  • Part 02 Chapter 02

    It’s mentioned here again that Rimmer was brought back to keep Lister sane. But now they have Kochanski, and given Rimmer have been offline a while (presumably whilst Lister was de-aging?) it seem curious that they’d have decided to turn him back on. It’s not as though Lister has grown cos of Rimmer in anyway during the first two books in the way he does over the course of the series. In fact doesn’t ge still recent Rimmer leaving him behind on Garbage World?

    Regarding Rimmer’s brothers having the Encyclo implant, I really feel that complete robs Rimmer of any of his character. In the show his brothers are more successful because they just simply *are* better than him. The fact they cheated effectively, and Rimmer *could* have been as successful if only he’d had the right implant just doesn’t jel with the hopeless Rimmer we know always trying to live up to expectation that now are physically unachievable rather than just unachieved.

    I’d forgotten just how much Star Fleet is referenced. I’d also forgotten it’s referenced alongside Spce Corps, which is more confusing. Surely it should be one or the other. Not both!

    ***Some spoilers for Backwards ahead***

    The fact that Backwards continues more directly on from BTL in a way that this sort of doesn’t, skipping over the Backwards stuff, and the fact this sets itself in a different universe does raise the question of whether Rob and Doug discussed who’d be able to do what with their books so as not to have them clash too much.

    It’s sort of also interesting that Backwards ends with characters from another dimension joining our “prime” dimension. It’s all one big dimension traversing jumble at this point.

  • It’s sort of also interesting that Backwards ends with characters from another dimension joining our “prime” dimension.

    Isn’t it the opposite? Our characters go into a different universe.

  • > given Rimmer have been offline a while (presumably whilst Lister was de-aging?)

    I hadn’t thought about this, and just assumed they’d all been off/in Deep Sleep while they travelled back from the backwards universe to Red Dwarf, but I suppose the Cat at least must have been in stasis or Deep Sleep while Lister and Kochanski were on backwards Earth, as there’s no mention of him being any older. Of course there’d also be the matter of the timey-wimey effects of the black hole.

  • It’s sort of also interesting that Backwards ends with characters from another dimension joining our “prime” dimension.

    Isn’t it the opposite? Our characters go into a different universe.

    Oh yeah that might be it.

  • > given Rimmer have been offline a while (presumably whilst Lister was de-aging?)

    I hadn’t thought about this, and just assumed they’d all been off/in Deep Sleep while they travelled back from the backwards universe to Red Dwarf, but I suppose the Cat at least must have been in stasis or Deep Sleep while Lister and Kochanski were on backwards Earth, as there’s no mention of him being any older. Of course there’d also be the matter of the timey-wimey effects of the black hole.

    Yeah Cat must have been in stasis on Red Dwarf and then deep sleep too/from Backwards world to remain around the same age he was when Lister died in BTL.

    There’s no reason for Rimmer to stay on, he’d get annoyed at Kryten and just ask to be switched off after a while I’m sure.

    And the book even references Kryten scavenging on his own (the hard light drive) so seems Kryten has just been keeping himself busy for the last 50 odd years.

  • Part 02 Chapter 03

    I’m finding it hard to accept Kochanski slipping back into “Officer” mode and out ranking people in the way Rimmer tries to, after having died, come back to life and lived for 50 years with life going backwards, to then be picked up and become part of a small crew onboard an old transport vessel.

    I’m also curious as to why they have next to no supplies, when everyone was in deep sleep until yesterday. Surely Kryten would have packed better than that whenever he left Red Dwarf to pick them up.

    Also, references made by Lister to Cat about “old derelicts” and the peanuts, lifted directly from the script, don’t make sense when, again, Lister has just awoke after being picked up from Backwards world where he has lived 50 years. And before that there weren’t any derelicts other than Nova 5 in Infinity or BTL I don’t think.

    The one liners from the script feel a little out of place too. The whole lifting parts of scrips and dunking them in the book doesn’t work as well when your writing style otherwise is radically different.

  • Kochanski’s ease at accepting her predicament is pretty ridiculous. Pulling rank and referring to the supplies on Red Dwarf, when this should all be like new to her..

    As for the peanuts, I don’t know why they didn’t tweak this to make it the origin the “other Starbug”. The other Cat could have been chewing them before he was beheaded. Would this be too morbid? In this novel, probably not.

  • p27: “the metal lid protecting his cooked breakfast”

    I’m sure there’s a word for that…

    Of course there is. It should be:

    “the metal lid protecting his fry-up.”

  • p27: “the metal lid protecting his cooked breakfast”

    I’m sure there’s a word for that…

    Oh fuck. We’ve already recorded the first Last Human ep (it’ll be out this week), but I’m now tempted to do the whole thing again just to include this.

  • p27: “the metal lid protecting his cooked breakfast”

    I’m sure there’s a word for that…

    It’s taken me 3 days but I’ve just this minute got what was meant by this. Cloche! I think Si’s “fry-ip” retort threw me off and I have spent the last few days wondering wtf you were on about. But I understand now.

Scroll to top  •  Scroll to 'Recent Comments'

Leave a Reply

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