DwarfCast 134 - Book Club #11: Last Human (Part Four) featured image
Subscribe to DwarfCasts:  RSS  •  iTunes

Well, it’s been quite a journey but we’re finally here: Last Human is finished. I don’t think we realised when we started this endeavour just how interesting the revisiting of Doug’s solo novel would be, but I think we’ve all come out of the other side a little wiser and a lot more weary of acronyms. So, join the last human alive Ian Symes, mankind’s final hope Danny Stephenson and the universe’s one remaining broccoli farmer Jonathan Capps as they discuss the second half of The Rage and reflect on what is most certainly a very weird and sometimes frustrating book.

DwarfCast 134 – Book Club #11: Last Human (Part Four) (109.4MB)

If you’ve not already guessed, it’s now time to move onto Rob’s solo novel, Backwards, and its altogether more sensibly sized chapters. In the next episode of the Book Club we’ll be covering the Prologue – Every Good Boy and Part 1 – Reverse Universe. Get read up and then leave your thoughts below, but don’t forget to do it forwards!!!!1

Show notes

169 comments on “DwarfCast 134 – Book Club #11: Last Human (Part Four)

Scroll to bottom

  • Still halfway through listening, but I read the “pair of unoculars” bit as a clunky joke about how it’s technically inaccurate to call binoculars a pair of binoculars, because that would be two sets of binoculars. A single set of binoculars is itself a pair of unoculars, not a pair of binoculars.

    But maybe I’ve completely misread that.

  • Shit, I forgot to read any of the book. Listening to the podcast regardless.

    An excellent decision.

  • My first edition hardback has no merchandise adverts in the back at all. Just a blank page. I feel cheated.

  • That Roger Mann: Europe’s Scariest Man story referenced at 30 minutes is one of my favourite things ever. “As I was leaving the house, the phone rang. It was Pelé.”

  • My first edition hardback has no merchandise adverts in the back at all. Just a blank page. I feel cheated.

    I have two editions though both apparently printed in 1995, but with slightly different barcodes, publishing numbers, and yes indeed the merch page is different

  • I remember enjoying the book as a child on a school trip to the Isle of Wight. It was a miserable trip for me but before anyone thinks it was Doug’s writing, nah it was the bullying I endured. So that’s my defence of the book. If anyone says it’s utterly worthless, they’re slightly wrong. Mind, it does sound like it doesn’t hold up and is actually very shit.

    Ian’s reading reminded me of Simon Jones as Arthur Dent as well as Chris Barrie. That’s impressive!
    Cappsy’s reading reminded me of Chris Barrie. Always a good thing! I also genuinely like that bit, it reminds me of conversations I’ve never had with my own dad and how grateful I should be for such reticence.
    Danny’s section I remember verbatim from reading the book years ago. Needless to say, your performance outshone my inner monologue, and my inner monologue is basically Chris Barrie with Simon Jones occasionally taking over.

    Really enjoyed the podcast!

    How much are we allowed to go into opinions on Backwards? I have many.

    The question about us all talking in acronyms in the future made me lol. I’ll stfu now.

    EDIT Just remembered the edit function. These bloopers at the end are hilarious!

  • Lister and Kochanski mistakingly downing half a tube of sperm each would have been both a brilliant callback and reminiscent of the alternate urine recyc ending to VI.

  • The Last Human refers to the final vial of Lister’s sperm that has now been lost and wasted.

    Lister and Kochanski did have sex at the start of the book so it’s possible she is already pregnant. Or is the time that elapses in the book too great for her not to know by the end?

    I keep trying to think of if there are any clever ways in which that title makes sense and it just doesn’t does it.

  • I keep trying to think of if there are any clever ways in which that title makes sense and it just doesn’t does it.

    It only works if you read it in a sarcastic tone of voice.

  • Shit, I forgot to read any of the book. Listening to the podcast regardless.

    An excellent decision.

    Yeah good call, Jim. I definitely enjoyed listening to this Dwarfcast more than finishing the novel. The idea of Doug doing the Morse code bit because he was getting paid by the page has conjured an image of him as the Barbara Cartland character in Little Britain. I’m now convinced that’s exactly how Last Human was written. “Oh, publish!”

  • In terms of The Rage, I always felt the personalities of the innocent had one thing in wrong: anger, and that overpowered everything else and became the leading and, ultimately, only drive. It doesn’t have a personality, just anger.

    I think Evil Lister’s death would be satisfying if there was a brief moment where he suddenly realises what’s happened before he’s absorbed into The Rage. Instead… it’s like Gollum’s joy at the end of LotR, only without him being a sympathetic character.

    In terms of inflation, prices have almost exactly doubled since 1995. The t-shirt would be £19.66, so it’s a fair price.

    Ordered my copy of Backwards on Saturday, looking forward to getting stuck in later this week. I remember less about it than the first two but far more than Last Human.

  • I remember less about it than the first two but far more than Last Human.

    I was always pretty dismissive of both solo sequels. I had Last Human, but think I’ve only read Backwards properly/unabridged once, a few years ago when I realised what an oversight that was. So I know the basic events (even if I have to run the three-episode tape in my mind), but turns of phrase and weird idiosyncrasies will still be fresh, which is nice. I remember liking it, but I remember things I disliked too. I’m really hoping it’ll come out as the worthy sequel anyway.

  • My two strongest memories (other than the obvious feline biology joke, which is more a form of trauma) are Ace offering to let Rimmer spank him, and finding the idea of Rimmer thinking ‘fusspot indeed!’ hysterically out of character. I think the two bits aren’t in succession. I look forward to rereading the book and rediscovering the context of these classic Rob Grant moments.

  • Its funny how Doug likes to play on Lister being the Last Human idea but also likes to mix lister with other humans whenever possible.

    With Backwards it might be worth reading the Fanclub magazine that has a Rob Grant interview about the novel. if i remember right he explains some interesting details about his decision-making there. sadly i don’t think Doug ever talked about Last Human in the same way so we can never know for sure what Doug was thinking with his novel.

  • I’ll always go to bat for Backwards. It feels like the much more natural successors to the first two. The writing style and events all feel similar. It’s a bit more mature and fleshes things out a lot more and it weaves in series stuff in a good way without really lifting things wholesale

    It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s a genuinely enjoyable read.

  • Backwards logic: Okay, so it seems we’ve ditched the complication of the prophetic newspaper in BTL saying Lister was “joyously brought to life.” The news report in Backwards goes with “murder,” and so far everything’s behaving as if this is simply Earth on rewind, with all the reverse philosophy of life making more sense just being the characters’/narrator’s flights of fancy rather than how the Backwards population actually feel about things. That’s a relief, now I’m free to be hypervigilant for continuity nitpicks.

  • PROLOGUE
    This definitely lives up to my memory of these young Rimmer sections being very good indeed. It’s basically an alternative to the greenhouse scene in Dimension Jump but it’s great to get inside Rimmer’s head here. The present tense works very nicely, like the bit in BTL where the Polymorph’s in Rimmer’s databank and his memories are making him angry. The Every Good Boy… device is great too.
    Shame about “spazzes” but the stuff about Rimmer’s classmates is very funny.

    Big fan of Demetri Martin’s alternatives to Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, including ‘Entire Generation Blows. Dammit Facebook!’ and especially ‘Spell “Egg” But Don’t Finish’.

    SO FAR…
    Interesting that Rob changed “thirty-four years later” to thirty-six for the audiobook.

  • Just like to state that the long-form Bookclub Dwarfcasts are some of my very favourite G&T content in all the time I’ve been visiting the site. While I didn’t enjoy re-reading Last Human, the time spent listening to the Dwarfcasts has more than softened the blow.

  • Just like to state that the long-form Bookclub Dwarfcasts are some of my very favourite G&T content in all the time I’ve been visiting the site. While I didn’t enjoy re-reading Last Human, the time spent listening to the Dwarfcasts has more than softened the blow.

    Absolutely agree. They’ve been a real highlight and I’ve enjoyed both the Dwarfcasts and the linked forum chats. Lots of great insights as well as lots of laughs throughout.

  • Interesting that Rob changed “thirty-four years later” to thirty-six for the audiobook.

    It says thirty-six in chapter eight.

    PROLOGUE

    It does set expectations of the book being more Rimmer-centric than it is, but I like that chapter one continues from Rimmer’s POV, at least. And it’s good to get the teaser for coming attractions when it can be easy to forget that this book covers anything more than Backwards.

    PART ONE (spoilers)

    This is fantastic. Like others have said, it feels like a direct continuation of the BTL style, opening with action movie peril in a strange setting that transforms a classic episode almost unrecognisably and makes us long for the return home to Red Dwarf and some normalcy (that may be a theme). Up against BTL part one, I like this better.

    Using the sci-fi plot device to solve a murder mystery makes it more than the gimmick it was in the episode, and it’s done really well. I had to keep stopping to check whether things sounds right. I’m not sure about Starbug, the only anomaly I noticed was Kryten short-circuiting when that should have technically unhappened later (earlier), like Rimmer’s battery.

    Small points:

    – Niagara Falls and reverse rockslide are maybe influence from the Superman films (since the “ex-patriot (sic) of Krypton” is referenced later).
    – “Something unspeakable happened” – but I’ll go into detail anyway. Cat’s poo and the apparition of the pig feel like they’re testing the water / grooming for worse atrocities.
    – Kryten has actually been to Earth before, but bringing that up would just create problems. Let it go.
    – Mandatory nose cone appearance and Chekhov’s agonoids (small a, actually).
    – Nice to get an explanation for Cat becoming Starbug’s pilot against character, which is just assumed in VI.
    – I thought this was going to be a straightforward 1 episode adaptation = 1 part job, so where part one ends is a nice surprise.
    – Everyone gets something to do, even if it’s just to be the comic relief. Quality.

  • OK, here we go.

    PROLOGUE

    And we’re back. Back to beautiful prose, rich character detail and Rimmer repositioned as the most engaging focal point of the novels. Compare it to the po faced prologue of Last Human and I know which one instantly *feels* like Red Dwarf. This is the reason that I’ve wanted more Rob Grant RD novels for the last 25 smegging years. We can argue about who’s the better RD writer until the cows comes home, but there’s simply no argument about who’s the better RD novelist based on the only two available exhibits.

    All that said, I have an overriding problem with Backwards; and it’s, unfortunately, quite a big one. It relates to the structure of the whole damn thing and it’s tricky to ignore on a re-read simply because of the presence/content of the Prologue, Midlogue and Endlogue). Far too early to talk about it yet, but we’ll get there. So, yeah, nicely written stuff (you could make a fantastic short story out of just these “logues”) but not without quibbles when placed in *this* novel.

    Did anyone ever get “ranked” at school like poor young Arnie? (is this specifically the criteria on whether children are “kept down”?)

  • I’ve not started on the read yet. But last time I read the book, which was only a couple of years ago, I remember being a bit annoyed that it isn’t explained how Cat has remained the same age as Lister despite 30 years having passed.

    Now, we can assume he was in stasis or deep sleep but it’s not mentioned right? Or am I misremembering?

  • Did anyone ever get “ranked” at school like poor young Arnie? (is this specifically the criteria on whether children are “kept down”?)

    I don’t know if this is quite relevant here as my (theoretically prized & signed) copy of Backwards is in a box somewhere so I can’t read the chapters (and my memory is that it was better than Last Human but also horrible and I don’t want to read it again)… but my school absolutely ranked every pupil at the end of term based on exam results and then sat everyone in an assembly and someone in authority read the rankings out. I can’t remember if it was all 250 pupils in the year or just the top 50, but everyone got their position. This seemed normal at the time, was it not?

  • Not mentioned. I’ve only just realised that Holly’s regeneration solution for Lister could have elegantly solved his own pressing lifespan problem too. I guess they just didn’t like Holly any more.

    My schools didn’t do ranking, at least not visible to us.

  • Just like to state that the long-form Bookclub Dwarfcasts are some of my very favourite G&T content in all the time I’ve been visiting the site. While I didn’t enjoy re-reading Last Human, the time spent listening to the Dwarfcasts has more than softened the blow.

    Absolutely agree. They’ve been a real highlight and I’ve enjoyed both the Dwarfcasts and the linked forum chats. Lots of great insights as well as lots of laughs throughout.

    That’s incredibly gratifying, as is the fact that people keep writing their own novels worth of analysis for us to cherry pick in the episodes. This is the most fun I’ve had on G&T for years.

  • I was ranked at school, but anyway I feel really awful for Rimmer in the prologue. I think I must have the same issue with the book as Pete but I’ll save it for the end. I read this while still at secondary school (the first time I read it, I am now nowhere near a school*) and related quite a lot to Rimmer’s situation so the opening had me entirely invested in his character. As an aside, the whole bit reminds me a bit of a plot thread in Fat. Rob is really good at this sort of thing, putting characters in ridiculously horrible emotional places without making them the punchline. He can stop and have these character moments which don’t even have jokes in them, maybe because he’s confident that the humorous sections are of a high enough quality to ballance these parts out.

    I’ll get my finger out and read part one now.

    *not a legal thing, and I don’t think I have to prove that to the lovely and forgiving people who post here.

  • Yeah, I echo the positive comments about the book club Dwarfcasts and really enjoy both listening and being able to contribute a comment or two.

    I completely understand G&T doing something else next, but (as I said before) I would hope that at some point Rob’s solo novels might be tackled.

  • Firstly a mention of the Special Acknowledgement…

    It might be just me, but the line “for the bits of this book that were inspired by the TV shows we wrote together, I am indebted to him” seems professional yet perfunctory. About as dispassionate as a special acknowledgement could be.

  • Prologue

    these few pages feel like a better exploration of Rimmer’s character than anything in the entire Last Human novel. It’s nice to immediately be able to forget about the nonsense of Rimmer’s brothers having chips inserted into their brains.

    That said, my memory of this book is that it has a lot less invention than Doug’s solo novel. The prologue is an early example of that as it is essentially an extension of an idea in Dimension Jump. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that specifically, but my memory is that Doug had too many ideas and Rob too few.

    I’m interested to see how true that is now as this is all based on reading the book many years ago.

  • One

    The majority of this chapter feels like a fine if unremarkable continuation of the previous book. It’s a positive that Rob realized that having them meet up at Niagara Falls was always going to be problematic, and that he also has Rimmer speaking backwards in an attempt to fix one of the episode’s plot holes.

    One of Rimmer’s lines makes me chuckle, “I did the best I could, given that I was walking backwards and I don’t have eyes in my buttocks.”

    The finest moment of the chapter by far, in my opinion, is the cliffhanger ending. It might not be the most original way to conclude a chapter, and has a hint of Agatha Christie and a million other mystery writers about it, but announcing a murder is certainly an effective way of grabbing the reader’s attention.

  • Two

    Again, I think Rob’s writing here is both smart and also generic. If you were to read a “How to write a gripping novel” guide, it would probably suggest introducing a threat (which Rob did in the previous chapter) and introducing a deadline (which he does here). It’s another effective way of adding jeopardy at the end of the chapter.

    Both Rimmer’s batteries overloading and the conjunction of the planets not being right perhaps require a slight suspension of disbelief. As it’s set in a backwards universe, I guess you could say the same about the entire book though!

  • I completely understand G&T doing something else next, but (as I said before) I would hope that at some point Rob’s solo novels might be tackled.

    I’m going to read Colony next anyway, and maybe Incompetence again after that, so if it’s not really considered worth a series of podcasts, we could have a forum thread.

  • Ok, here goes.

    COVER

    The Salvador Dali-esque melted clocks are a nice cover image I think. It suggests weirdness involving time, but also comedy and levity. And the fact that all the clock faces are in reverse is a nice touch. As is the backwards K in Backwards. (The As and W might also be flipped for all I know.)

    INSIDE COVER FLAP

    This is actually a really fun little piece of writing in itself. The good/bad stuff has a decent joke structure, and it’s a nice way of immediately indicating that this is a follow-on from IWCD and BTL but not from Last Human.

    THANKS TO doesn’t include the show’s cast, which seems a bit of an oversight.

    Neither does the SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, which is a nice if somewhat perfunctory mention of Doug – and seeing “erstwhile” does make me a bit sad (and also makes me think of Barbra Bellini.)

    Anyway, on to the

    PROLOGUE:

    This is the good shit. Being inside young-Rimmer’s head is brilliant in that it illustrates and explains so much about the character’s deep-seated neuroses while also making him hugely sympathetic. Because how can you really laugh at the emotional turmoil of an innocent seven-year-old boy?

    It’s a great example of taking a good idea from the show and expanding on it in a way that only a novel can.

    It also makes you realise, in contrast, just how much of Last Human was written from an external perspective – describing what characters are saying or doing – rather than really getting inside their heads and exploring what they’re thinking or feeling, like this is. These internalised sections were some of my favourite parts of IWCD and BTL and it’s great to see such a bold return to them here. Overall, it’s just immediately gripping stuff that really puts us inside Rimmer (eurgh).

    SO FAR:

    A nice little recap that again makes clear that this is following on from BTL, and that Last Human should be ignored. Which I remember being something I was vaguely surprised by at the time, as I wasn’t tracking the novels that closely.

    PART ONE: Reverse Universe

    This opening quote about being the sum of our choices is something that has really stuck with me over the years and was immediately familiar as I turned the page, but I had forgotten that this is where I first heard it.

    ONE

    Quite a lot of story logic is set up quite quickly here, including Rimmer now speaking backwards.

    I love that his conversation with the girl at the souvenir counter works perfectly logically for her in her direction, with Rimmer’s baffled responses prompting the answers that he’s already heard. Shades of Future Echoes in the clever construction of this (and the later bit with the waiter cleaning the table). It has the kind of satisfying clockwork mechanism you’d expect of a great Two Ronnies sketch, and it immediately sets up the notion that this take on Backwards is going to be more sophisticated and thought-through in terms of logic than the TV version.

    Well, sometimes anyway.

    Interesting that a description of the reverse-fall of the Berlin Wall has now replaced the bit about WWII (and Hitler retreating across Europe) from the TV version. Both are funny so I guess it’s just a case of a slightly more modern and updated reference. 

    All the petty, squabbly dialogue feels very real here, very Dwarf.

    Cat’s phonetic backwards-forwards speak takes some getting used to but is generally pretty decipherable. The important bits are translated and the other stuff is just fun to work out.

    Good ending to this chapter too, with the murder revelation. It immediately establishes a more serious, mystery-thriller-esque vibe for this book. 

    TWO

    Interesting that the chocolate eclair has now become a bacon roll. I think that’s actually little less “mildly erotic” than the TV version if I’m honest. Although it might depend just how much you like bacon.

    Kryten’s feeling of guilt over the “theft” of the cagoule is a fairly subtle way of setting up that he hasn’t fully got his head around how culpability and crime works on Backwards-Earth (because obviously he’s not stealing it – in this world, he’s leaving it there for someone else to pick up later.) Hmmm, I wonder if this idea may become more important later. It’s not quite Chekhov’s cagoule, but it’s close.

    Also a decent ending again to this chapter with the threat of Rimmer’s battery. There’s a nice page-turner quality to these chapter endings, something to propel you forward and make you want to read on.

    THREE 

    The description of Lister’s fight with the cops works ok, but isn’t quite as funny as watching an “un-rumble”.

    Lister’s reunion dialogue with Rimmer is perfect though. It captures their uneasy friendship nicely – almost a “moonlight” moment. 

    Again, another good cliffhanger (almost literally) here. 

    FOUR

    This action scene on the cliff is exactly the kind of thing an infinite-budget book version of Backwards should do (and decades before Tenet. And more logical. And funnier.) It’s described very well and you can almost see the action play out in your mind’s eye.

    Somehow Cat’s reverse-shittery isn’t quite as funny without the performance though. Although maybe this answers the eternal, age-old question of whether Cat was meant to be shitting or pissing at the end of the TV version of Backwards.

    FIVE

    Kryten’s stupid backwards high-speed anorak-garbed jogging is another very funny image to conjour.

    The “when in Rome” joke doesn’t work as well when Rome becomes Emor. It essentially blows the punchline in the setup.

    The police siren poohw-poohwing can’t help but recall Blackadder. It’s a good job Kryten didn’t poohw-poohw the poohw-poohw. Fatal error!

    SIX

    The dynamo resolution of Rimmer’s battery problem makes it feel a bit too easily dealt-with, not really the big problem it was set up as. It makes it feel a bit cheap.

    The Santa Claus gag somehow doesn’t work as well when it’s not delivered as dialogue. But it’s a good joke to include.

    The logic of the reverse car-chase works well, and Rimmer’s reactions are funny. This continues into:

    SEVEN

    “What are you doing, David?” feels very wrong for Rimmer, but I think it’s meant to. It’s Rimmer asking in an overly relaxed, calm and friendly fashion about something terrifying.

    Again, another good cliffhanger here with the discovery of Starbug. Rob’s good at these, isn’t he? It makes me wonder whether you can reverse-engineer it and see which parts he wrote of IWCD and BTL, as there are some similarly good chapter endings in there too.

    EIGHT

    It’s in this chapter where the Backwards-logic starts to get a bit confusing for me. Some of Starbug’s processes (doors opening after Kryten instructs them to etc.) seem to follow forwards-universe logic, but mostly the action is still reverse-logic. So which is it? If Starbug is subject to reverse-logic, as it seems to be in some respects, why don’t its doors open before Kryten presses the button (say).

    It’s probably a little bit pointless to nitpick the reverse logic, because inevitably it’s not going to be water-tight, but given that the book makes much more of an effort to keep it all consistent than the TV version, it makes things like this stick out a bit more.

    I remember finding Lister’s reminiscences very sad when I first read them as a teenager. Him and Kochanski growing apart and un-meeting is a real kick in the guts.

    NINE

    All the stuff with the pig feels particularly absurd given the reasonably “realistic” tone of the book so far. It doesn’t quite work for me.

    I think it’s at this point, with the discovery of the rusted engine and Kryten’s related concerns, that the reader is meant to be able to start piecing together what has happened and why Kryten is so worried about it. But it does make me wonder in what state Starbug arrived in this Backwards world. Presumably it was intact when it entered this Earth’s atmosphere and landed, which makes me wonder how it can have lost its engines to the ground in a way that still maintains the backwards logic. It probably doesn’t bear thinking about too closely but when you think it all through, it doesn’t really work, as the engine should have been in the ground from the moment Starbug first appeared on this world.

    Again, great cliffhanger.

    TEN

    This whole chapter is a great bit of sci-fi horror with some dark comedy and a great payoff. I’d completely forgotten this section of the story so rereading it this time, it landed just as effectively.

    ELEVEN

    Lister’s moment of revelation really works here too. It’s well-written and you really feel the weight of him realising that he was wrongly imprisoned the whole time.

    TWELVE

    Hmmm, aganoids, that’s new. I guess it’s just an extra detail Rob wanted to throw in and they probably won’t ever be mentioned again.

    Trohbah took me a while to translate as Abort for some reason. Again, doing it phonetically makes it a bit more interesting than just writing the words backwards.

    THIRTEEN

    This is all quite exciting, and again the kind of detailed action sequence that the show would struggle to do.

    The missing of the deadline feels quite dramatic and this whole section ends on a great gag with Kryten’s stammering going from “fuh, fuh” to “twelve”. Another one of those scenes you can really “see” being acted out by the cast.

    And that’s the end of this section. It’s good this book, innit?

  • But it does make me wonder in what state Starbug arrived in this Backwards world. Presumably it was intact when it entered this Earth’s atmosphere and landed, which makes me wonder how it can have lost its engines to the ground in a way that still maintains the backwards logic.

    I didn’t explain this bit very well because of the confusion of having both forwards and backwards timelines. But maybe it’s best left for a later discussion as it might get a bit spoilery here.

  • I think the disappearing engines are the same magic as “Is my eye bruised?” in the episode, you arrive as you… left. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Starbug did seem to be a mix of running forwards and backwards, even though everything here (technology and biology, not consciousness) should be subject to the reverse laws.

    I really liked the poohw-poohw and other reverse sound effects, they helped to sell the immersion.

  • I think the disappearing engines are the same magic as “Is my eye bruised?” in the episode, you arrive as you… left. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Yes, I think you’re right. But then from the Backwards perspective, how did Starbug “leave” Earth (ie. when Kryten, Cat and Rimmer arrived). Was the engine still in the ground or was it attached at that point? At what point did it get un-buried, if it even did? And if it didn’t ever get un-buried (and rusted to nothingness in Backwards world), did Starbug’s engine just disappear as soon as it entered Backwards-Earth’s atmosphere? And who’s eating this chicken?

    Ultimately, like with the episode, it’s probably best just to adopt the Austin Powers “forget about it and try to enjoy yourself” approach.

  • I see it as Starbug entering the… whatever they entered (this is already falling apart), with Starbug intact and well maintained on their side. Then everything and everyone physically resets to the end of their projected Backwards continuity, which means the engines vanish and appear in the ground. Kryten explains that they didn’t use the landing engines when “taking off” to arrive, so they just didn’t notice that they weren’t there any more. Since they’ve been detached for 12 or however many years, Starbug doesn’t alert them that anything’s suddenly wrong. Although I don’t even know if this is what you’re asking or where I live or what my name is.

  • Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. And I guess it’s how it has to work. At the point where time running forwards meets time running backwards there has to be some break point where everything suddenly changes – like you say, the equivalent of Lister’s black eye suddenly appearing.

    So Starbug must suddenly see its landing engines disappear at the moment it arrives (and like Kryten says at the end of Chapter Eight, they used take-off procedures to “land” when they got there, so conceivably might not have noticed.)

  • I think you just have to accept that whilst Rob maybe trying to take this universe a little more seriously than in the TV show, he hasn’t sat down and worked out an entirely reserved timeline of events. As each thing happens, he works out a backwards-y why of it happening, and at times there’s some conflicts and buts that don’t quite make sense.

    I don’t accept that entering a backward universe suddenly sets you to your state after events that haven’t happened to you yet, in no reality does that make sense. It assumes you were already there (or that you don’t leave at the point of your arrival) otherwise Lister should in theory have an unexplained black eye before they reach Backward Earth. Because whilst time is running backwards, from the characters perspective they are still operating in a sort of forwards momentum.

    And if that’s supposed to make any sense I don’t want to be sober.

    That all said, there is form in the Red Dwarf universe for you to just magically confirm to the laws of whatever universe you are in, and that’s Parallel Universe … though by that logic when Lister leave’s he ought to suddenly not be pregnant as he is back in a universe where the laws of male pregnancy don’t apply.

  • The logic of Backwards (TV version) I can forgive because of ‘Don’t ask.’

    The logic of Parallel Universe I can forgive because of ‘I’m going to be an uncle.

    Next time I post I will have finished reading part one, I swear.

  • Young Rimmer trying to forge better exam results with a crayon seems a little too dumb to me – like Lister’s bucket and spade join the dots.
    I was so underwhelmed by both Last Human and the title of this book (based on a seven year old TV episode I had watched many times) that I didn’t read this until at least 1999. I still think I’ve only managed the unpleasant Gunmen adaptation once. In both books cases I think the abridged audio versions are an improvement.

  • In both books cases I think the abridged audio versions are an improvement.

    The abridged version failed to impress me like the first two had when I borrowed it from the school library at 12. I found the backwards stuff interesting (hadn’t seen the episode yet), but it lost me from the weird pig/hermits bit and I didn’t find the rest funny or interesting after that (I had seen Dimension Jump).

    Finally read the full version 20 years later(!) and I liked it a lot more, although that tailed off later on.

  • In both books cases I think the abridged audio versions are an improvement.

    I only had one book case, but the abridged audio versions did take up less room.

    Uh hmm. I only listened to Last Human and Backwards audiobooks once each and I think they were unabridged. Wasn’t actually aware there were abridged versions of those two. I guess I only bought the audiobooks anyway, because they had the Red Dwarf logo slapped on them, but in the case of Infinity and Better Than Life, they really are the best examples of the medium. (Coogan’s audiobook of I, Partridge is also obviously up there).

  • Well the Backwards audiobook trims out the whole Gunmen of the apocalypse chapter. but i guess thats the issue with both of the abridged audiobooks being around 6 hours each and Rob Grants book being the much longer novel.

    I think in the audiobook there might be a slight alteration to bridge the ending without the Gunmen chapter.

  • Yes, the I Partridge audiobook had me laughing literally like a drain every 20 seconds. I still reminisce about that night shift at the Post Office Depot in 2011.

  • How often and hard do drains laugh in the part of the world you live??

  • Three

    Just to show that it’s not unique to Doug, Rob is also forced to use the word “somehow” to try to explain a convoluted plot idea. “Somehow, his wife had belonged to this place, in a way he never could.”

    The feeling I get from this chapter is that Rob isn’t quite as certain of the logic of this world as he should be. And if the writer is uncertain, there’s always going to be confusion for the reader.

  • I think that’s Doug writing his way out of having to have Kochanski tag along as a 5th character in the rest of his book. If she came back to life and lived as Lister, she’d want to leave and go back to Red Dwarf. So he has to come up with some sci-fi spacey wacey timey wimey smeg to explain why she doesn’t remember that universe, is fully integrated into the Backwards world so that she ends up leaving (meeting) Dave and is therefore not around anymore.

    The feeling I get from this chapter is that Rob isn’t quite as certain of the logic of this world as he should be.

    This is probably true, because it is a logistical nightmare and no-one is going to fully resolve it, but I don’t think the Kochanski example is good evidence.

  • I think that’s Doug writing his way out of having to have Kochanski tag along as a 5th character in the rest of his book. If she came back to life and lived as Lister, she’d want to leave and go back to Red Dwarf. So he has to come up with some sci-fi spacey wacey timey wimey smeg to explain why she doesn’t remember that universe, is fully integrated into the Backwards world so that she ends up leaving (meeting) Dave and is therefore not around anymore.

    It’s not simply that though as the lines before that about Lister indicate.

  • Just realised I said Doug when I should have said Rob.

    I need to get to reading this as I’m doing it from memory. What are the lines about Lister indicating?

  • I actually think Kochanski being part of the Backwards Earth (in a way that Lister isn’t) makes sense.

    At the end of BTL there’s that whole bit where Holly instructs the crew to give Kochanski’s remains those radiation treatments that prepare her to be put on Backwards Earth and return to life. I took that to be Holly instructing them how to effectively convert her into a dead person of Backwards Earth, rather than a dead person of the forwards-universe, so that she would come back to life as planned when they took her there.

    Presumably, without that magical radiation treatment, her remains would still be forwards-universe remains that obey forwards-universe laws, and so would just stay as a dead pile of ashes rather than un-dying and un-cremating (or whatever) when she goes to Backwards Earth.

    Lister on the other hand is alive the whole time and doesn’t go through any kind of conversion process into a Backwards-universe person, which is why he can’t think like them and can’t “remember” the future etc.

    It ties up so neatly and provides such a perfect rationale for Kochanski to be taken off the table again that I wonder whether that was always the intention when writing that last section of BTL.

  • Yes, I think I agree with that understanding. There’s obviously a lot of room for manoeuvre on this, bearing in mind that Kochanski “pre-deceases” Lister on the backwards Earth (e.g. she’s alive when he is resurrected). Their entry point into the reverse universe is clearly not identical, so I don’t think I was left with the preconceptions on reading BTL, that she’d be sticking around for The Last Human.

    The effect of all of this though is that the Kochanski-crush is essentially ejected with the character in this novel as it would be redundant to focus any more on Lister’s dream when he’s already spent 60 years with her. I can’t remember how this plays into the Spanners stuff.

  • Lister on the other hand is alive the whole time

    I worded this badly. I meant that he’s a living forwards-universe person the whole time, before and after his death.

  • Their entry point into the reverse universe is clearly not identical

    Yes, it feels like Kochanski must have been put there a fair time before Lister so that she un-dies in time for him to meet her immediately after he un-dies.

    Who knows what that period between being put on Backwards Earth and Lister un-dying is like for her though. From the backwards-universe perspective, presumably she lives as a recently-bereaved widow for a short while before dying of grief soon afterwards or something. And then she’s cremated. And then aliens come and steal her remains.

  • This reminds me, I always find it quite amusing how Timothy Spall’s character says Lister *should* have got Kochanski, and that is is a love affair across time, space, death and reality.

    When that is sort of exactly what happens in various forms, in the TV show and the books.

    Good explanations though there guys, that does neatly wrap things up in a satisfying way.

  • I need to get to reading this as I’m doing it from memory. What are the lines about Lister indicating?

    I don’t have the book in front of me, but my comments about Chapter 3 were regarding two separate things. The lines about Lister and Kochanski and the use of the word “somehow” obviously relate to the previous Dwarfcasts as that word has been ubiquitous.

    My comments about Rob not quite having a grip on the universe were meant in general and not to specifically reference only that obviously.

    It was definitely the right choice to start the book without Kochanski and to just feature the 4 main principals, though.

  • The lines about Lister and Kochanski and the use of the word “somehow” obviously relate to the previous Dwarfcasts as that word has been ubiquitous.

    In a nice bit of circularity, I think that running gag started with “somehow, Holly had done it” at the end of BTL, when Lister reacts to Kochanski being resurrected (and being the same age as him, which is presumably also part of what the treatments for her remains were doing at the end of BTL).

  • Interesting that a description of the reverse-fall of the Berlin Wall has now replaced the bit about WWII (and Hitler retreating across Europe) from the TV version. Both are funny so I guess it’s just a case of a slightly more modern and updated reference.

    Of course it’s also how we learn when this part of the book is set in human history terms. Lister must have undied in 2025. (Or 5202?)

    TWO
    It’s quite a neat little coincidence that in both solo novels the first time Lister appears he’s in custody and being transported in a vehicle.

  • I only listened to Last Human and Backwards audiobooks once each and I think they were unabridged. Wasn’t actually aware there were abridged versions of those two.

    Have you got ‘abridged’ and ‘unabridged’ the wrong way round there? To my knowledge there are *only* abridged versions of the LH and Backwards audiobooks.

  • Four

    We are only a tenth of the way through the book, but we have already read about Rimmer’s buttocks, Lister looking forward to a satisfying bowel movement and now the Cat having a reverse toilet stop. Rob seems to have been particularly anally fixated at this time.

    I still find the Cat scene amusing, even though I’m sure the detail might be a little too much for some.

  • Five

    By this point, I feel the descriptions of the universe (eg. humans exhaling oxygen) are starting to feel a little excessive and tiresome. Especially as the whole concept within Dwarf was already several years old by this point. I love the episode, for all its imperfections, but you can only hear variations on the same idea for so long before they start to wear thin.

    Rob’s constant attempts to add some drama at the end of the chapters are a much needed distraction.

  • It’s quite a neat little coincidence that in both solo novels the first time Lister appears he’s in custody and being transported in a vehicle.

    I don’t know what could have put that image in their minds.

  • Have you got ‘abridged’ and ‘unabridged’ the wrong way round there? To my knowledge there are *only* abridged versions of the LH and Backwards audiobooks.

    No, but as I say, only listened to them once apiece so very foggy memories of them. I was judging it more on how big the cases were (and how many cassettes there were inside), and they seemed larger than the abridged Infinity, BTL

  • ONE

    I remember this chapter being incredibly “reassuring” on first read. After all the weirdness of Last Human with its “alien” civilisations, the crew being in a mundane location which had been promised in the previous novel just felt like a bit of a relief.

    Rimmer is non-corporeal again, which shouldn’t be *a thing*, but like the Holly stuff later on, just makes this feel more in keeping with the continuity of the earlier novels.

    Rather than quote anything in the chapter, I’m going to quote that Independent interview with Doug;

    “It was weird, certainly at first. Before, it has always been the two of us. Rob would work the computer and I would pace around and make the coffee”

    I can understand completely how that arrangement would work when you’re writing a sitcom which exists predominantly on dialogue, but I’m inclined to think that this a key reason why the why the prose of this novel is so much more reminiscent of Infinity and BTL, than Last Human was.

  • TWO

    Not really sure why Chapter Two ends where it does, with a redundant threat about Rimmer’s existence (the batteries overloading, which I think goes nowhere), only to be followed up by a subsequent chapter which takes place in the exact same location, a few minutes earlier.

  • “It was weird, certainly at first. Before, it has always been the two of us. Rob would work the computer and I would pace around and make the coffee”

    That makes so much sense. This book feels so much more of a piece with IWCD and BTL.

  • Prologue
    Christ, there’s more Rimmer characterisation in the first page of this flashback than the whole of Last Human.

    Ah yes, Ron’s new insult, durnoid. I quite like it.

    So far…
    Yes, there’s an attempt to actually tie this in with the previous books. How, er, novel.

    One
    Rob immediately sets out his stall: he’s really, really going to try and make the backwards stuff work, unlike previous attempts. The conversation is the correct way around, and of course Rimmer is confused.
    Then she’s watching the news and it’s all thrown down the drain already. From her perspective, she should be un-learning about the split of the USSR, not learning about its formation.
    I promised myself I wasn’t going to approach the book like this.
    Anyway, it gets back to reality again with Kryten’s thoughts about the hoover and the mascara.

    Two
    “Which no doubt would be inserted into various drunks and druggies” is not only a very amusing phrase, but the first example of the very… visceral content we’ll be getting in this book. Quite mildly at this point, admittedly.
    There’s a real ease to the writing, it’s enjoyable to read, and little moments like Cat “who for some reason was licking his lips lustily” are nice details that made me snigger. It’s amazing just how clunky Last Human feels already.

    Given Kryten’s logical assessment of the backwards reality, how does he suppose Lister would end up as a sperm, given that his mother isn’t alive on Earth at this point?

    “The rebuilt Starbug” – even an explanation for how Starbug is in the book! Do you think Rob maybe re-read the first two before writing this, unlike Doug?

    Conjunction of the planets stopping them getting out of the solar system is bollocks, isn’t it?

    Three
    The backwards action definitely loses something on the page, doesn’t it?
    Does Cat’s attempted back-talk work? I quite like him trying and it still working out useless, but I can’t imagine him actually managing to do it. It would take minutes to work out each sentence.

    Ah, the explanation of Kochanski’s disappearance is, of course, “somehow”. What else would it be?

    Four
    The falling sequence actually works really well being written: grabbing a rock and jamming it into the mountain sounds funny, but would look unremarkable on screen.

    Ah yes, the pop scene that really needed more detail. Thanks, Rob.

    Five
    Hilarious image of Kryten’s running, there.

    Six
    Lister understanding the rules of this universe and Rimmer’s angry confusion make for some great bits of interplay between them.
    My biggest criticism so far is the inclusion of occasional dialogue / thoughts from the TV version. As ever, they’re sort of distracting, especially when surrounded by pretty good original material.
    Lister telling them to hang on after he’s already gone round the corner is great.

    Seven
    Oh God, the pig. That really made me uncomfortable as a kid.

    Lots of funny stuff here – brains of the operation, Rimmer’s heart and testicles meeting…

    Eight
    Details about Starbug really help you feel like the characters are actually there. Once again, this bit stands in stark contrast to Last Human, in which all we’re told is it’s green.

    Nine
    So, while the lead up to the big reveal is really well plotted, it does leave the somewhat awkward matter that, at some point between the crew leaving Starbug to find Lister and now, all the bits of the ship managed suddenly find themselves scattered and buried and covered in rust. They clearly didn’t arrive like that, so when did the conversion happen?

    Ten
    Details of a human body undying from an axe to the chest. Thanks, Rob.

    Twelve
    Chekhov’s agonoids

    Thirteen
    I love Rimmer’s joy at not having to take any of the blame.

    I was hoping to be able to just read that and enjoy it on its own, but it was pretty much impossible not to continually compare it to Last Human. Rob’s got the characters down, attention to detail, tight plotting, and a lot of new gags. No classic jokes, but solidly amusing from start to finish. Last Human feels like a sketch in comparison, a rough plan of a book that had yet to be written.

  • That makes so much sense. This book feels so much more of a piece with IWCD and BTL.

    God, I love the phrase “work the computer”. 90s as fuck.

  • I see most of my points had already been made. Good to see we’re all on the same page, chaps, well done all.

    I see my phone managed to sneak through one Rob -> Ron autocorrect, too.

  • From her perspective, she should be un-learning about the split of the USSR, not learning about its formation.

    Unless it’s clearly her viewpoint, I took these bits as just how the narrator/Rimmer fancifully imagine events when reversed, like Billy Pilgrim watching the war documentary backwards in Slaughterhouse-Five, and not how the Backwards people are actually experiencing life.

    The rebuilt Starbug

    Good spot, I’d just got used to accepting carelessness.

  • Turns out I don’t have much to say about the good novels. While the backwards action is getting a little wearing, it’s moving at such a good pace, that I’m not too fussd.

    SEVEN

    The Hillbillys seem to be straight out of Deliverance. I think we can now guess which author was responsible for the flock of sheep in the brothel in Infinity.

    EIGHT

    The more you think about Kochanski in the reverse-universe, the less it makes sense.

    I recall having a headcanon for BTL where the Kochanski remains were from the backwards reality, and the radiation stuff was just to level up their ages. Last Human contradicted this (as the Kochanski was explictly stated as being the one mentioned in Infinity), and Backwards contradicts it too…as this in Earth of the 1990s…and Kochanski is *somehow* going to be unborn in about twenty years. (Who/how are her parents?).

  • Does Cat’s attempted back-talk work? I quite like him trying and it still working out useless, but I can’t imagine him actually managing to do it. It would take minutes to work out each sentence.

    Isn’t it meant to be that everybody else is in back-talk mode, and so Cat’s dialogue is what his normal forwards-talk sounds like to them? Ie. backwards.

  • this in Earth of the 1990s…and Kochanski is *somehow* going to be unborn in about twenty years. (Who/how are her parents?).

    I assumed that Backwards-Earth would absorb this stuff into its reality. That by putting Kochanski’s Backwards-i-fied remains there, they’re absorbed into the timeline and something happens to make that logical from a Backwards-universe perspective. So essentially she will be un-born to parents who just wouldn’t have had her if the Dwarfers hadn’t put her remains there years later/earlier.

  • this in Earth of the 1990s…and Kochanski is *somehow* going to be unborn in about twenty years. (Who/how are her parents?).

    I assumed that Backwards-Earth would absorb this stuff into its reality. That by putting Kochanski’s Backwards-i-fied remains there, they’re absorbed into the timeline and something happens to make that logical from a Backwards-universe perspective. So essentially she will be un-born to parents who just wouldn’t have had her if the Dwarfers hadn’t put her remains there years later/earlier.

    The problems only occur because the “end” point on anyones life is birth, and this is a universe that is supposed to make more sense.

    Flip it. If someone from a backwards universe came to ours, sure things would be running in the wrong direction for them, but the end result for them would be death. Our universe wouldn’t have to magically account for their presence.

    In the backwards universe, the universe itself somehow has to start accounting for anything extraneous to the universe itself. Something that is unlikely in the first place.

    And, that shouldn’t be possible, as it is time running backwards and unwinding itself. It is the reverse of something that has already happened. It shouldn’t be possible to add anything new to it. Let alone on the physics level of generating matter out of no-where (considering all matter and energy are connected etc) to create an entire genetic lineage for this random person that has been introduced to the timeline who isn’t meant to be there.

    Not to mention, what were to have happened had they taken Kochanski with them? The universe would have somehow created these parents, who themselves have parents, who have parents and so on … and yet at some point these parents would presumably have absolutely no memory of giving birth to Kochanski, but she’d suddenly appear out of thin air at the age of 26 and they’d have all these loving memories of her. Basically abducting someone from this universe would again require the universe itself to make a correction for that. Which again is insane and against the entire premise of “this is just all of time but rewinding and going the other way).

    A further thought occurs, separate to this waffle, that the Backwards universe is indeed a completely separate universe to our own in the books. They specifically set that up, it is one of seven(?) universe they access via the omnizone in the centre of the blackhole. Where as in the episode Backwards, they access it via a time hole and are, by implication of that and Holly’s explanation of “Big Crunch, time running backwards” in their universe future.

  • Isn’t it meant to be that everybody else is in back-talk mode, and so Cat’s dialogue is what his normal forwards-talk sounds like to them? Ie. backwards.

    23 years and I’d never considered this version. But yes, you’re probably right.

    Edit: actually, no, Lister would still be able to understand him, surely? He might have trouble processing after so long, but he’d be able hear the forwards words.

  • In the backwards universe, the universe itself somehow has to start accounting for anything extraneous to the universe itself. Something that is unlikely in the first place.

    And, that shouldn’t be possible, as it is time running backwards and unwinding itself. It is the reverse of something that has already happened.

    That’s true of the TV version but is it true of the book version? I thought all we knew is that time ran in reverse, not that this stuff already all happened forwards once.

    Either way, the very presence of the Dwarfers changes things this time around. So even in the TV version, the backwards universe has to warp around the disruption they cause. (Because in forwards 1993, the first time around, you didn’t have all these backwards talking future-people appear.)

  • 23 years and I’d never considered this version. But yes, you’re probably right.

    Edit: actually, no, Lister would still be able to understand him, surely? He might have trouble processing after so long, but he’d be able hear the forwards words.

    From the very first chapter you have Rimmer reprogrammed to speak backwards and he now can’t understand Cat. And you have Kryten having to explain things to the Cat in forwards-speak.

    When Lister meets up with them in chapter three he makes a point of noting that Cat can’t understand backwards speak, when that’s what he and Rimmer and Kryten are using to communicate.

    So Cat is stuck in forwards mode and everyone else is in backwards mode – and the reader is with them so that we can understand the vast majority of what is being said.

    So Cat’s forwards speak now sound like backwards-speak to everyone, including the reader.

    Elpmis!

  • I’ll save my multiverse discontinuity nitpicking for when Ace Rimmer(s) shows up, but the same applied to Last Human.

  • When Lister meets up with them in chapter three he makes a point of noting that Cat can’t understand backwards speak, when that’s what he and Rimmer and Kryten are using to communicate.

    Nah, Lister can’t understand Cat either. I quote:

    Lister turned to Kryten. “What’s he say?”

  • Yeah, but that’s because Lister is at that point still fully in backwards-speak mode in his mind.

    The book makes a point of saying whenever Cat and Kryten are conversing in forwards-speak. Anything else is all backwards-speak.

    And later on, Lister can understand Cat’s normal forwards-speak when he concentrates and reverts his mind to forwards-speak.

    From chapter eight:

    “Lister looked up. He hadn’t used forward-speak for decades, but he ought to start practising. He ran the Cat’s words over in his head. Suddenly they clicked.”

    Even when Cat mutters to himself (“too disgusting”, after the reverse-shitting incident) it’s in the garbled phonetic backwards-forwards speak, and he wouldn’t be deliberately trying to say that backwards for the benefit of others.

  • In the backwards universe, the universe itself somehow has to start accounting for anything extraneous to the universe itself. Something that is unlikely in the first place.

    And, that shouldn’t be possible, as it is time running backwards and unwinding itself. It is the reverse of something that has already happened.
    That’s true of the TV version but is it true of the book version? I thought all we knew is that time ran in reverse, not that this stuff already all happened forwards once

    What Lister says about things unhappening rather than happening strongly suggests that I think (even though it contradicts what Holly told Talkie Toaster about the forwards universe being the odd one out, AND the backwards writing in BTL) but I don’t really get why it has to apply to the crew. When he says they’re not climbing down the mountain in THREE, merely unclimbing up it because they’ve already climbed up it safely, that’s bollocks isn’t it, because of course they haven’t. They evidently have a degree of free will here in a way the “natives” seemingly don’t, so really what’s stopping them from going to Starbug and leaving, instead of following the cop backwards because he’s unchasing them? What would happen? Would the universe be destroyed under the strain of having to account for what was happening (or, err, not unhappening?)?

    Apologies if I’m pondering stuff that gets answered later or repeating points already made by others. I’m only skimming parts of this thread so as to avoid spoilers and am only up to the beginning of Chapter Four, just trying to get my head around the backwards stuff.

  • From chapter eight:

    “Lister looked up. He hadn’t used forward-speak for decades, but he ought to start practising. He ran the Cat’s words over in his head. Suddenly they clicked.”

    Yeah, well, your mum.

    (Thanks for clearing that up. It’s bugging me for ages).

    In terms of the characters and free will and such, given that Cat had poo unwillingly go up his bum, I think the laws of physics apply here, and thus no matter what they do, everything has to resolve accurately, therefore Lister’s perspective of just get on with it makes sense. Effectively everything is predestined. It’s a fucker to get your head around, but then that entire reality runs in the complete opposite way that ours does, so our brains should inherently dismiss everything about it.

  • From chapter eight:

    “Lister looked up. He hadn’t used forward-speak for decades, but he ought to start practising. He ran the Cat’s words over in his head. Suddenly they clicked.”
    Yeah, well, your mum.
    (Thanks for clearing that up. It’s bugging me for ages).
    In terms of the characters and free will and such, given that Cat had poo unwillingly go up his bum, I think the laws of physics apply here, and thus no matter what they do, everything has to resolve accurately, therefore Lister’s perspective of just get on with it makes sense. Effectively everything is predestined. It’s a fucker to get your head around, but then that entire reality runs in the complete opposite way that ours does, so our brains should inherently dismiss everything about it.

    With the Cat, the implication is that he feels he needs a shit, but then it shoots up him. But the way it ought to work is that he feels really satisfyingly empty but has an urge for no reason to go squat in some grass until he is uncomfortably full in the gut.

  • NINE

    “Kryten shook his head. He had a good idea what had happened, but it belonged at the very top of the ‘things he didn’t want to think about’ list.”

    There’s rather a lot of this in this part, and it lampshades just how wonky Kryten’s reasoning is about the cannisters and, ultimately, the axe. I guess it’s Kryten’s misunderstanding of the logic of the worlld that’s predetermined, and thus it’s the reason for all the bad stuff that is about to/has already occurred.

    TEN

    “After a few minutes, his sanity returned, and Rimmer crept along after it.”

    Lovely stuff.

  • ELEVEN

    You have to wonder why Lister doesn’t recognise either of the hillbillies. Surely he’d have seen the victim’s photo in the last few weeks in custody? Wouldn’t the surviving one have turned up for the trial?

    “Lister hefted a sonic screwdriver from the tool box and walked back to the scanner table. ‘I’ve done it before, remember?'”

    The continuity nods to Infinity make me so happy.

  • TWELVE

    i think the early mention of the agonoids would have worked better if it had been more comical (like the stuff about Bliss in Infinity, or the Gelfs in BTL). As it is, it’s just rather overt and plays out as what is in.

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what Aismov’s robotic laws were when I first read this novel. It seems odd that this doesn’t get any elaboration.

    “‘What he actually said was: “I’m going for a walk. I may be some time.””

    I love the fact that I know this Colonel Oates reference from… Red Dwarf.

  • THIRTEEN

    Pretty sure that, with the conclusion of this part, the Cat has had more dialogue than he had in the entirety of Last Human. Sure it’s all been backwards, but it’s all been rather catty.

    “What mattered was, they were going to die.”

    Kryten’s still an idiot, then. This definitely seems more like the droid of the novels than the TV show.

    “Rimmer straightened. Blame had been apportioned, and none of it had fallen on him. It was bizarre that such meaninglessness should be important to him, but it was, and he was beginning to feel better already.”

    Such a Rimmery passage. I realise this read-through could get bogged down with comparisons to Last Human, but at about this point in that novel we were learning that Rimmer was a failure because he didn’t have a computer chip in his head.

    The flip from “fuh, fuh” to “Ten years” is very clever….but boy, do I have some problems with this plot development.

  • “Rimmer straightened. Blame had been apportioned, and none of it had fallen on him. It was bizarre that such meaninglessness should be important to him, but it was, and he was beginning to feel better already.”

    Such a Rimmery passage.

    God yes, it’s perfect. Reminiscent of the skutter-crushing from Infinity and the bit about enjoying giving people bad news in BTL.

  • I didn’t read the earlier novels in time to follow along with the Dwarfcasts on them, but I’ve finished Last Human and caught up with its Dwarfcasts in time to start Backwards. Hooray!

    I don’t really have a lot to say about Last Human that hasn’t been said. Some good bits (the Cyberia lake floating up the ceiling); Rimmer, Kochanski and Rita’s Kabin (whose name has always stuck in my memory as “Rek-Tree-Ber-En”) are all under-used/shunted out of the way awkwardly; bits of dialogue transplanted from the TV episodes don’t work as well when the character balance is different; and there’s lots of confusion about when exactly the settings swap to a different universe. I think I like Michael McGruder a bit more than you though.

    As for Backwards…

    I always think of Backwards as being a significantly longer novel than Last Human, but really it’s only about 30 pages longer (comparing the paperbacks). Backwards does cram a few more lines onto each page than Last Human, though.

    My main impression in this first section of the novel is that Backwards is much more of a page-turner than Last Human. Pretty much every chapter ends on a strong cliffhanger or teaser of some kind – even if it’s immediately resolved in the opening paragraphs of the next chapter (like the literal cliffhanger between chapters 3 and 4).

    PROLOGUE – In my music lessons as a kid, I was never taught the “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” mnemonic, so whenever I come across it, its appearance here is what I think of.

    @Pete Part Three:

    Did anyone ever get “ranked” at school like poor young Arnie? (is this specifically the criteria on whether children are “kept down”?)

    The idea of ranking kids in a class reminds me of the Malcolm in the Middle episode “Emancipation” (S3ep2), where the new teacher ranks Malcolm’s class to ridiculously precise fractions of a percent. And that teacher was played by Chris Eigeman, who was in the first American Red Dwarf pilot as none other than… Arnold Rimmer!

    New headcanon: after working on the US pilots, Linwood Boomer continued to keep an eye on Red Dwarf, read Backwards, and used this prologue as inspiration for that episode and its casting. That’s my fan theory, you can’t disprove it, and I’m sticking to it!

    ONE

    I am not a fan of Cat’s phoenetic bakwards-speak (or rather, forwards-speak from the POV of a hologram whose speech unit has been reprogrammed). I suppose it’s more creative than just spelling things backwards, Zatanna-style. But every time those lines appear, I can’t help but stop dead in my tracks every time and try and work it out – and then it turns out it wasn’t worth it! I kept doing it even after I realised there’s nothing there that’s necessary to understand the story or jokes.

    THREE

    Pg 27 – It’s an SHA: a Somehow Alert! Yep, Rob can do it too: “Somewhow, his wife had belonged to this place, in a way he never could.”

    FIVE

    A request for the Dwarfcast: please edit a clip of “Ecilop Ad Fo Dnuos” by Eno-SRK into the audio, to represent the sirens poohqw-poohwing.

  • A funny thing about Chris Eigeman is I first saw him on a short-lived sitcom called It’s Like, You Know and thinking that if they ever made an American version of Red Dwarf, he would be a perfect Rimmer, completely ignorant as I was at the time that someone had already had this idea seven years earlier.

  • I always think of Backwards as being a significantly longer novel than Last Human, but really it’s only about 30 pages longer (comparing the paperbacks). Backwards does cram a few more lines onto each page than Last Human, though.

    This is what howlongtoread.com reckons about lengths:

    Red Dwarf
    Word Count (estimated): 89,102
    Number of pages: 298

    Better Than Life
    Word Count (estimated): 90,298
    Number of pages: 302

    Last Human
    Word Count (estimated): 92,690
    Number of pages: 310

    Backwards
    Word Count (estimated): 102,258
    Number of pages: 342

    The first two don’t look right (maybe a paperback and a hardback?). I used to wonder how the BTL paperback looked thinner while not feeling like it was any shorter (different formatting?). My Backwards hardback is misleadingly larger than my compact omnibus.

  • In terms of the characters and free will and such, given that Cat had poo unwillingly go up his bum, I think the laws of physics apply here, and thus no matter what they do, everything has to resolve accurately, therefore Lister’s perspective of just get on with it makes sense. Effectively everything is predestined.

    FOUR

    Something I’ve never wondered before that throws another spanner in the ‘time is rewinding’ works, is where the Cat’s reverse poo comes from. It’s the remains of undigested food he ate in another universe. Did it pop into existence on the patch of ground he squats over at some point after he enters the reverse universe?

    I like “he was nothing more than the blind eye of a dust devil” as an uncharacteristically poetic description.

  • FOUR

    Something I’ve never wondered before that throws another spanner in the ‘time is rewinding’ works, is where the Cat’s reverse poo comes from. It’s the remains of undigested food he ate in another universe. Did it pop into existence on the patch of ground he squats over at some point after he enters the reverse universe?

    I assume so. Presumably the same thing happened for more than three decades’ worth of human waste that Lister and Kochanski were destined to un-produce, when they arrived.

    There’s probably an entire chapter to be written on Cat subsequently prowling around Backwards world, examining various shits on the floor and then thinking “yep, that’s one of mine” before squatting down and sucking it up his arse.

  • In terms of the characters and free will and such, given that Cat had poo unwillingly go up his bum, I think the laws of physics apply here, and thus no matter what they do, everything has to resolve accurately, therefore Lister’s perspective of just get on with it makes sense. Effectively everything is predestined.

    FOUR
    Something I’ve never wondered before that throws another spanner in the ‘time is rewinding’ works, is where the Cat’s reverse poo comes from. It’s the remains of undigested food he ate in another universe. Did it pop into existence on the patch of ground he squats over at some point after he enters the reverse universe?

    This is part of my point further up. In a time unwinding universe, or hell just time running backwards universe, you’re ostensibly removed and undoing things all the time. As soon as you introduce extraneous matter the universe has to do things to make correction for the fact there is a foreign entity within it. That isn’t something you have to worry about in a forwards moving universe as you add/leave matter and eventually die (again just leaving matter) as opposed to taking matter out and needing parents that didn’t exist before to reverse birth into etc.

  • Yes, the Dwarfers entering a backwards timestream from a forwards timestream definitely forces that kind of thing.

    It’s a philosophical question as much as anything else. Did Cat’s shit always exist there on Backwards Earth, because the universe “knew” they would eventually arrive? Or did the shit pop into being as Starbug arrived, to account for the new anomaly?

    Without anyone in the book being there to observe the shit directly, it essentially occupied a dual quantum state of existence and non-existence that was only confirmed when Starbug entered Backwards-Earth and forced it to conform to one of the two possibilities.

    It’s Schrödinger’s Shit.

  • It’s Schrödinger’s Shit.

    Schrödinger’s Cat-shit

    My version was clearly too subtle.

  • tihs-taC s’regnidörhcS

    In Grant-ese it’s probably “tttihcsh takk zruggnidruurhcs”.

  • Right, so it seems like whenever anyone enters the reverse universe, it essentially writes a script for them to act out, and alters the rewinding or simply backwards timeline accordingly, also physically transforming the universe to account for their presence and everything they’re now destined to (un)do. Something like that?

  • I guess so. It must constantly be having to adapt in subtle ways to account for (limited) free will though, as that seems to still be a thing for forwards-universe people.

    Lister basically conforms to Backwards-universe rules but seems to go along with what he “has” to do out of the belief that the logic just has to work out that way, rather than genuine compulsion.

    There are points where the rest of the crew threaten to test the limits of that, but mostly they seem to go along with Lister’s philosophy – I guess mainly because once you start to pick at the logic of what they can and can’t change on Backwards Earth, the whole thing threatens to unravel.

  • My brain hurts

    Just wait until the entire Dwarfcast is in reverse audio.

    Fuck. Now I can’t do it.

  • My brain hurts

    Just wait until the entire Dwarfcast is in reverse audio.
    Fuck. Now I can’t do it.

    Lets face it, you only know how to say “bitter” anyway so would have been a very short bit.

  • I have nothing of value to add on the book discussion the Eigeman reference there reminded me of the only other time I have seen him in something is Gilmore Girls

  • I have nothing of value to add on the book discussion the Eigeman reference there reminded me of the only other time I have seen him in something is Gilmore Girls

    I watched Gilmore Girls Dec/Jan time and never picked up on him being the dude that played Rimmer in the US pilot.

    Weirdly, that’s his last acting credit too. The 2016 Gilmore Girls Netflix mini-series.

    I must admit I don’t think I recognise that actor from anything else either. I must have seen him in that one episode of Fringe he was in but that’s it.

    I find it interesting that he is credited on IMDB for Red Dwarf despite that being a pilot with no official release.

  • There’s plenty of non-broadcast pilots and episodes of US TV shows that never got broadcast because they got canned midseason with IMDB pages.

  • One thing about that “Lister’s mother isn’t alive on Earth at this point” is that Lister was found under a pool table and doesn’t know who his parents are, so he could have conceivably been…conceived in Backwards universe without contradicting anything.

    It’s really nice how Lister refuses to leave Kryten behind despite having just found out he’s responsible for the crime Lister was imprisoned for. You can’t spell bittersweet without sweet.

  • The Lister parents thing isn’t an issue as he leaves (or from the backwards perspective arrives and later dies in backwards world) it’s Lochanski that is more of an issue. They’ve introduced a person who spends their entire life, death to birth, into the universe when she shouldn’t exist there. So neither should her parents.

  • Unless the world always “knew” she would arrive at some point and so her parents were always part of the plan.

    Or, as seems to have happened with Starbug’s engines, the world snap-changed as soon as she appeared and created her parents out of nothing.

    Those seem to be the two possibilities.

  • To be fair to me-at-3:54am, the same logic applies, doesn’t it? In the books we don’t learn much about Kochanski’s past so she could feasibly come from backwards universe fuck that really doesn’t make sense, I see now. Also doesn’t make sense with, uh, stuff that’s talked about in part 2. Oh fuck it, I’ll admit there’s a flaw in the book’s logic now.

    Oh well, I like this book so far. It zips along nicely and this time I’m appreciating how similar the style is to the book that Rob mentioned he’s a fan of in at least one of the commentaries, The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. It’s arguably an improvement on that style with the cliffhangers.

    EDIT – I was thinking along the same lines as Dave.

  • The ubiquitous Jim & Bexley are mentioned, so unless they both died before* they had any kids or made much of an impact, they and all their descendents either a) already existed before** their dead parents were inserted into the universe, with Kochanski’s arrival being predetermined omniversal destiny, or b) suddenly appeared retrospectively when universes crossed and a colossal amount of future history (?) was rewritten around everyone. Although I suppose it’s not rewritten if it didn’t happen yet… I suppose it doesn’t make a difference for the story either way, so that was productive.

    * Backwards universe perspective
    ** Forwards universe perspective

  • This reminds me, I always find it quite amusing how Timothy Spall’s character says Lister *should* have got Kochanski, and that is is a love affair across time, space, death and reality.

    When that is sort of exactly what happens in various forms, in the TV show and the books.

    I like this. Makes me more persuaded that Lister jump-starting the second big bang to create the “second universe” was indeed referencing their plans for future novel/s (the backwards universe is noted as “universe three” in BTL).

  • Finally starting on my re through so will jot some thoughts down that aren’t just a reaction to other peoples

    The very first page detailing Rob’s accomplishments, you often forget just how much work the pair had done and just have much impact they’d have had on TV, radio and pop-culture. It’s not really any wonder Rob wanted to do other things, have spent so long working on a variety of really well received projects to doing nothing but the one for 6 years.

    If often makes you wonder why Doug so staunchly focuses on Red Dwarf. It’s great for us, but even in the off years you’d think he’d want to dabble in something else. But he seems content doing nothing unless it is Red Dwarf which seems peculiar from a comedic and creative perspective.

    To Kath. No Kath, no book.

    Presumably Kath was sacrificed to make human leather to bound the very first copies of Backwards?

    Thanks to

    Rob thanks Karim and Ruth for their Niagara Falls source material. Which highly suggests Rob had never visited. Which is interesting. Can imagine trying to write about an area, especially one so iconic, that I couldn’t picture myself.

    Prologue

    I had always learned the nemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Food for the sheet music. Which in hindsight seems incredibly cruel in suggesting boys that aren’t good should starve, or should that be stave! hur!

    Anyway, immediately I’m caught out by young Rimmer’s collection of dead spiders and wiggly things. That doesn’t seem like a terribly Rimmer thing to do at all. I know Rob is trying to paint a picture of a bit of a sad, lonely kid, but I don’t think a fascination with disgusting thing is the way to do it with Rimmer.

    “he know’s he is going to fail” is an interesting insight into Rimmer. And something that comes up at the end of Last Human I believe. Rimmer’s probably isn’t that he isn’t capable, is that he doesn’t believe in himself. And as long as he doesn’t hear he can’t do something, he’ll be able to just for as long as he can push his own doubts away.

    “Young Rimmer trying to forge better exam results with a crayon seems a little too dumb to me – like Lister’s bucket and spade join the dots.” – fully agree with MANI506 on this point. Rimmer isn’t that stupid. In fact, he isn’t stupid, he just doesn’t know things and is full of self doubt.

    The very concept of Rimmer being kept down feels like a very American thing to happen, despite Rimmer’s schooling feeling very English public school. We don’t keep people down at all do we? Has anyone every experienced that. You just sit exams after 11 years and get fucked off into the world. Whereas I get the sense that in American if you completely fuck the year up you have to re-do it, or fail to graduate at all at the end.

    So far

    Is this there to re-assure the reader they’re not going mad had they already read Last Human. (Although anyone who read Last Human can be forgiven for going mad)

  • The crayon thing. Someone on here posited the theory that Rimmer has talent as an artist and if he focused on that he would succeed. I like that theory and that explains his attraction to crayons, even if it’s not true.

    In Backwards, Rob says “[Rimmer] knows he’s going to fail.” In Trojan, Rimmer says “I know I’m going to fail.” Almost the exact same line about the same character but very different readings. The Grant Naylor dichotomy. I’m off to Google what ‘dichotomy’ means.

  • The crayon thing. Someone on here posited the theory that Rimmer has talent as an artist and if he focused on that he would succeed. I like that theory and that explains his attraction to crayons, even if it’s not true.

    ah yes, I remember that. Was in reference to his revision time tables, he likes to get creative making colour collages and that’s when he is happiest.

    So yeah, that would be why he is attracted to the use of crayons, but it still makes him more of an idiot than he should be in trying to doctor his report card.

  • We don’t keep people down at all do we? Has anyone every experienced that.

    Someone arrived in my form around year 8 or 9 (as in age 13-14) from another school who’d been kept down at some point, but I don’t know the story there. Could have not been attending or anything. He hung out with older kids.

  • PART ONE

    One

    I like how we go from young Rimmer in prologue to an adult Rimmer at the very start of chapter one, creates a sort of satisfying continuity even if they’re not the same Rimmer. Also tells you the book is going to spend a lot of time with this character, even perhaps be the main focus, which is obviously the complete polar opposite to Last Human.

    Kryten reprogramming Rimmer’s speech units somewhat implies that as Rimmer is digital, anything about him could be re-programmed.

    Love the description of the Soviet Union being un-crumbled so to speak. The idea of Eastern German’s joyously building a wall to keep themselves all in is quite amusing.

    Two

    Given the conversations surrounding different characters given other peoples (mostly Lister’s) lines in Last Human, it’s interesting how Kryten says to Rimmer what Cat does in the show about going through puberty etc. And it’s as a result of the characters having conversations in different directions as opposed to not being there. I can’t imagine Kryten would be too concerned about Lister singing soprano in the school choir.

    Kryten doesn’t steal the cagoule, he takes what was his in this universe and he should have recognised that.

    The battery pack recharging shouldn’t mean the batteries overload. They should charge to full and stop.

    Finally, this whole launch window business. It is a bit convenient that when they first came to backwards world to drop Lister off things were aligned exactly right to arrive and leave without issue, and that things are aligned exactly right for them to arrive and collect Lister when he is just the right age they want him to be. But leave a couple of hours too late and they’re stuck there for another decade.

  • Three

    My only comment here is why the hell did Cat and Lister decide to climb a rock face in the first place. Like, going forwards, why choose to do that. And why did the cop choose to follow them. Seems a very strange decision to make when you have little to no experience in free climbing.

    Four

    It feels like a very strange place to include Cat’s poo experience. He is running from the cops, has just climbed up a mountain, still being chased, and stops for a shit.

    Reverse defecation aside, I am much more enjoying the writing style of this book compared to Last Human. Rob has a way of describing things quite nicely that is a pleasure to read.

  • None of the Red Dwarf books appear to be available digitally which is annoying as I have no idea where any of my old copies are now.

  • None of the Red Dwarf books appear to be available digitally which is annoying as I have no idea where any of my old copies are now.

    I think only Infinity is/was available (I have it on iBooks) but the rest never made it to digital publication which is a shame really.

    You could always read Pink Dwarf instead, I assume the plots are largely the same.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pink-Dwarf-Infinity-Welcomes-Drivers-ebook/dp/B01IMJYUTM/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=infinity+welcomes&qid=1620826097&sr=8-3

  • You could always read Pink Dwarf instead

    I assume the G&T Book Club will move on to that next.

  • Yeah I remember reading some of the synopses of the Pink Dwarf books, you’ve got to admire the bravado of it!

    The genetically engineered MILFs was certainly an inspired development!

  • I have a spare copy of Backwards. It’s fairly battered but up for grabs. Temporarily put a link to my twitter in my account profile if anyone needs/wants it, no charge, and also no pressure if its too much bother. Also have a spare copy of Infinity (but it’s in a dire state) and Colony (there’s no use hiding the fact that I’ve spilled coffee over it).

  • > You could always read Pink Dwarf instead

    I assume the G&T Book Club will move on to that next.

    Do you know what, we did actually attempt to cover it at one point. Before we settled on Waffle Men, we experimented with bulking out each commentary with an extract from Pink Dwarf – me reading it out, Cappsy and Danny reacting, like My Dad Wrote A Porno. We recorded one chapter but cut it out, it wasn’t very funny, just a bit embarrassing for us and slightly cruel to the author.

  • Four – Seven

    Find it curious how Rob has split this car chase scene up when it is ostensibly all the same thing and there isn’t really a unique even big enough in each chapter to warrant separate chapters. Rimmer notices a bullet hole? Lets dedicate 5 pages to it and call that it’s own chapter. Bit odd.

    Also getting a bit frustrated at Rimmer constantly being unable to comprehend this Backwards world. Even if it is in character his constantly questioning what is going on and having it explained to him is a bit annoying. Perhaps it is there for the reader, so that anyone struggling to follow the frankly absurd logic has it laid out to them every few pages.

    On the subject of absurd logic, I know we’ve briefly touched on areas of this above, but what is the forward timeline here.

    At the end of chapter seven the get back to Starbug, but it is Starbug that is in a state as if it has been discovered by the farmer 10 years ago right. Which is fine, Starbug crash lands 10 years previously, parts of the thrusters are ripped off etc. They hide it in a cave and then a farmer finds it, steals some parts and uses them for 10 years. And then what? At the end point of chapter seven, our 4 crew get chased by police, (twice inexplicably separate and climb up cliff faces and stop to have a poo etc) only for Lister to ultimately get arrested. Presumably Cat isn’t arrested, neither are Rimmer and Kryten. Then take a tour of Niagara Falls, hang out in the gift shop all day, then return to Starbug and leave. Yet surely Starbug wouldn’t be in a state to take off if currently, only a few hours previously, it is in a state of dismantlement.

    This fucking book eh?

  • Yet surely Starbug wouldn’t be in a state to take off if currently, only a few hours previously, it is in a state of dismantlement.

    The bits that are missing are the landing jets, which in backwards-earth is what they need to take off.

    The book explains earlier that when they arrived and landed on the planet they had to use take-off procedures which use different rockets.

    There doesn’t seem to be any suggestion that Starbug isn’t space-worthy (in fact there’s a section where the hull has been repaired and welded over), just that it doesn’t have its landing jets.

    I think their supposition that the hillbilly stole them from Starbug is meant to be a red herring – they eventually discover that the hillbilly had one of them and another is buried (and we find out the full reasons for that later). But from the backwards-universe perspective, they’ve been there for a long time.

    The big, confusing question is at what point from the forwards-perspective of Kryten, Cat and Rimmer those landing jets disappeared from Starbug and ended up variously buried in the ground and propping up the hillbilly’s shelf on backwards-world.

    For me, it must be that they disappear from Starbug as soon as it crosses whatever constitutes the border of forwards-time and reverse-time.

    No-one notices at that point as they don’t use them to “land” initially (as it’s a backwards-take-off) – the first anyone seems to realise is late in chapter eight when Kryten says “I’m afraid there is one minor problem. Somehow, the landing jets have become detached.”

    Usually, that would immediately set off the Somehow-Klaxon, but if the alternative is a convoluted and long-winded explanation of how the twisted backwards logic of this universe could possibly justify this development, akin to this post, then Rob probably made the right decision.

  • The crayon thing. Someone on here posited the theory that Rimmer has talent as an artist and if he focused on that he would succeed. I like that theory and that explains his attraction to crayons, even if it’s not true.

    That’s a nice thought. I think it was probably my post you’re referring to, and yes, the whole revision timetable section makes me sad because he’s clearly a talented graphic designer and he was never allowed to even consider it as a career.

    None of the Red Dwarf books appear to be available digitally which is annoying as I have no idea where any of my old copies are now.

    Plenty of very cheap copies of Abebooks.

    Finally, this whole launch window business. It is a bit convenient that when they first came to backwards world to drop Lister off things were aligned exactly right to arrive and leave without issue, and that things are aligned exactly right for them to arrive and collect Lister when he is just the right age they want him to be. But leave a couple of hours too late and they’re stuck there for another decade.

    I took it as this explaining why they met him and this exact time and place: the only moment close to his ‘original’ age where a rescue was possible.

  • 1. They crash land on Backworld. The landing jets fall to the ground and end up getting buried.
    2. The crew dig up the landing jets and take them back to Starbug. (The hillbillies don’t have them for 10 years).
    -10 Years Pass-
    3. The crew attempt a failed launch
    4. The crew go and bury the (rusted) landing jets.
    5. Kryten, the homicidal maniac, kills someone
    6. The crew flee
    7. Lister is arrested.
    8. The police give up searching for the Cat incredibly quickly
    9. Rimmer, Kryten and Cat somehow leave Backworld….*

    (At some point, the hillbilly steals a fuel canister…. but I can’t remember if that’s covered)

    There is a possibility here with 9, cos Kryten mentions having to “reverse the controls” of Starbug to land. This means that the landing jets may not have been attached when they arrived on Backworld to rescue Lister. You could possibly hand wave this further and say they weren’t even attached when they left Red Dwarf originally.

  • There is a possibility here with 9, cos Kryten mentions having to “reverse the controls” of Starbug to land. This means that the landing jets may not have been attached when they arrived on Backworld to rescue Lister. You could possibly hand wave this further and say they weren’t even attached when they left Red Dwarf originally.

    Yes, this is the crux of all of this confusion. During the “reverse the controls” passage, Kryten says they had to use take-off procedures to “land” Starbug when they arrived. The suggestion is that they don’t use the same landing jets at all during take-off procedures so wouldn’t have noticed their absence.

    And presumably the damage report machine would have only mentioned the missing jets when the damage happened, not many years later.

    Or maybe it was damaged.

  • Oh something else I forgot to mention earlier. Doesn’t the idea of Hillbillies on a mountain presumably within a couple of miles of Niagara Falls as a bit weird? Like, just feels like completely the wrong location for them.

    Also, how mountainous is the area around Niagara Falls anyway? Having a look on Google Maps it doesn’t look like there’s be much around like that.

  • Oh something else I forgot to mention earlier. Doesn’t the idea of Hillbillies on a mountain presumably within a couple of miles of Niagara Falls as a bit weird? Like, just feels like completely the wrong location for them.

    “No it’s not, Karim and Ruth Painter told me.”

  • Yeah, it’s a bit jarring, that. Feels like a weird character type to include in that region.

  • “No it’s not, Karim and Ruth Painter told me.”

    “Let’s tell him there’s loads of mountains nearby!”
    “And hillbillies live there!”
    “With pigs!”
    “Hahahaha!”

  • “No it’s not, Karim and Ruth Painter told me.”

    “Let’s tell him there’s loads of mountains nearby!”
    “And hillbillies live there!”
    “With pigs!”
    “Hahahaha!”

    lmfao I love the idea of Rob just writing loads of stuff based on hilarious lies told to him by some “friends”.

    “When we told Rob it was all a bit backward on the US/Canada border, we didn’t think he’d take it quite so literally”

  • The very first page detailing Rob’s accomplishments, you often forget just how much work the pair had done and just have much impact they’d have had on TV, radio and pop-culture. It’s not really any wonder Rob wanted to do other things, have spent so long working on a variety of really well received projects to doing nothing but the one for 6 years.

    I think Rob’s comment about doing other things was mostly him being polite. He and Doug split while they were working on The 10%ers and presumably they could have done plenty of other stuff together if there weren’t “musical differences”.

    If often makes you wonder why Doug so staunchly focuses on Red Dwarf. It’s great for us, but even in the off years you’d think he’d want to dabble in something else. But he seems content doing nothing unless it is Red Dwarf which seems peculiar from a comedic and creative perspective.

    I don’t think it’s entirely through choice. While he was trying to get funding for the movie Doug also had other projects and scripts on the go. None were picked up. Then there was the failure of the Over to Bill pilot. And there was an interview from a couple of years ago where Doug said that he hadn’t been offered another writing job for decades.

  • Six, seven and eight

    One of the main positives to this early section of the book, to me, is the interplay between the characters. Restricting the action to (mainly) just the 4 Dwarfers reminds you exactly what was missing in Last Human.

    There are also some amusing visual ideas, such as Kryten running backwards as Rimmer and the Cat run forwards. A shame that they couldn’t have included something similar in the TV episode (athough Robert may disagree!).

    Nice to see the word “somehow” getting another airing as well…

  • Nine and ten

    The laws of this universe are now beginning to hurt my head. I kind of feel that the Backwards idea is both essential to the plot and a distraction from the plot. I find myself questioning every moment to check whether it makes logical sense in this universe. and it does spoil the enjoyment somewhat.

    A very smart idea of Rob to add the mystery element though and, in one sense, it reminds me of Thanks for the Memory. A whodunnit when they are the only real suspects.

  • I wasn’t tired of the backwards stuff at all in the book (the deep analysis is certainly trying, but I’ve enjoyed that too). It feels like the right amount for a book that takes its name and summary from the concept, so readers know what they’re getting into.

    The episode gets criticised for not exploring the concept properly, the book gets criticised for doing too much Backwards stuff. Maybe the side you come down on is one of those things that’s influenced by which version you saw first (TV Backwards and Better Than Life have always seemed unavoidably lightweight).

    Not directed at Stiliainidieis personally, but at the general fatigue.

  • If often makes you wonder why Doug so staunchly focuses on Red Dwarf. It’s great for us, but even in the off years you’d think he’d want to dabble in something else. But he seems content doing nothing unless it is Red Dwarf which seems peculiar from a comedic and creative perspective.

    I gather having a successful TV show doesn’t quite have the power in the industry to get other projects off the ground easily. it seems like Rob had many projects he wrote and tried to get off the ground and it seems like only 1 of those actually happened and that was “the strangerers” for 1 series. and while Rob Grant has gone back to radio, i assume Doug wants to move up and not down. i don’t get the feeling Doug wants to write novels or radio. And with a show like Red Dwarf, you have the audience, you have the support, you have the hype and promotion. you are running something people will actually put money into.

  • Eight

    Not a lot to say here that hasn’t already been said really. I’m really enjoying the pacing though, how the current story is unfolding (or should that be folding?) and the little bits of Lister’s life on this world dropped in here and there.

    Nine

    “what’s he going to do, launch his cabin into orbit and join the Mile High Club with his pig” – after a book without much comedy other than that reused from the show, it’s really nice reading a comedy that is effortlessly funny. Just comedy and witty lines in all the right places.

    I would love to have the experience again of reading this for the first time. I want to know at what point I would have figured out what was going on with the landing engines. Would I have figured it out with Kryten or still been going along with the book and have it revealed to be later

    Ten

    I know Kryten is portrayed with being distracted by too many things going on at once, but I find it hard to believe he didn’t realise what was happening until after he un-murdered the hermit dude. He was been the one character (other than Lister) to understand exactly how time and events work in this world, yet he stumbles across a dead dude with an axe in him and he thinks pulling it out will help? Whilst Rimmer, who hasn’t a clue what’s been going on so far, tells Kryten he won’t be dead for long. Sort of feels the characters have been flipped a bit and had Rimmer had a hard light drive here, it would have been him maybe who pulled the axe out, thus un-killing the dude and being revealed to be the murderer out of sheer ignorance.

    Eleven

    And here we are back with Rimmer not understanding what’s happened. It’s a bit clunky.

    Also, Lister has finally found out it wasn’t him that committed the murder he was locked up for. Which is great, and there is a nice line about other prisoners having solace in knowing if they are guilty or innocent etc. However, one year after Lister’s release he meets Kochanski and a year after that she has his children. Presumably at some point his past would come up in conversation, and presumably she’d know he’d spent 8 years in prison. What does he tell her? That he doesn’t know who killed the man he was locked up for. And, why does this perfectly bright sensible woman immediately settle down and have kids with a guy that has only just got out of 8 years in prison (of which he still have 7 years on his sentence so presumably he is on parole and stuff) for a murder he can’t remember if he committed or not.

    Of course Lister may not have told her, but a) Lister is an honest guy and b) she’d probably find out in other ways.

    Twelve

    Isn’t it bad programming in AIs to have them want to commit suicide if they break their programming and murder someone, or do anything that’ll send them into a spin. You’d have thought they’d be programmed to stop what they’re doing and return to base for a diagnostics check so you can patch whatever error has occurred in other androids and such.

    Kryten regularly wants to off himself when he behaves in a way unbefitting of himself. Just seems a bit ridiculous.

    Thirteen

    It’s just occurred to me that, whilst the Cat is speaking forwards and the others are hearing it reversed because they’re either used to or programmed to speak the other way, his sentences shouldn’t be backwards. Rob’s fallen into the trap of what the TV show did and mirrored as well as reversed things. They should hear the words backwards but still in a forward order.

    Lister was on Garbage World for a few decades right? And for all intents and purpose their crash on Garbage World as the first time Lister had flown Starbug because prior to that it was Blue Midget in Infinity. So, just to be nit picky a moment. Lets say it’s been 80 years since he last flew Starbug, and that was for the first time. He seems incredibly comfortable trying to operate the craft for the failed take-off/landing.

  • I know Kryten is portrayed with being distracted by too many things going on at once, but I find it hard to believe he didn’t realise what was happening until after he un-murdered the hermit dude. He was been the one character (other than Lister) to understand exactly how time and events work in this world, yet he stumbles across a dead dude with an axe in him and he thinks pulling it out will help?

    I think this is subtly set up with Kryten feeling guilt for “stealing” the cagoule earlier. It suggests he still doesn’t quite understand the flow of causality on backwards earth, particularly where there’s an emotional/guilt component.

  • It’s just occurred to me that, whilst the Cat is speaking forwards and the others are hearing it reversed because they’re either used to or programmed to speak the other way, his sentences shouldn’t be backwards. Rob’s fallen into the trap of what the TV show did and mirrored as well as reversed things. They should hear the words backwards but still in a forward order.

    I get what you’re saying but I think this is permissible as artistic licence – showing what they’re hearing Cat saying, rather than what he’s actually saying.

    I think if your understanding of language has been completely reversed then it’s reasonable that you’d be thinking about all aspects of the language (sentence structure etc.) in reverse, not just hearing reversed phonetics.

  • It’s just occurred to me that, whilst the Cat is speaking forwards and the others are hearing it reversed because they’re either used to or programmed to speak the other way, his sentences shouldn’t be backwards. Rob’s fallen into the trap of what the TV show did and mirrored as well as reversed things. They should hear the words backwards but still in a forward order.

    I get what you’re saying but I think this is permissible as artistic licence – showing what they’re hearing Cat saying, rather than what he’s actually saying.
    I think if your understanding of language has been completely reversed then it’s reasonable that you’d be thinking about all aspects of the language (sentence structure etc.) in reverse, not just hearing reversed phonetics.

    Sort of, but then what you’re saying is that you brain is post processing the input and flipping it all the wrong way around for you. Sort of like how the images our eyes see are upside down and the brain corrects it, the brain here’s these words spoken backwards, and then processes them so the sentence structure is also reversed.

  • I get Backworld fatigue later on in this novel, but the first part is fine. I think it holds up to more scrutiny than the episode and does more interesting things with the idea.

    However, one year after Lister’s release he meets Kochanski and a year after that she has his children. Presumably at some point his past would come up in conversation, and presumably she’d know he’d spent 8 years in prison. What does he tell her? That he doesn’t know who killed the man he was locked up for. And, why does this perfectly bright sensible woman immediately settle down and have kids with a guy that has only just got out of 8 years in prison (of which he still have 7 years on his sentence so presumably he is on parole and stuff) for a murder he can’t remember if he committed or not.

    This is probably lower-priority stuff in the logistics of Lister and Kochanski’s backwards relationship, but the question is more for the end of BTL. Lister sees KK for the last time (before popping out and having a heart-attack), and she already has a memory of the “past” 60 years. Lister does not, he only knows her because hey, it’s Kochanski…and was relying on the address in his wallet to get home.

    Everything he knows about his “past” comes from conversations he has with Kochanski and his family, and whatever documents, photographs he has. He really doesn’t need to worry about what he tells her when they first meet in terms of the murder. He can’t screw it up can he? Hopefully he mentioned fairly quickly that he was living life in the wrong direction though, just to save himself a lot of hassle.

  • To make forwards people living in a backwards universe even remotely work would take the will of a proper hard sci-fi writer, and neither Rob nor Doug is that. But I think Rob does a pretty good job overall, with the general slant of everything here being ‘we have to follow backwards-causality’, even when it’s not played for laughs. It’s certainly consistent enough for the bulk of the plot to actually make backwards-sense, which is more than can be said for the episode or the bit we saw in BTL, so I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially as he’s largely a comedy writer.

  • I think there’s a core difference between the book and the TV episode and that is the book makes sense, if you just take what is written in the book and don’t consider it beyond those explanations.

    The TV episode very clearly doesn’t make sense, often contradicting itself in the same shot and stuff.

    Whilst I love deconstructing the logic of the backwards world in the novel, I in no way care that it doesn’t quite work when you start asking questions and it in no way spoils my enjoyment of the book.

  • it seems like Rob had many projects he wrote and tried to get off the ground and it seems like only 1 of those actually happened and that was “the strangerers” for 1 series

    Don’t forget… On second thoughts do forget Dark Ages.

    SIX and SEVEN

    Good to get a bit of the meat and potatoes of Red Dwarf that was absent throughout most of Last Human here, with Rimmer being irrational and cowardly, Lister winding him up and the two of them bickering. Rimmer “loathing” Lister however, it does feel like maybe some of the character development from the earlier novels is being undone and their relationship reset. Of course they’ve been apart for 36 years at this point and not long before that Lister was on Garbage World for even longer so it’s kinda moot.

    I remember reading this for the first time and not understanding what “illegal still” meant, but working it out from the description of what it’s doing in reverse and realising oh it’s like the thing they make moonshine with in The Great Escape.

  • Don’t forget… On second thoughts do forget Dark Ages.

    I always kinda assumed Dark Ages was more a project Rob Grant got involved in rather than a project he created. Maybe I’m wrong there.

  • Don’t forget… On second thoughts do forget Dark Ages.

    I always kinda assumed Dark Ages was more a project Rob Grant got involved in rather than a project he created. Maybe I’m wrong there.

    Yeah. I believe you are right. It was created by someone else and Rob then came on board as writer.

  • Eleven, twelve and thirteen

    My memory of the book was that it isn’t exactly flooded with new ideas, and so far that’s pretty much been the case. Obviously it was always going to be heavily influenced by the TV episode, and Kryten’s guilt at murdering a human is reminiscent of Back to Reality.

    Thankfully the new ideas that are there are explored quite well and focusing on the core Dwarfers makes this whole section quite enjoyable to read.

  • Dark Ages was created by Merle Nygate in 1996 and commissioned by Granada Television for development. Producer Justin Judd and Nygate could not make the concept work for an ITV audience, so Nygate was replaced by Rob Grant, better known for writing Red Dwarf for BBC Two. Grant’s new scripts for Dark Ages were described by Judd as being more suited for a BBC Two audience, and Grant was required to alter them accordingly.

    Well, I didn’t know that. Might explain why it was as bad as it was. I mean, the lack of good jokes didn’t help, which doesn’t do Rob many favours, but still.

  • EIGHT

    It’s in this chapter where the Backwards-logic starts to get a bit confusing for me. Some of Starbug’s processes (doors opening after Kryten instructs them to etc.) seem to follow forwards-universe logic, but mostly the action is still reverse-logic. So which is it? If Starbug is subject to reverse-logic, as it seems to be in some respects, why don’t its doors open before Kryten presses the button (say)

    Yes I really can’t fathom this bit either, with the airlock and so on. “Wordlessly, Kryten emitted the access signal, and the door swung open.” I don’t think that’s meant to be a backwards thing is it, just Kryten unlocking the door like an electronic key fob? Surely unlocking Starbug normally and then entering is just the reverse of exiting and then locking it before leaving. But I’m not sure that’s what happens here. Also Kryten seems to go into the mid-section twice.

    Without getting too spoilery, I like how Lister’s relief at being back on Starbug and the description of it as “his ticket home” prefigures something at the end of the book.

    Rendezvous abbreviated to “RV”. Rob’s at it as well now!

  • Anyone still reading you have about an hour to get your comments in as we’re collating them now!

  • Also, how mountainous is the area around Niagara Falls anyway? Having a look on Google Maps it doesn’t look like there’s be much around like that.

    I don’t know the geography, but I wondered whether Rob confused or conflated Niagara Falls being in Superman II with the Hoover Dam unbursting in the first film when Superman turns back time, since that’s what the car chase vaguely reminded me of.

  • Not mentioned. I’ve only just realised that Holly’s regeneration solution for Lister could have elegantly solved his own pressing lifespan problem too. I guess they just didn’t like Holly any more.

    Lister’s remains were floating with the rest of the crew. Could they not all be saved on Backwards Earth?
    And why were they all together?
    Did they not bother to dump the rest of the crew until they were dumping Lister?

  • Lister’s remains weren’t floating with the rest of the crew; Kochanski’s were.

    They retrieve Lister’s body fairly easily as Holy gives them the instructions shortly after they launch his “coffin”. It takes another 5 weeks to find Kochanski’s canister (and the other crew members’).

  • The thing to do would be to travel to the backwards universe, go into stasis for a few billion years and come back out when time is running forwards at a time just before the accident and save everyone.

Scroll to top  •  Scroll to 'Recent Comments'

Leave a Reply

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