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And so the DwarfCast Book Club advances wearily on, as we continue our re-read (although the failing memories of your hosts means this may as well be a first read) of Doug Naylor’s literally seminal novel, Last Human. We’re in the final part of the book itself but due to reasons beyond our comprehension it accounts for half of its length so we’re splitting it in twain. Join Cappsy, Ian and Danny as they gather round a table at Rita’s Kabin and try to figure out what the bloody hell is going on.

DwarfCast 132 – Book Club #10: Last Human (Part Three) (97.4MB)

We’re now on the last stretch of Last Human so your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to finish the book and let us know your thoughts below before we record our next episode of the Book Club in a couple of weeks’ time.

Show notes

65 comments on “DwarfCast 132 – Book Club #10: Last Human (Part Three)

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  • Half an hour in… I’ve *always* pronounced it as ‘Re-ket-rebin’. Emphasis on the ‘ket’ if you’re interested.

    This is just as a result of me reading the book. (The ‘i’ is my favoured additional phonetic vowel of choice.)

  • I loved Dinosaurs! as a kid. I wonder what happened to my model T-Rex.

    It went in the bin, didn’t it?

    Go on then, let’s get this done.

    11: oh good, the black box is referenced again. Awkward.
    McGruder talking like a character from some fantasy epic here, “All who inhale its wind become consumed with such wrath… husband kills wife, brother kills brother…” shut up you pompous arse.
    Circle of Sacer Facere. The last survivors on a dying planet, it’s important they keep up their Latin skills.
    They’re all able to sit still in a circle while a 400mph tornado zooms between them. Good job physics works here.
    Another top comedy chapter full of hilarious gags.

    12: Wear clothes is a good gag.
    Er, otherwise it’s DNA with a few extra lines.

    13: Back in Hitchhikers territory at the start here. Still, Kryten musing on mortality feels more like one of those expansions you’d get in Infinity, like Holly’s inner monologues.
    His injuries are a lot more brutal, although I like that Kochanski is there for him (in Lister’s absence), and you get another hint of an enjoyable relationship between the two of them that never happened on screen, before…
    Longman. What a weird sequence. Especially the fact that one is described as a “hologoat” seemingly out of nowhere. Cat’s idea that Kryten had hired them to beat him up is enjoyably daft.
    Kryten wanting to turn back is ludicrously sudden, even in context of everything that happens at the start of the chapter.

    14: why have Longman’s eyes gone from “watery brown” to “blacker than a Mimiam night” all of a sudden? What the fuck does Mimiam mean? Should it be Mimian, as in of Mimas? As in bladderfish?

    15: apparently I have nothing to say about that chapter

    16: my guess is McGruder left Red Dwarf a few weeks after the affair and only then found out she was pregnant, at which point she would have to believe the affair was real. Sadly it was too late to get in touch with Rimmer as he was long gone and soon to die. Thus the plot hole is sealed.
    Nice of Doug to explain what an SCM is, at least.

    I’m sorry, a “pair of unoculars”??

    17: “you’re a SCM” Good English there, Rimmer.
    Rimmer is now a Third Technician. Great.
    Kryten is unable to tell Kinitawowi feet from human ones.

    18: Rimmer’s low self esteem defeating him again. The whole gun-snatching bit is brilliant Rimmeriness.
    Rimmer and Kryten locked in together is the first scene in ages that’s truly felt like it could have come from the TV show. Nicely pitched and funny.
    Starbug has at least six decks. You can see the start of VII’s Stardisbug here.

    Escape Pod = EP. Is this how Doug thinks people are going to talk in the future?

    The whole Rimmer stuff in this chapter… I quite like the image of him zooming around on the astro stripper, doing loop-the-loops. Michael suddenly being proud of him, and then him being shot as soon as he’s actually brave for once, it’s nice, but it’s got 28 minute TV show pacing, where it should really have been more fleshed out.

    A fucking lot happens in that one chapter. Some earlier chapters have been non-events, and then that one feels like a third of a book’s worth of stuff came along together. Including the moment where there were four humans together, in a book called Last Human.

    19: he’s still thinking of himself as ‘the last human’, as if Kochanski is an alien.
    I notice Rita’s Cabin has had a lot to do in the second half of The Rage. And where the fuck has Cat been? This is VIII-level character ignoring.

    “Less life than a Cornish discotheque.” Classic Kryten line there. Yeah

    Despite all my cynicism towards the book, I can’t deny how effective Rimmer’s death is. It still gets me. A really lovely moment.

    20: and so, Lister and Kochanski are going to start making what will quickly become an inbred family of humans. At least she’s not his mum in this version?

    Yeah. It’s so, so badly paced, it’s frequently contradictory, it’s often confusing. If it were longer, more focused, and subject to a thorough editing process, it could be a decent sci-fi novel.
    It’s not a good Red Dwarf novel, though. Maybe half of the book’s chapters have pretty much no jokes at all. The populated version of the universe is totally at odds with even Doug’s solo TV stuff.

    Overall, some excellent imaginative ideas, a fair bit of nice imagery, a handful of very funny new jokes, but ultimately a confusing mess.

  • I thought I had several issues of Dinosaurs!, but looking at those I think they might have been some other dinosaur-related partwork. I recall them looking different.

  • – Dinosaurs! partwork magazine for early-90s kids.

    Is this the one that started with skellington pieces and then later gave you the skin?

  • Can someone remind me where we need to have read up to, at some point I just stopped reading but I’d like to be up to date to listen to the podcast.

  • Is this the one that started with skellington pieces and then later gave you the skin?

    Yeah, the cool glow-in-the-dark skeleton covered up by the boring skin so you could only see the glowing teeth at night. You were supposed to paint it, but I didn’t have paint. You could probably display them separately, but my insecurity over the impotence of a toothless T-rex swung it.

  • Can someone remind me where we need to have read up to, at some point I just stopped reading but I’d like to be up to date to listen to the podcast.

    First ten chapters of The Rage.

  • Can someone remind me where we need to have read up to, at some point I just stopped reading but I’d like to be up to date to listen to the podcast.

    We read up to and included Chapter 10 of The Rage

  • Haven’t had a chance to listen to the Dwarfcast yet, but I’m dying to get to the end of this book.

    ELEVEN

    “A white smile neoned across McGruder face”
    I get that we’re supposed to visualise a neon strip suddenly lighting, as if a smile has instantly appeared on McGruder’s face. I get that neon strips are often white. I get that turning nouns into verbs is the GN way. But describing a smile as “white” for this all to work is…shit. What is a “white smile”?

    There is a lot of talk about Rimmer in this chapter. Rimmer has had nothing to do in this novel, and barely any characterization.

    “We have to form the Circle of Sacer Facere to banish the Rage. One of us will die”

    Oh fuck the fuck off. How long has McGruder been here to start making up mythical rituals and giving them poncey latin names? This is not Red Dwarf.

  • TWELVE

    This chapter, despite being a big steal from DNA, is fundamentally weird.

    * Kochanski enters wearing a “long T-shirt” (steady, Doug)
    * Why is Kryten calling Kochanski “Kris”? Is this because Doug didn’t want to use “fellow human” because it would remind us how incorrect that title is?
    * Kryten appears to be auditioning for a spot in Wyld Stallyns ( “Most excellent”)

    It starts with Kochanski, Rimmer and Cat sharing Lister’s dialogue from the episode. Then Rimmer and Cat practically disappear and it’s just Kochanski informing Kryten about penises. Wouldn’t the other two be better off chipping in at this point? (hee hee)

    Rimmer, meanwhile, is as flat and unremarkable, as he’s been the entire book. This is particularly strange bearing in mind what the novel needs to hammer home with just a few chapters remaining

    Kochanski’s story about blind people committing suicide sounds like the shittiest faux analogy possible. Blindness isn’t a mask for “hang-ups”, it’s a disability. Popeye said it better.

  • THIRTEEN

    This is probably the best chapter in the book. The opening stuff about the human race and Kryten’s thoughts about death, are nicely written and could belong in Infinity. While I’ll never understand why DNA was dumped into the back end of the novel when it should be wrapping things up, it does at least make the case that there was more to explore via prose than was done on telly.

    “first time on the clay-wheel head” is awful, mind.

    And then we’re into the Michael Longman stuff and the remaning good will I have for this novel just dribbled away.

  • – Dinosaurs! partwork magazine for early-90s kids.

    For me the big one was Quest, the slightly random science and technology encyclopedia partwork that came with a different model/kit each issue. We had folders full of it.

  • A “white smile” is a toothy grin, I guess. That’s what I get for reading in bed when I’m half asleep.

  • Before I get into the (re)reading of this final section, one of the few things I already remember not making sense from the first time around:

    Why does Rimmer do the whole Smoke Me A Kipper thing when they haven’t ever met Ace in the novel continuity? I get that it’s a reference to one of the most loved episodes and characters from the TV series. But Lister not only being able to decipher a trademark DNI (Doug Naylor Initialism™) but also relate it back to something that never happened for this version of the crew just raises so many questions that I’m not sure it’s worth it, nice callback or not.

    (Maybe there’s some explanation that sets the phrase up beforehand that I’m forgetting?)

  • I recall that Rimmer makes mention of the phrase to McGruder in one of the chapters, but Lister isn’t present.

    It’s always jarred with me too. The attempt to do a callback between Rimmer and McGruder is feeble, but having Lister doing the translation makes it even more questionable.

  • Maybe we’re just to assume that it’s a common turn of phrase in the Red Dwarf universe. I mean, it’s not like it made that much sense when Ace said it in the first place.

  • Remember when there were plans for a Red Dwarf partwork? https://www.reddwarf.co.uk/news/2005/05/27/new-dwarf-magazine/

    I’d never heard about that [non-existent thing]. A limited run of 18 issues would be uncharacteristically restrained for the format, but that’s about the point where you’d run out of episode summaries, character profiles, ships, equipment and other in-universe topics to index. All the DVDs would have been out by then, so they could give away a few episodes a time and jack the price up a bit. Might have been a nice indulgence and good for the kids.

  • So a little behind. I’ve just caught up to end of chapter 10 to listen to the podcast.

    I’d always assumed the psi-scan was actually sci-scan … as in science scanner. As opposed to psychic-scanner, which is all I can guess psi-scan is meant to stand for.

  • Always known it was Psi, but you’ve suddenly made me wonder why it’s *not* Sci. That would make much more sense.

  • If Psi stands for the psychic, then wouldn’t it be psy-scan?

    I can only assume Doug wanted to avoid making people think the device had something to do with the future Korean pop star, Psy.

    Apparently “psi” is also the term in the BS doctrine of parapsychology, where psi is the label given to the unknown factor in extrasensory/psychic experiences.

    Is it deliberate that “psi” can be used to mean something that is unexplained, and the “psi-scan” is a device which magically explains things the characters wouldn’t be able to deduce by themselves? Absolutely not. But is it maybe a minute possibility? Still no.

  • FOURTEEN

    I’m not sure why Doug wants to paint the image of the Longman leopard’s claws plucking Kochansk’s face off as “if it were a Hallowe’en mark” when nothing of the sort actually happens. Maybe he’s sick of this character too by this point?

    “A warm trickle of liquid dribbled between her breasts” Steady on, Doug.

    I guess Kryten is now a mechanoid again.

    “I’m going to call it a hyper-drive”. Phew, they’ll be reunited with Lister in less than 12 parsecs.

  • FIFTEEN

    The Rage is like someone swiping a Red Dwarf idea for a Sci-fi drama. On the face of it, it’s a Dwarfy enough idea (a physical representation of emotions)…but it’s just utterly devoid of any comic potential.

    The way Lister and Kochanski reunite…and Kryten, Cat and Rimmer are an after-thought, emphasises how much Kochanski is the co-lead in this book. Mind you, since Lister already spent about 70 years separated from them in the continuity of the novels, it’s a wonder he even remembers who they are.

    Lister and Rimmer then have a conversation. What a strange idea for these two characters to interact! It’s reasonably funny too, as I can visualise Chris Barrie performing those lines.

  • Ok, let’s do this.

    CHAPTER 11

    I like the characterisation of Lister here – the kind lie (delivered on the assumption that McGruder will never meet Rimmer) is very in keeping with what we know of him from stuff like Camille.

    The explanation of the Rage is reasonably interesting too (although like much of this book, I’m not sure the logic holds up to much scrutiny). Also, all the buildup to the Sacer Facere stuff is arguably more interesting than the event itself, which feels more or less like a very dramatic game of pass the parcel.

    I’m also not sure whether the etymology of the ritual’s name (meaning to “make sacred” – yes I googled it just like you did) really fits what’s actually happening. Hmmm.

    Having said all that, I think there’s some interesting stuff said here about the nature of rage and people feeding off their own sense of righteous indignation (and this tipping over into outright hate that destroys everything) that’s maybe even more relevant in this age of social media than it was when it was written.

    CHAPTER 12

    Taking Lister out of the human-Kryten section of DNA really screws with the whole thing. Not just the fact that the relatable human anchor of the story is gone, but also little details like “fellow human” becoming “fellow humanoid” because the Cat isn’t human.

    And having the conversation about Kryten’s human “features” be a group discussion rather than man-to-man doesn’t work nearly so well. Not least because a man passing a picture of his erection to another man has quite different connotations to him passing one to a woman. It’s essentially an unsolicited dick-pic.

    Although judging by this book so far I’m surprised that the opening of the chapter isn’t Kochanski waking up to find the newly-human Kryten trying to have sex with her.

    CHAPTER 13

    Kryten’s bit about suddenly realising how unfair death is feels very “right” for the character and would have been a nice addition to DNA. After reading it I realised that it reminded me quite a bit of the “for me, death holds no fear” bit from The Inquisitor, although with a slightly different spin.

    Similar with the bit about the human Kryten no longer having access to the knowledge that he once had – it’s a nice expansion of the DNA concept, which is (understandably) mostly just mined for laughs in the TV version.

    I’m not sure adding the Longman-villains is quite such a successful addition though. I get the feeling that it’s reaching for something genuinely creepy and Lanstrom-esque, especially with the description of the pods opening, but it comes off as more silly than Quarantine’s genuine horror.

    CHAPTER 14

    I feel like every novel should include a luck virus, as it comes in very handy when you need to start wrapping up the dangling plot strands incredibly quickly. 

    CHAPTER 15

    This chapter really cements for me the idea that McGruder is definitely meant to be the son of “our” Rimmer, not one from an alternate dimension (re. the last Dwarfcast discussion).

    So I think we’re meant to assume – and this is supported by Rimmer’s thoughts early in chapter 16 – that Yvonne McGruder left Red Dwarf only a short time after her fling with Rimmer, still believing it to have been in her imagination, then must have realised after finding out that she was pregnant that Rimmer was the father and the affair was real, but by that point the accident on Red Dwarf had happened and she assumed that he was gone forever. It relies on a lot of timing coincidences but I think it just about works.

    CHAPTER 16

    The nice Rimmer-Lister dialogue here makes me realise just how much this central element of Red Dwarf has been so lacking throughout this book. Circumstances keep the two characters apart for much of the novel, and the heart of the show is lost as a result.

    Also, reading this now gives me a completely different take on the father-son dynamic to the one that I had when I read this book for the first time as a teenager. I think Rimmer’s need to come clean with his kid is a nice observation about how parents feel about not really being the idealised parent figure that their child sees. Given the timing of when this was written, I presume that some of Doug’s own feelings about parenthood are coming out here. I certainly found it relatable.

    CHAPTER 17

    Ah, here’s where Smoke Me A Kipper is set up. It establishes it as a fairly known phrase in the Red Dwarf universe, so makes sense of the later callback better than I remembered. 

    Rimmer’s talk about Yvonne McGruder here is quite touching and shows a respect towards her that I wouldn’t necessarily expect of Rimmer, even in this situation. It’s a nice bit of character development, as is his admission that his own justification for his lack of achievements has always been a convenient excuse. But it maybe goes so far that it breaks Rimmer as a character. That’s going to cause problems for him as a central character in a continuing novel series! ….erm…

    Also, the final scene with Kryten is quite an effective bit of tension-building, and the loophole he finds to carry out his secret plan feels like it makes quite a lot of sense. It feels like things are actually coming together quite nicely now that this book is nearing its end!

    CHAPTER 18

    Or are they? There’s a section in this chapter – where Rimmer basically has the same set of thoughts twice within a few paragraphs of each other (about “this is his moment” and marching alt-Lister out of the cave) – that I’m convinced is another editing error and not intentional repetition. Again, it makes you feel like this is all a first draft that’s been rushed and printed without much care.

    Having said that, the Rimmer-Kryten scene with Rimmer getting annoyed with Kryten for saying nothing is very funny, and feels a little reminiscent of similar moments from the show without being a straight lift.

    And OK, I admit: I had to look “etiolated” up. I will now try and use it in at least one conversation this week.

    The final developments of this chapter are a bit odd though, aren’t they? In that it slightly alters the luck virus from something that ensures that good things happen for you into something that gives you what you want even if it’s bad for you. I mean, it isn’t lucky to die, is it?

    I suppose the way the luck virus was described earlier makes sense of this – and it lines up with stuff like drawing four aces from a pack of cards, which is a desired outcome rather than something that’s good or bad either way – but it still feels odd for alt-Lister to die in this way. A bit too much of a clever-clever twist for me.

    CHAPTER 19

    So having kept his Oblivion Virus plan a secret up until now, why does Kryten suddenly blurt it out? Seemingly only so that Rimmer can make his heroic self-sacrifice.

    Which is fine and everything, but feels like a bit of a retread after he’s only just made his heroic self-sacrifice a few pages earlier.

    CHAPTER 20

    The extra vial of luck virus that Kochanski held on to might have been useful when they were facing down near-certain death a few pages earlier, eh?

    Still, it’s a nice enough ending for the book – and I suppose it’s a nice enough possible ending for Red Dwarf as a whole.

    And it’s also lovely that amid all the purple prose at the end, Doug decides to leave us with a final-page image of Lister being “disembowelled” by Kochanski’s diamond brightness. Lovely.

  • So, thoughts on Last Human as a whole? I realised as I started reading it that I’d forgotten large chunks of it, and then realised as I continued reading it exactly why.

    It’s not all bad by any stretch, and there are some nice adaptations of (and expansions of) ideas and moments from the TV series, as well as some decent new characters and ideas of its own (like Retrekenenebekenebebn).

    But overall there’s a strong sense of it having been hastily cobbled together that wasn’t true of Infinity and BTL. Countless major logic and story problems plague the book (especially in the middle act) and it’s needlessly confusing and unclear in places. And a lot of the time it just doesn’t feel very Red Dwarf-like (and especially didn’t when it came out, as Series VII, which it most resembles, hadn’t appeared yet).

    I think the ideal version of this book would probably try and cover half the ideas and plot that this one does, but develop it all and think it all through a bit more, and find more time for the kind of honed prose that we found in the first two novels.

    That’s obviously easy for me to say but harder to do, especially given the circumstances in which it was produced. It can’t have been easy getting this book out under the constraints Doug was under, and maybe it’s to be applauded that the good bits work as well as they do, especially the original material.

    But in the end I think the biggest villain of this novel probably wasn’t alt-Lister or The Rage or Longman or a horny GELF, but the disintegration of the Grant Naylor partnership and all of the problems that seemingly flowed from that.

  • The extra vial of luck virus that Kochanski held on to might have been useful when they were facing down near-certain death a few pages earlier, eh?

    Or during any of the episodes prior to Back in the Red when it was easily accessible in Starbug’s cockpit.

  • We’ll probably find out in ten years that the real reason Rob and Doug split was because they couldn’t agree on whether to make Kochanski a character in the novel.

  • We’ll probably find out in ten years that the real reason Rob and Doug split was because they couldn’t agree on whether to make Kochanski a character in the novel.

    I imagine it’s much more likely over the creative decision to include multiple humans in a book titled Last Human.

  • Chapter 11

    The whole concept of the rage I would class as 80% impenetrable. I’ve had to read this section about 5 times in order to remotely get my head around why it exists and to visualize it in my head.

    It kind of feels to me the sort of concept that needed to have more time devoted to it, with it being the central concept of the book, or else it shouldn’t have been included at all.

  • Chapter 12

    A cut and paste chapter that adds very little of interest. The reveal of Kryten being naked is nicely done, though.

    We should be heading towards a dramatic conclusion to the book, and recycling a TV episode just kills the momentum imo.

  • Chapter 13

    “First time on the clay-wheel head” is a spectacularly awkward line.

    The return of the Longmans adds, for me, another unnecessary kink to the plot. Especially as some readers would probably have forgotten that they even existed.

    It also feels very forced that Kryten becoming a human has only just been introduced, and immediately he wants to change back.

  • Chapter 14

    The breaking of the luck virus vial should be quite a smart way to resolve this section of the plot. The only way for the following chapters to work, is for the crew to only have a sliver remaining. “Kochanski took the almost empty tube” suggests that there ought to be no plot hole here.

  • Chapter 15

    A surprise faint is a comedy staple and it is fairly effective here. It’s just a shame that Michael McGruder is such an unlikeable character and that the explanation of him being Rimmer’s son has been so confusing. This section makes it fairly obvious that he is from our universe so the earlier, “in a different location, in a quite different dimension” is another moment that should have been picked up by the editor.

    I also can’t remotely imagine him as the son of the characters played by Chris Barrie and Judy Hawkins.

    The closest comparison I can think of in other Dwarf to his presence is, “He isn’t your android.” The idea of Rimmer having a long lost son is straight from some corny soap opera.

  • SIXTEEN

    A minor nitpick but the explanation of McGruder appearing to be the same age as Rimmer because McGruder had “his ageing gene removed” is kind of ignoring the more crucial factor that Rimmer is dead and hasn’t aged in 3 million years.

    The Cat and Reketrebn are paired off, and sent “off-screen” as clearly Doug can’t think of a thing to do with either of them.

    Meanwhile, Kryten has plans to sacrifice himself. Is there going to be a call-back to his new realizations about death from three chapters earlier? Nah.

    SEVENTEEN

    It’s interesting how Rimmer decides to immediately come clean to Michael, rather than play along for, I dunno, comical effect (c.f Trojan). I guess if this wasn’t crammed into the last bit of the novel we’d have a bit more time to do something with these preconceptions than just instantly dismiss them?

    McGruder mentions fighting in the “Saturn war”. Rimmer reacts in surprise despite there being no real way of Rimmer knowing what the Saturn war was.

    I moaned about this earlier, but one of the lousiest things about McGruder is that we’ve barely spent any time with the guy, but one thing we witnessed was him fucking up the Mayflower mission and getting a lot of people killed. In the novels, Rimmer wasn’t responsible for *anyone* dying, so McGruder’s hang-ups are pure snobbery about his father’s *rank*. Fuck this guy.

    I’m a bit confused as to how Kryten can identify that the Kinitawowi feet are *feet*, but not that they’re *Kinitawowi feet*.

  • EIGHTEEN

    It’s a bit late in the novel to finally give us Rimmer doing something “Rimmery” (being wracked by indecision that he does *nothing*) but it brought to mind an alternate version of BTTF where George decides to not punch Biff while Marty watches. Maybe i’d just rather be watching BTTF than reading this novel.

    Nice scene with Rimmer and Kryten. It’s almost like Red Dwarf, this bit!

    “Better put me back on your Christmas Card list, kids”. I don’t believe this character. I *recognise* him from a thousand shit action movies, I just don’t believe him.

    We now have some really horrible stuff where Evil Lister explains just where he has been for the last few chapters, just in case anyone was bothered. And then we have an action sequence, which I always find tiresome to read in novels.

    McGruder is just embarrassing. “He’s come for his boy”. And lots of “whoops” and “cheers”. I thought this guy was 40-something, not 12?

    And this is followed up by the revelation that, having set fire to Lister’s arm, Rimmer is now a completely reformed character. [Shrug]

  • NINETEEN

    A lot here about Lister reflecting on his inability to father childen. You had twin boys in that Backwards reality, Dave. Since you haven’t given them a second thought, I’m surprised that this is such a big deal. I think I’d be more concerned about Michael cracking onto Kochanski.

    There are some nice bits of Lister characterization here though. Give me this any day rather than another shitty action sequence.

    While it’s nice to see the Cat get some dialogue, his line “But how do we navigate our way past the Rage” doesn’t seem like a particularly “Cat” line. And, bearing in mind Kryten explicitly responds to *Lister*, it’s even more jarring.

  • TWENTY

    “She tugged off her loosely buttoned mauve shirt and pulled her T-shirt over head until she was down to just her jogging bra”

    Steady on, Doug.

    I didn’t moan about this earlier, but I’m not totally on board with the way the luck virus is harnessed as a “magic wish” in this novel. I realise that the entire concept of positive virus is *incredibly* hokey…but the point at which you can proclaim that doing a,b,c means x,y,z *will* happen is just opening this up to complete nonsense without limitations.

    Kochanski could have made some unlikely prediction while in the caves and vowed that, had it come true, “everyone will live happily ever after and Rimmer will come back to life and the human race will not be extinct and…”. (You get the idea).

  • Final thoughts;

    It’s about twenty years since I last read this novel. I must have read it about four or five times before that long gap, as there are bits of prose and dialogue that are very familiar. Unfortunately, they aren’t familiar for good reasons; they are instead the bits that stuck out to me as crap or awkward in the nineties (including Doug’s bizarre obsession with initialisms) and haven’t got any better on a re-read. This is in direct contrast to Infinity or BTL, where I specifically remember bits of prose because of how beautifully written they are.

    The structure of this novel is built on playing around with the slow reveal that a) there are two Listers b) one of the Listers is evil. Unfortunately, the whole concept of an evil twin is such a hackneyed idea. You can play it for laughs (c.f Demons and Angels) but playing it for drama is tiresome as it will quickly get silly. Evil Lister is as thinly drawn as the Longman clones (who are evil because…novel) , and the finale is a dumpster fire.

    As previously moaned, the attempts to explain Evil Lister with the “each choice= new dimension” idea, actually conjures up some troubling things about our Lister. We also never get a reason why Evil Lister is alive, three million years in deep space, when his life has so drastically deviated from Lister’s at a young age. (Did he go on a Monopoly pub crawl with his mates?). Elsewhere, we get the awful Michael McGruder introduced in another dimension; but when you’ve opened up the idea of countless dimensions, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that this guy is *definitely* related to our Rimmer and we should definitely be invested in their 2 chapter relationship.

    Which brings me to Rimmer…who is short-changed by this novel in how such little time is spent in his head, how little he contributes to the story, and how he spends such little time with Lister. The strongest character and core-relationship of Red Dwarf, and it seems to be tossed away in this novel. Maybe Doug was anticipating a Rimmer-less Series VII, so decided to see how it would work by just barely using the character here? Although on that logic, was he expecting a Cat-less Series VII too?

    I would remark on Kochanski, but I don’t get anything from her character at all. I’m invested in Lister’s relationship with Kochanski only in so much as what it means for Lister. I am not interested in seeing that relationship play out as some intergalactic love story. (Even her banging on about “My Dave” in Series VII is preferable to this). She is poorly defined, and the fact that her clothing (or lack thereof) is described often throughout the novel while no one else’s is (including The Cat) is, um, a thing.

    I’m filing away Last Human with Timewave and Series VIII, as “Red Dwarf I won’t be touching again”. It’s not good Red Dwarf, and if didn’t have that name attached, there’s no way I’d have read it past the prologue. Again, not something I’d say about any of the other novels. Including Backwards, which I’m genuinely enthusiastic to revisit…even if it gets a bit bleak and nasty.

  • Chapter 16

    Another terrible comparison gag here: “You’ve got less backbone than custard.”

    More vague storytelling as well: “It’s something to do with the Rage; it’s able to detect and neuter large electrical power sources.”

    The way that Reketrebn is sent up a mountain seems really clumsy. This is a character who could morph into any useful object, and yet now is reduced to simply carrying heavy stuff with the Cat.

    I think this is one of the major issues with including an almost undefeatable character. In Terminator 2 maybe the most important part of the movie was how to destroy the T-1000 and so enough time could be devoted to that part of the plot. In Last Human Reketrebn is about the 10th most important character, so Doug presumably hadn’t thought at all about what to do with a symbi-morph.

  • Chapter 17

    Rimmer’s speech to Michael is quite well done and I can imagine Chris delivering it (in a similar tone to the way he delivered his lines in the Observation Dome). The problem for me is that it shows Michael to be even more unlikeable as a character. I could understand him being disappointed to learn the truth, but his disgust at Rimmer being a technician seems heavy-handed.

    With only 4 chapters remaining, you fear that Doug is really going to struggle to wrap up the various plot threads effectively.

  • Chapter 18

    The section with the astro-strippers feels very cartoony and wouldn’t be out of place in The Simpsons. I can completely imagine, for example, Groundskeeper Willie starting an episode by using some paint stripping machinery, before Bart then causes chaos and endangers his life by attempting to use it himself. That sitcom structure would work rather better than this, as I’m sure plenty of regular readers would have forgotten that the astro-strippers were mentioned hundreds of pages ago.

    Why is it that when Michael utters the words, “that’s my pop” that an image of Scrappy Doo enters my mind?

    The last of the luck virus is used now (surely), and it seems like a fairly neat way of wrapping things up.

  • Does anyone pedantically separate Naylor, Doug’s Red Dwarf novel from the Grant, [Naylor/Rob]s in their strictly alphabetical library? I would have been forced to if I hadn’t avoided the dilemma by not re-buying it.

  • I suppose we should just be grateful that this novel introduces a concept called Astro-Strippers and doesn’t make it something awkwardly sexual.

  • Chapter 19

    Rimmer is almost gone and there is nothing they can do to bring him back (with the luck virus now having been used up once and for all!).

    Again, all of Reketrebn’s abilities appear to have been forgotten. It is also rather odd that the symbi-morph and McGruder seemingly end the book as part of the crew.

    If Doug were ever to write a follow-up novel, would it start with a 6 strong crew of Lister, Kryten, Cat, Kochanski, Reketrebn and McGruder???

  • Chapter 20

    The reveal of the luck virus, as other posters have mentioned, massively devalues what has gone before.

    It was fine when it was used in one episode, but resolving any problem with “And then they drank the magic potion” isn’t exactly great writing.

  • If Doug were ever to write a follow-up novel, would it start with a 6 strong crew of Lister, Kryten, Cat, Kochanski, Reketrebn and McGruder???

    No, three of them would trip out of an airlock in Chapter 1.

  • New headcanon: Michael McGruder and Alt-Lister are from the same dimension, and Michael’s Dad is actually the one who was shacked up with Kochanski. Yvonne’s stories about how great Arnold was are *not* bullshit.

  • Chapter 20

    The reveal of the luck virus, as other posters have mentioned, massively devalues what has gone before.
    It was fine when it was used in one episode, but resolving any problem with “And then they drank the magic potion” isn’t exactly great writing.

    You up to chapter 20 and only now questioning how great the writing is

    I’m seriously considering whether this is the worst book I’ve ever read multiple times.

  • I’m seriously considering whether this is the worst book I’ve ever read multiple times.

    It’s not even the worst Red Dwarf book I’ve ever read, thanks to someone uploading the Log No. 1996 to the Internet Archive last year.

    Space Corps Survival Manual pretty bad too, but saved by the musing on self-cannibalism being “biting your nails taken to its logical conclusion.”

  • I’m seriously considering whether this is the worst book I’ve ever read multiple times.

    It’s not even the worst Red Dwarf book I’ve ever read, thanks to someone uploading the Log No. 1996 to the Internet Archive last year.
    Space Corps Survival Manual pretty bad too, but saved by the musing on self-cannibalism being “biting your nails taken to its logical conclusion.”

    Might be rose tinted spectacles as I’ve not read it for a while, but I like the Space Corps Survival Manual, the character bits are a bit crap but there’s some amusing stuff in there. They used that 70s computer font for Kryten if memory serves, which is the main crime of that book.

    I’d take it over The Log, Bruce Dessau or however you spell it’s books of incorrect Red Dwarf information, and Last Human.

  • Last Human has so many issues, and yet a lot of them come from it being Doug overreaching, rather than it being unwarranted crap. It’s a horrible rushed mess, but at least there’s a lot of ambition and heart to it.

  • Last Human has so many issues, and yet a lot of them come from it being Doug overreaching, rather than it being unwarranted crap. It’s a horrible rushed mess, but at least there’s a lot of ambition and heart to it.

    I was reading chapters 11, 12 and 13 earlier and my main thought whilst doing so was that there are *too* many ideas going on in here. Every chapter seems to throw up something new. I’m so confused by what is going on with Lister at this point. What The Rage is or how it came to be. I understand McGruder’s involvement but don’t understand why. At all.

    And then the stuff with Kryten and DNA … there’s jokes in there that I think only work because you see them on screen. That double polaroid gag doesn’t work on the page written as it is I don’t think.

  • And then the stuff with Kryten and DNA … there’s jokes in there that I think only work because you see them on screen.

    In fairness I think all the novels have this element to some extent. The scenes that are lifted from the TV show sometimes only work because you’re reading in the performance that you’ve already seen.

    It’s also part of what makes the significantly altered scenes so jarring though. So you’re reading the DNA section and inevitably imagining the interactions with Lister, and when that doesn’t happen (and it’s Kochanski, Rimmer and Cat instead) your brain pushes back and tells you it’s wrong.

    It’s why I like the wholly original material that expands on the TV show ideas better than I like the lifted-but-altered stuff. Kryten injuring himself and becoming frustrated is a nice moment that works well for DNA and isn’t coloured by knowing it was different in the TV version, like a lot of that section is.

  • In fairness I think all the novels have this element to some extent. The scenes that are lifted from the TV show sometimes only work because you’re reading in the performance that you’ve already seen

    That might be true. But this is the first time I’ve really felt it.

    That said, I’ve definitely struggled transposing scene I know from TV into earlier books where they’re slightly different because the books are sooo similar. Yet with DNA, which it’s a bit odd having Kryten do the zoom/nipple/polaroid scene with everyone but Lister … I had no issue reading them sat in Starbug’s midsection with Kochanski and Rimmer delivering those lines because the book is so wildly different, I’m not reading it as Red Dwarf anymore … sort of .

  • In fairness I think all the novels have this element to some extent. The scenes that are lifted from the TV show sometimes only work because you’re reading in the performance that you’ve already seen.

    It’s hard to tell – it was so long ago and the memories of the episodes are so much stronger now – but I wonder if this might be why I’ve never cared so much about Marooned compared to most people, since I read it in the novel a couple of years before I saw it and it didn’t really stand out amid the sci-fi set pieces.

    I don’t think that was such an issue in the first novel, since the heavy-lifting Future Echoes, Kryten and Me2 bits were some of my favourite parts the first time I read it, when I hadn’t seen those. But the earlier scripts were a bit less informed by the performances anyway.

  • That’s interesting. I guess I come at it having seen the episodes before reading the novels, and assume most people will be the same, but I guess not everyone will have done it in that order.

  • I think when I first read Infinity, I had all the Remastered videos except the first, so I first experienced Future Echoes through the book. “Rip his nipples off” still sounds wrong to me to this day.

  • Overall Thoughts

    I was just a kid when I watched III, IV, V and VI as they were broadcast and, with the optimism of youth, I just assumed that Rob and Doug would continue to write a series every year to infinity. Instead we had the void after Series VI, so when I first read this book my main reaction was simply one of relief that we could read more about the adventures of (kind of) the same characters.

    I remember also being impressed by Doug’s inventiveness and it felt like he was still full of ideas for Dwarf (which made it even stranger when Series VII was based mainly around other writers’ concepts).

    Reading it again now, it comes across (unsurprisingly) as a sitcom writer’s novel. The structure of Dwarf has often been to introduce a concept early on that is paid off later in an episode (war games in Meltdown, the Tension Sheet in Timeslides, Rimmer’s unromantic nature in Holoship etc.), and that works perfectly over 28 minutes.

    Doug attempting the same trick numerous times in a novel doesn’t have the same effect. Too many characters, concepts and locations are introduced and very few of them can be dealt with satisfactorily. It feels like just when you are starting to become interested in an idea, Doug has decided to move on again…

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