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What’s that now? You wanted more backwards stuff in your Backwards novel? Well, have we got the DwarfCast for you! Yes, whether you like it or not, in this episode Cappsy, Ian and Danny go Back to Backworld one last time as Rob Grant forces us to consider the reverse logistics of, let’s say, a few too many bodily functions. Thanks Rob.

DwarfCast 140 – Book Club #14: Backwards (Part Three) (85.1MB)

For those of you keeping count, there will be two more Book Club episodes to finish off Backwards, after which it will be replaced with an exciting new project in which we read through and discuss the Smegazines one issue at a time (name pending). In the meantime, though, we’re temporarily replacing our now concluded commentary episodes with a Wafflemen Special which is already in the can and will be the next episode we release.

In the *further* meantime, in our next episode of the Book Club we’ll be moving onto to part 4 – Nipple-sized Pasty Cutters, Gonad Electrocution Kits, and Easy-listenin’ Music  – in our next ep, so get your loins as girded as they can possibly be, read up, and give us your thoughts in the comments below.

Show notes

85 comments on “DwarfCast 140 – Book Club #14: Backwards (Part Three)

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  • Already laughing at the inappropriate high-brow harpsichord jingle, knowing what’s in store.

  • I have just realised that every time I read or hear “spanners” from now on I will think “wanking spanners”.

  • Forgive my naivety towards feline anatomy, but would an actual male cat cause the same sort of pain and damage to a female cat, as cat does to a human woman?

    Is a cat penis really that barbed and sharp that it would tear up her insides? I could understand there being hook like things as a part of it, but I’d have imagined them to be more fleshy.

  • Is a cat penis really that barbed and sharp that it would tear up her insides? I could understand there being hook like things as a part of it, but I’d have imagined them to be more fleshy.

    All I know is, once they’ve got their hooks in you, you’re not getting away until they’re done. It’s probably some fleshy bits that engorge and deflate along with the rest of it.

    It could have been a beautiful chapter if Lister had had a pet slug.

  • Two soups.

    ONE
    “It was against a mechanoid’s creed to fiddle with his own workings”
    No wonder he doesn’t understand all the wanking.

    I love how this first chapter starts so small-scale, totally wrong-footing the reader who’s expecting resolutions to three cliffhangers.
    The idea of reading a novel at 1.8219178 words a day is so good, one of those brilliant concepts you’d only find in a Dwarf novel. It’s funny in itself, but then the cactus reveal is such a good way to expand on the gag without overdoing it.

    You know, I’d totally forgotten it goes into the opening of Gunmen here. I suppose it makes sense, to set up the High Midnight section. In some ways, Lister being a teenager actually works really well for this section, as it always felt a touch too juvenile and gratuitous for adult Lister in the series. Similarly, the whole VI ‘lost Red Dwarf’ setup had gone from my memory as well. It’s a nice alternative way to write it in.

    Gits gits gits gits gits is beautiful.

    “Zero Gee, Kick Boxing, Wimbledon”
    I always heard it as “Zero Gee Kick Boxing” in the series.

    There’s some awkward skirting around age and sex in this book. Regardless of their physical ages, Cat and Lister are definitely adults. Cat who’s, what, probably late 30s after his ten years in Backworld, having sex with a 16 year old is questionable, and Lister describing the CG ball girl as “older than me” is, again, not actually true.

    The Lister’s old underpants line doesn’t work quite as well without the Lister-Kryten conversation preceding it.

    TWO
    Nice little bit of Proper Lister being aware of, and annoyed with, his own teenage hormonal state.

    Rimmer’s refusal to turn himself off here feels considerably more selfish than it does in White Hole, possibly because their situation is considerably more dire, and also because having Holly long term would be really, really useful to them.

    THREE
    It’s done with little fanfare, but Rob’s just killed one of the series’s main characters there. This chapter always upset me as a kid, watching Holly die. It’s still pretty unpleasant now.

    FOUR
    So, are the Agonoids meant to be Simulants? There’s reference to the organic outer skin, which definitely makes them seem like the same kind of cyborgs. I suppose we don’t see anything like internal organs until The Beginning; at this point, I always got the feeling they were largely mechanical.

    I always feel strangely sorry for Chi’Panastee here, despite him being… well, an Agonoid.

    I’ve also just worked out that the ‘Agon’ comes from ‘agony’. Only took me 23 years.

    “I have decided to saw off the top of his skull with a blunt blade and slowly spoon out his brains before his eyes, whilst simultaneously kicking him in the gonads with a steel-capped boot until they are pulped to a mush resembling, in colour and consistency, boysenberry jam.”
    Thanks, Rob.

    Oh God, the offal bit is even worse. What a pleasant imagination you have, Mr. Grant.

    FIVE
    “Slimmer than an anorexic tapeworm with bulimia”. Ignoring the slight insensitivity, how can one being anorexic and bulimic at the same time?

    Rimmer running round the inside of Starbug as it spins is a wonderfully comical image.

    SIX
    I wonder if Doug got the Hogey idea in The Beginning from Kryten’s arse here.

    Wonderful depictions of desperation in Rimmer’s search, exaggerated by the unlikeliness of what he’s looking for even existing. The hope that he might have missed an “extremely small voice-operated forklift” had me giggling for ages. The whole section, climaxing with the ore scoop, is just peak Rimmer.

    SEVEN
    So, how did being held back a year at school make Ace handsome? How did it change the texture of his hair?

    I like how Rimmer is being especially cowardly and paranoid here, as a nice contrast to Ace. Him willing to remain hidden “until the end of time” and immediately thinking Ace is an Agonoid out to get him specifically are nice moments, especially him being so hypocritical as to accuse Kryten of being “chicken hearted”.

    “Errol Flynned to the rescue”, another proper noun as verb.

    The paragraph about Rimmer’s death, how it affected him and the sympathy it elicited contains more interesting character stuff than the whole of Last Human.

    Lovely return of the voice-activated ore scoop, and the fact that Ace immediately came to the conclusion that took Rimmer several minutes to reach. A really nicely structured contrast there.

    EIGHT
    More great Rimmer contrasts here. Obviously we don’t get the longer plot, but I think this book actually does a better job of highlighting just how different the two Rimmers are based on their reactions to numerous little scenarios.

    NINE
    Hi Rob.

    TEN
    “As usual, his mind ran out of breath” is a lovely phrase.

    “My old toilet roll cover.” / “My old sick bucket.” I’d forgotten about Rimmer’s own versions of these. Superb.

    ELEVEN
    Ah, Chekhov’s Apocalypse virus. That’s a really good way to introduce it, hidden in plain sight. Another excellent spin on a TV element that I’d forgotten.

    And now an Agonoid is taken apart while still alive. Lovely stuff.

    TWELVE
    This is a long part, isn’t it?

    Seeing Ace is really weird, having been reading the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures recently. Every time I see his name I picture Sophie Aldred.

    I like that there’s no ‘Ace figured it out’ dialogue about where the two Rimmers branched off here. Never did work out how he knew in the episode.

    “Old liverwurst.” Ok, even Ace’s names are getting daft by this point.

    THIRTEEN
    These spoke traps seem a bit daft. Surely, even if Lister had got there, he would have been killed before reaching the Hub of Pain.

    FOURTEEN
    The last line of this is one of my strongest memories of the book.

  • I like that there’s no ‘Ace figured it out’ dialogue about where the two Rimmers branched off here. Never did work out how he knew in the episode.

    Kryten figured it out.

  • ONE

    – Rimmer POV is very welcome, I love how it infects the general narration too. These alternating POVs are a great feature.
    – Suddenly becoming series VI is jarring, but I suppose it was for viewers at the time too.
    – “Why’s he a sheriff in some old western?” gets a belated/foreshadowing explanation.
    – But seeding the western theme at the same time as the AR machine is so heavy handed that the majority of readers will know what famous episode is coming up. And most were probably pleased.
    – That jailbait addendum is so awkward. I doubt Rob had this exchange in mind when youthing the characters, as it’s not much of a pay-off, but I suppose it justifies it a bit.

    TWO

    – Random action jeopardy for Lister, but it’s a sci-fi book taking the opportunity to do some space stuff, it’s an interesting distraction.

    THREE

    – It’s been almost 25 years since I heard it, but I still think of Rob Grant doing Norman Lovett doing Holly whenever I read “agonoids.”
    – This doesn’t feel like an irreversible death for Holly if they could set about fixing him, but the rest of the novel will probably see to it.

    FOUR

    – Really enjoyed this chapter. Properly menacing, but keeping it a bit silly.
    – They’re just scarier Simulants really (or Terminators), but the Red Dwarf universe doesn’t need to be pared down to simplistic categories, there’ll be lots of similar things.
    – It reminded me of Doctor Who’s Deep Breath even before it did the same reveal with the missing eye hidden sideways on.

  • ONE

    A lot of funny stuff in this chapter. Kryten reading, Rimmer reading, Rimmer thinking he might be in hell. This part’s off to a good start.

    I don’t remember what happens but I’m thinking Chekhov’s rusty stairs possibly?

    Lister and Cat are “in love with their own right hands”, and Cat has that line in VIII about sending a Valentine’s card to his hand. I wonder whether that idea originated in something Rob and Doug wrote together.

    “Zero Gee, Kick Boxing, Wimbledon”
    I always heard it as “Zero Gee Kick Boxing” in the series.

    Me too. In fact I’m pretty sure that is what Lister’s saying in Gunmen. He even mimes kickboxing while he’s still saying Zero Gee. I must check the script in Son of Soup.

    TWO

    I suspect Lister spinning end over end in his spacesuit was inspired by the same thing happening to Talby in Dark Star.

    There’s that rust again.

    It’s Holly!!!!!

    THREE

    Holly!!!!1

    FOUR

    A good introduction to the Agonoids that gets across how sadistic and self-serving they are. This starts like one of those great world-building chapters in the first two novels but turns into something else. Presumably Agonoids predate humankind abandoning war in favour of sport, and therefore also Gelfs.

    FIVE

    The coldness and lack of any kind of atmosphere outside is suddenly very relevant at the end of this chapter.

    SIX

    Lovely stuff with Rimmer panicking here. The voice activation stuff is reminiscent of his obsessing over the start button in BTL.

    I like the implication of the ore scoop’s bucket not being big enough to carry a “full body”, and the fact that it then turns out to be an inconsequential detail. Seems like a playful bit of misdirection on Rob’s part.

    SEVEN

    It’s in Dimension Jump as well of course but I like Ace struggling to hide his contempt for Rimmer and take a “there but for the grace of God” kind of attitude to such a different version of himself. In Part 2 he was worried he’d meet a better version of himself, but apparently didn’t consider the possiblity he’d encounter one like Rimmer, which perhaps doesn’t cast Ace in a terribly good light. Their irritation with each other is nicely written here.

  • FOUR cont.

    – I like how the agonoids make a big deal out of Lister, I never liked the Gunmen Simulants being underwhelmed.

    FIVE

    – God, this teenage stuff is dragging now.
    – But Cat reverting to one-note fashion jokes is some comfort in these dark times.
    – I’m probably calling it a bit late – what with the pig, the barbed cock and everything – but Kryten being remorselessly smashed around and giggling in delirium is where it gets too weird for me and approaches ‘Dead Bart’ levels of sinister fanfic.
    – I wondered, pedantically, why Rimmer doesn’t fly through the walls, but the light bee discussion later gives an answer. Rob’s good at patching these holes.

    SIX

    – I quite like Kryten breaking character to scold Rimmer, but the pleading is too much.
    – In TV land, the rescue from the “slow, painful, lingering, screaming agony of our certain brutal deaths” wouldn’t have been drawn out this long.

    SEVEN

    – If you’re in trouble, he will save the day. Though all the way through, I was sharing Rimmer’s secret glee that their “rescuer” caused this little mishap.
    – Despite the excessive brutality of the last couple of chapters, it syncs back into a Dimension Jump adaptation very well here.
    – I’d been thinking Ace arrived next to Red Dwarf, and wondering how that made sense if Rimmer wasn’t there, but it turns out it was Starbug from later in the novel. One less nitpick and a cliffhanger redeemed through non-linear tomfoolery.
    – Descriptions of Rimmer’s ‘crew cut’ always make it sound like his hair’s shorter in the novels (as the artist of the American omnibus took it), but maybe I’m misunderstanding.
    – Chum-burger, sausage, pickles, porridge, mashed potato, fruit loaf, even a sprout – have your breakfast already.
    – I laughed at the “younger version of Spanners,” it’s become such an unnecessary distraction now.
    – Word of god confirmation of the Marooned light bee button-pushing theory.

  • EIGHT

    – …apple tart, cabbage, turnip, marmalade, peach…
    – There’s more interaction between Rimmers than I remembered and it’s all great. Rimmer’s been perfect throughout this section, at least someone is.
    – I’m undecided on the more vulnerable/human Kryten. His cheery wink to Lister is strange, but he’s secretly worried about the oxygen.

    NINE

    – I admire the agonoids’ passion and effort. It’s so over the top that it’s comfortably on the black comedy level and doesn’t slide into genuine horror territory (yet?)
    – Maybe it’s my age, but some smooth easy-listenin’ music would be less torturous than being assaulted by loud metalcore or something.
    – Dhjun’Keep’s little inventions made me laugh. Why would Lister put on the condom? They’re so into it, they’re not thinking straight.
    – They’re also very dumb or computer senile to not notice really obvious treachery, but any weak points in their armour are welcome. Not that Ace and the Kids need their help to defeat these baddies, eh?

  • TEN

    – That’s ‘poufy’ as in the formerly popular slang term, isn’t it? Glad it wasn’t in the series.
    – ‘Sleeping policemen’ might get lost in translation, I wonder what the horny Czechs made of it.
    – ‘Yes, my old toilet roll cover’ – Arnie wins that round.
    – Finally, a positive cliffhanger. It’s all coming together.

    ELEVEN

    – Not much comedy in these final chapters.
    – Getting back into Gunmen references made me imagine Dhjun’Keep as the Dennis Lil Simulant, M’Aiden’s the Justice one. The transformed Red Dwarf is all 90s BBC-budget cyberpunk sets.

    TWELVE

    – Ace recognised the Series 4000s and the agonoids were developed later. Not an interesting point and it’s a different universe anyway.

    THIRTEEN

    – The Hub of Pain is the Robot Wars arena. Activate!

    FOURTEEN

    – Did Pizzak’Rapp fall through space and miraculously hit Starbug, or did he have propulsion?

  • ONE



    It was mentioned on the recent DwarfCast how Holly and the onion pondering felt like a part of Infinity. I’d always remembered it the same too. And now reading the Kryten part about slowly reading a book, I’d have sworn that was from Infinity too.

    The fact the same joke is almost replicated in Red Dwarf USA (I’ve been reading that fire exit sign) I really thought it was from Kryten on the crashed Nova 5, spending millennia reading the one book.

    I’ve read these books load over the years yet I always remember those two passages incorrectly. But I think it does just go to show how much more like the previous two books Backwards is in a lot of regards.

    I appreciate Rob having Kryten reading a Western as an obvious set up to later events. Giving reason why his subconscious chose that setting.

    Finding the AR unit on a ship on the periphery of the black hole is mighty convenient. But I guess it signals to the ready were very much out of the backwards world now, and for those that know, this is going to be series 6 territory moving forward.

    Given how Lister and Cat almost died after months trapped in a AR game, you’d think they’d have been a little more careful about procuring it and using it now. Especially as Lister presumably (unless it healed on backwards world) still has the U=BTL scar on his arm. But I’m glad Rob acknowledges BTL at least.

    The Gunmen dialogue from Lister “”that is a scandalous, outrageous piece of libel” doesn’t feel right coming from a 15 year old Lister. And I guess harks back to how his brain reacted in Backwards world. Is it just his body reacting to puberty hormones or does his mind regress too. I think the book would have you accept he remembers both his lifetimes and experiences but it’s not clear.

    Also “zero gee, kick boxing, Wimbledon” … I’d always thought Lister said “zero free kickboxing” as a single sport, not two separate things. I wonder if that was the intention in the script and Craig delivers it differently.

  • Two

    Kryten shouldn’t need a helmet in space.

    It’s interesting how largely similar Rob and Doug’s approaches to missing Red Dwarf are, and wonder whether it was something they’d discussed during the writing of series 6 as to what had happened.

    As both have Red Dwarf stollen, have the thieves make modifications to it, and abandon Holly.

    Interesting use of White Hole dialogue surrounding the rebooting of Holly and the possible deactivation of Rimmer, when White Hole was in the previous book (though written prior to the episode I think?) so there’s som weird overlaps going on with themes and dialogue across books and TV

  • ONE

    I had completely forgotten about this aspect of the book. Kryten reading a Western novel is a nice way of providing some context and justification for… well, you know. What comes later.

    Just the image of Kryten sitting down and reading a novel in his spare time is lovely.

    The 0.8219178-words-per-day gag is good, and feels like a cousin of the Fire Exit sign joke. Although I do wonder how Kryten calculated how much of a word he could read per day – what anticipated endpoint is he using?

    Lister now being 15 somehow makes the jailbait ball-girl joke marginally less icky.

    The reference to Lister’s chronological age versus his physical age made me smile given the similar observation in the most recent Dwarfcast comment. I can’t be bothered to do the maths to check if it’s all correct though.

    “It occurred to Rimmer that nothing really nice had happened to him since his death” feels like vintage Grant Naylor writing.

    TWO

    The film Gravity is basically a slightly more serious adaptation of Lister’s space-walk here.

    Holly’s appearance at the end of the chapter again feels like it automatically generates fawning audience applause and whooping in my head.

    THREE

    Holly’s reappearance here is very Nanarchy in a lot of ways, isn’t it? Interesting parallel. This is funnier though – the onions exchange feels like vintage Holly.

    FOUR

    This immediately feels like a callback to the flashback-history chapters of Infinity and BTL.

    It’s also very similar (almost word-for-word in places) to the synopsis that was featured on the Red Dwarf movie leaflets. How involved was Rob in that, if at all? Again, an interesting parallel.

    Based on the descriptions here, and their assimilation of body parts etc., I basically imagine the Agonoids as looking like the Borg from Star Trek. I wonder if that was an influence on Rob? (Insert “I was about to call my lawyer” joke here.)

    I remember when I first read this, I got the M-Aiden Ty-One pun immediately, but all the others took me ages to work out.

    “Bugger him to death with the soggy end” is all that I will now hear when I watch The Inquisitor hear Lister threaten to beat Kryten to death with the wet end.

    FIVE

    Again, a darker version of “rip off their head and spit down their neck”. I wonder why Rob didn’t just make the Agonoids Simulants? What’s the difference?

    “This was the antithesis of the optimum course of action” is a fantastic line, and perfect for Kryten’s thoughts.

    SIX

    This chapter is almost Out Of Time levels of serious action, and it works for me. Kryten’s desperation is intense and Rimmer’s panic is very relatable. (And the aside where he rants about the lack of a voice-activated ore scoop feels like a nice semi-callback to the engines start button section from BTL.)

    Also, I had forgotten that this is how Ace makes his entrance, and it’s a perfect moment.

    SEVEN

    “Jake with you, my old fruit salad?” – I don’t know what this means. Is it a misprint?

    EIGHT

    Ace admitting culpability for the accident and Rimmer being dismayed is such a perfect character moment for Rimmer. Attribution of blame is more important to him than anything else, in this book, even when it’s not really important at all.

    NINE

    It feels like Rob wrote the book so he could write this chapter.

    Of all the torture equipment, it feels like the metal toothpick to scrape out the inside of the “penis tube” is the nastiest of all. YMMV.

    TEN

    Well, it’s Dimension Jump isn’t it.

    The concept of using the Wildfire to get the Dwarfers back to their own time is an interesting one though. I wonder what the plan would be there, though. Surely (according to the rules of this book) it could only take them to another reality very different to their own? And how does it decide whose timeline to jump to if more than one person is driving?

    ELEVEN

    Oh no, wait a minute – Rob wrote the book so he could write *this* chapter.

    TWELVE

    Is it me, or are these chapters getting shorter?

    I guess Ace’s plan is just to randomly shoot Lister off in the Wildfire and hope for the best? Great plan, excellent plan etc.

    THIRTEEN

    “It’s dying time.” – tonight, the role of Djuhn’Keep will be played by Gordon Kennedy.

    FOURTEEN

    This is a good tension-building chapter but somehow doesn’t quite live up to the previous section-ending chapters, for me. The robo-arse-swapping twist and subsequent cliffhanger is decent, but it leaves everything in the story feeling very unresolved, for the Agonoids and the Dwarfers and Ace. It doesn’t feel like the end of a section. But it is.

  • All I know is, once they’ve got their hooks in you, you’re not getting away until they’re done.

    Very much the Cinzano Bianco of the penis world.

  • These spoke traps seem a bit daft. Surely, even if Lister had got there, he would have been killed before reaching the Hub of Pain.

    The spoke traps are for the Agonoids, not Lister. They’re competing for the chance to torture Lister to death.

  • I suspect Lister spinning end over end in his spacesuit was inspired by the same thing happening to Talby in Dark Star.

    Ooooh yeah. I forgot about that.

  • “Jake with you, my old fruit salad?” – I don’t know what this means.

    I had to look it up.

    adjective INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN
    adjective: jake
    all right; satisfactory.
    “everything was jake again”

  • ONE

    Kryten’s reading habits here seem to be most reminiscent the US pilot with the fire exit sign (although I think, when I first read this novel, I was only aware of that line from The Programme Guide).. Nice foreshadowing of the High Midnight stuff too.

    The reference to BTL is interesting, if only because it seems extremely odd that Lister would go anywhere near a game headset ever again.

    TWO

    As someone who’s never keen on reading long passages of action in novel, the opening space-walk seems quite superfluous to me. I find all the stuff describing 15 year old Lister as quite strange. I’m not sure what we should read into bits where he’s made a certain choice, *specifically because* he’s going through puberty. Is that characterization?

    THREE

    Correct me if I’m wrong (and someone may have already made this point above), but is this the first time we’ve seen Holly and Kryten exchange dialogue in the novels? It’s referenced that they spoke while the crew were in BTL, but we never actually saw that.

    “You’ve failed your astronavigation exam eleven times”

    It’s actually twelve, but since Lister was on his way to Stasis during that attempt, I’ll let that pass.

    FOUR

    “It wouldn’t surprise you or me, but it did surprise them”

    Is this the first time in any of these novels both the omniscient author has been characterized, and the reader has been addressed? I’m struggling to think of any other examples where the narration has been quite this “chatty”.

    I recall it taking waaaaaaay too long for young me to twig that he names of the Agonoids were all creaky puns.

    FIVE

    This is probably the chapter of the novel where things get so bleak for our crew that my enjoyment reading it starts to ebb away. There is no sign of hope present. And then a ship crashes into them.

  • “You’ve failed your astronavigation exam eleven times”
    It’s actually twelve, but since Lister was on his way to Stasis during that attempt, I’ll let that pass.

    Thirteen times in the hardback. Rob’s always had a bit of a blind spot with… teens.

  • Think the reason Rimmer keeps failing his astro-navigation exams is because he has undiagnosed dyscalculia.

  • Three

    How many times are Rob and Doug going to lose / kill Holly off?
    Whilst the onion section is funny, it only serves to explain how Holly is back. And Rob only brings him back for this chapter to provide exposition to the characters.

    That’s almost worst treatment than Hattie got.

    Four

    Who named the Aganoids? If it’s a cruel human joke then why haven’t they chosen their own handles yet?

    Five

    The image of Rimmer especially, but Kryten also, running counter to the spin of Starbug is very amusing, if not slightly unnecessary given the gravity on the ship should always hold them to the floor. Starbug being upside down relative to it’s previous position wouldn’t change the location of the gravitation pull.

  • Starbug being upside down relative to it’s previous position wouldn’t change the location of the gravitation pull.

    Details, details.

  • Having recently rewatched Fathers & Suns I feel like I’m now going to imagine spacewalk Lister from this book as looking like he does in that episode.

  • SIX

    I always remember the stuff about Rimmer searching for a “voice-activated ore scoop” rather fondly. Despite being a completely “alien” situation, it’s a wonderful example of human behaviour and is perfect for Rimmer. He acts on misinformation (Kryten’s suggestion that a related object exists and is on board), and becomes so fixated on that as the specific solution to his normal excuse (he’s dead), that he’s close-minded to other possibilities. (In the next chapter, Rimmer tells Ace that it’s not a *voice-activated* ore scoop as if it’s some kind of trump card in their argument)

    SEVEN

    This is quite a busy chapter. We go from Ace arriving, to Arnold discovering the existence of his other self, to open hostilities between the two of them.

  • EIGHT

    This novel is beginning to resemble a season of 24. Every chapter, without significant exception, ends with a cliffhanger which is addressed or dismissed within a couple of pages, ready for us to setup the next cliff-hanger.

    NINE

    Well, this is all fairly disgusting

    TEN

    Rimmer and Lister reprise the chat about other-selves from Dimension Jump. It doesn’t quite work as well in the novels as it’s pretty unlikely that Lister could justify feeling jealous for Spanners when he’s already spent 40 years growing young with Kochanski and also unraising (lowering?) twin boys.

    I love that we even get a supposed theory on Arnold’s nostrils.

  • ELEVEN

    I wonder if Rob read Last Human in 1995 and then decided to use phonetic spelling for the individual Agonoid names to make it appear as if they have tedious and unpronounceable “alien” names.

    TWELVE

    Presumably it’s also the Dodecahedron in *this* reality, just in the future.

  • My thoughts on this part are skewed by a knowledge of what happens in the next part. There’s nothing inherently wrong with things getting a bit bleak as we reach the end of the second act (it’s screenwriting 101) but with that comes an expectation that all of these insurmountable problems will be resolved and we’ll get both a happy ending, and a satisfactory resolution to the Rimmer-conflict which frames the whole shebang.

    Ho hum.

  • SEVEN

    I really like Rimmer’s realisation that he is so fixated on his own death and its limitation that its blinded him to ways in which he could do things.

    It would be so easy to just have Rimmer be a bit of a moron and a prick but time and time again Rob and Doug humanise him at times you don’t often expect.

    Nine

    I like all the Aganoid stuff, but it does feel distinctly different to anything Red Dwarf usually is.

    But it also occurs to me that it’s one of the few times in the books (especially post accident) that we’re having huge long sections without any of our characters. And it’s not entirely dissimilar in that way to the scene in The Beginning, though those guys are played for broader comedy and are seen as a but dumb, its still a big focus on a bunch of Simulant characters.

    ELEVEN

    Rimmer’s mocking of Ace’s little niceties are fun, “my old sick bucket” etc

  • And it’s not entirely dissimilar in that way to the scene in The Beginning

    Yes, this occurred to me too. Very similar in some ways.

  • though those guys are played for broader comedy and are seen as a but dumb

    Similar in that there’s one competent boss and a load of stupid lackeys, even if they don’t know that’s what they are. The agonoids are more easily duped than they should really be to have survived this long, but they only had to be on guard for other dumb agonoids.

    I found the pointlessly subtle torture instruments in chapter 9 funny, though that turned out to be part of the deception to make him appear senile. The humour definitely evaporates later. If this was Demons and Angels, chapters 4 & 9 are like when they first arrive on the Low ship and there are gags about cinema hot dogs, chapters 11 & 13 are where Lister’s eating a tarantula and pouring boiling water over his crotch.

  • NINE

    I quite like all the stuff with the Agonoids and their grisly plans for Lister here and in Chapter 4, but can’t help feeling that somewhat generic killer robot baddies is a bit of a let-down after the threats faced by the crew in the first two books, like the Polymorph, the Game, the crazy weather on Garbage World etc. They’re pretty much simulants of course, but whenever they show up in the series there’s always something else more interesting at play too, or they’re mainly there as a catalyst for the main big idea of the episode e.g. Justice World. I’d argue that’s not really the case here, even though having them take over Red Dwarf completely and turn it into the Death Wheel/Hub of Pain is an admittedly ballsy idea. Instead of quite so much gleeful sadism, more about what they’ve done to the ship might have been fun as I really like the bar and scramble cards and getting “robot-drunk”.

    TEN

    “I am that Lister” is a line that arguably works better coming from 15-year-old Lister.

    Calling Ace “my old toilet-roll cover” is one of the best things Rimmer’s ever done.

  • having them take over Red Dwarf completely and turn it into the Death Wheel/Hub of Pain is an admittedly ballsy idea.

    I always find it a bit difficult to reconcile this with the scale of Red Dwarf. The ship is miles long, so I don’t buy that they’ve completely gutted the whole ship to build this wheel of death thing, as it can’t be that big. I always imagine it’s just one big part of Red Dwarf that they’ve converted, one of the big cargo bays or decks or something.

  • It’s described as a “series of corridors that led out from each of Red Dwarf’s docking bays to a central point” so it extends to several points at the outer edges of the ship. Of course we don’t know how many, and there could be a lot of largely unchanged areas in between the spokes, but what with that, ripping out Holly, and the ransacking of the ship to search for survivors as recounted in Chapter 4, I imagine Red Dwarf is pretty fucked.

  • Yeah, it’s as much the depth as the breadth that I was thinking of.

    They also talk about the Agonoids drinking in bars etc. so presumably some of those structures still exist. (I like the idea of a load of hardened space-droids drinking in Parrots.)

    Unless they ripped them all out and built new ones, I suppose.

  • Well Chapter 4 is set in “the newly built Scatter bar”, so it sounds like they’ve made themselves at home. That’s the kind of thing I was saying it might have been good to hear more about instead of some of the torture stuff, but I don’t suppose it would really serve the story.

  • I’ve always read it as it consumes one level of the ship, as Clem points out the spokes extend from each cargo bay to a central point, could be a giant cargo bay or something the middle. But they’re rejigged the corridors on one level to create these V branched spokes with the torture chamber in the middle but everything above and below will be largely untouched.

    Calling Ace “my old toilet-roll cover” is one of the best things Rimmer’s ever done.

    All of Rimmer’s lines like this mocking Ace are brilliant, and just shows that they’re the same person, with the same wit etc just Rimmer turns it on his nasty side whilst Ace uses it charmingly.

  • Converting the ship reminded me of something. It’s probably Star Trek: First Contact, which didn’t come out until the end of the year that Backwards was published. Or the Joker booby-trapping a theme park in Batman: Funhouse of Fear (Ladybird, 1989).

  • I imagine it’s not that difficult to covert the ship either. It’s a maze of corridors and such, and in the series III-V era has many internal doors along the corridors which can be sealed shut (White Hole, Inquisitor), so they’ed only have to seal off and block off the routes they don’t want people to access and you have a single direct route from docking bays to whatever central chamber they’ve constructed.

  • They also talk about the Agonoids drinking in bars etc. so presumably some of those structures still exist. (I like the idea of a load of hardened space-droids drinking in Parrots.)

    I picture the bars that the Agonoids are drinking in as being like the Aigburth Arms of 2155 – the one with the Grav-Pool where Lister abandoned himself.

  • Not an awful lot to add for the last few chapters, but again as with previous books I’m always impressed with how Rob (and previously Doug) is good at weaving multiple stories together from different episodes and series quite seemlessly.

    You’ve got Dimension Jump coming in hot of the back of Backwards and sliding right into Gunmen

    And more so than previous books, very much just the concepts used, with the situations and most of the dialogue changed entirely.

    My favourite sections of Infinity were all the stuff that we hadn’t seen on screen because that stuff was mostly lifted word for word in places

    I enjoy Backwards a lot as it reframes classic stories and making them exciting to read.

  • TWELVE

    I like how Ace says ‘Bob’s your mother’s brother’ and calls Red Dwarf ‘the small rouge one’, and then the prose starts doing that same thing of talking in synonyms. ‘the effluence struck the ventilator’ etc. As if he doesn’t just talk like that but thinks it as well. He’d be good at those rounds they have on Pointless.

  • Do you know when you will be recording the next book club?

    Work constraints have prevented me from posting anything yet…

  • We’re recording the Book Club tomorrow afternoon. So you’ve still got time!

  • WHAT?? Only 24hours! First in the shower room!

    I’m so excited, all 6 of my eardrums are tingling

    There’s stuff in there that’ll make your penis barbs stand on end.

  • Chapters 1 and 2

    ‘It was only his body that was going through puberty – why couldn’t his mind stave off these bouts of adolescent temper and impetuousness?”

    I think this is contradicted in these chapters and throughout this section. Rob seems to sometimes forget whether Lister is a teenager or not.

    Rimmer’s “One good rump grunt from Lister’s backside would blast me out of existence” makes me smile, and Rob has always had a way with an unpleasant phrase.

  • Chapter 3

    A short but sweet chapter and I wish we could have had more of this in the book. It almost feels like a lost Norman scene and the interplay between the characters is spot on.

    “I remember something about onions.”
    “Onions?”
    “I take it all back,” Rimmer beamed. “He’s still the giant intellect he always was.”

    There’s nothing particularly innovative about it, but it works when you imagine the actors’ performances.

  • Chapter 4

    The names of the agonoids feel like single entendres and aren’t as clever as you would have hoped.

    The chapter does though do a decent job of conveying how inhumane they are.

  • Chapter 5

    ‘Slenderer than an anorexic tapeworm with bulimia’ is a line that hasn’t aged too well.

    “Nyah,” Lister whined sarcastically, “I’m really, really scared.” This is another line which seems to show Lister as being an immature teenager in contrast with what we see a couple of chapters later…

  • Chapter 6

    Even under these circumstances, “you encephalopathetic donkey gonad” seems an unlikely insult to come out of Kryten’s mouth. It feels like Rob’s love of this sort of line meant that he felt he had to cram it into the book.

    Kryten is generally funnier when he is forced to act calm even when in extreme danger.

  • Chapter 7 and 8

    Ace is even camper than ever with his “fruit salad”, “munchkin”, “old cabbage” remarks. It isn’t exactly subtle, but I think it’s redeemed by the fact that it’s apparent that Rob is in on the joke as we see a couple of chapters later…

  • Chapters 9 and 11

    This feels like distilled Rob and there is genuine menace in the Death Wheel and its ‘gynaecological surgery’ and ‘testicle handcuffs’.

    “I thought it might come in handy for scraping out the inside of the penis tube.” This is enough to strike terror into the heart of any man and Rob really ought to write a horror/torture novel.

  • Chapters 10 and 12

    Lister appears to have returned to his mature self here, as his attitude towards Spanners and his conversation with Ace show no sign of him being a teenager.

    Rimmer’s “my old toilet-roll cover” and “my old sick bucket” are a relief, simply because they indicate that Rob knows that Ace is a ridiculous character and he is firmly taking the proverbial.

  • Chapters 13 and 14

    These chapters are a good way of creating anticipation for a final showdown. Rob has proven to be very good at whetting the appetite throughout the book, now we just have to see whether he can actually deliver in the final section.

  • THIRTEEN

    These spoke traps seem a bit daft. Surely, even if Lister had got there, he would have been killed before reaching the Hub of Pain.

    The spoke traps are for the Agonoids, not Lister. They’re competing for the chance to torture Lister to death.

    There’s no mention of traps in the corridors where the Agonoids are meant to race/fight each other in pairs. The traps are there to force Lister and co. from the docking bay along the spokes to the Hub of Pain. Things like diminishing oxygen and a descending ceiling would be easier to control to make sure they didn’t get killed, but yes, one of these spikes could’ve easily got Lister. But then I suppose Djuhn’Keep planned all this and knew all along what the traps were really for. Maybe only he knew about the deadlier stuff like the spikes.

  • But then I suppose Djuhn’Keep planned all this and knew all along what the traps were really for. Maybe only he knew about the deadlier stuff like the spikes.

    The evil mastermind feigning feebleness and taking out his rivals is a development that I and probably other people don’t remember about Backwards. Maybe because it’s just generic villainy without the distinctiveness that makes penis tube scraping memorable.

    Still, people often say they want more serious and scary enemies in Red Dwarf again (Inquisitor, Lanstrom) and the remaining agonoids are in that mould.

  • Due to unforeseen circumstances we’re having to delay our recording for this until next week. So if you haven’t got your comments, jump on this opportunity and get your thoughts and opinions in!

    With us running at full pelt I confidently predict we will have read a full book by the end of the year.

  • The evil mastermind feigning feebleness and taking out his rivals is a development that I and probably other people don’t remember about Backwards

    It’s the one bit I always forget. Reading the book these last few weeks, particularly the past backwards world bit, I was scratching my head trying to remember how the plot with the Aganoids aboard Red Dwarf resolved, and how our characters were involved in it. Whilst sort of also vaguely remembering that they don’t actually make it back to Red Dwarf … and not being able to reconcile those two things.

  • Personally, I blame society opening back up and us increasingly having to go out and do stuff as a result. It’s incredibly inconvenient and annoying.

  • The most unforeseen circumstance is that I fucking lost my copy of the fucking book. Turns out it was inexplicably in a drawer that I never use. But I found it too late to do all my reading in time.

  • I moved to stay with my mum for a bit and lost Last Human in the move around the time the book club started reading it, so I order a new copy.

    Several weeks later I found it at the bottom of the washing basket. It had obviously fallen in as I’d put boxes in the loft (it’s under the hatch) and my mums lax approach to household chores meant it stayed hidden for fucking ages.

  • The most unforeseen circumstance is that I fucking lost my copy of the fucking book. Turns out it was inexplicably in a drawer that I never use. But I found it too late to do all my reading in time.

    I just assumed you were reading this section at 0.8219178 words per day.

  • Several weeks later I found it at the bottom of the washing basket.

    “I’ll just have the toast.”

  • MATHS IN THE RED PART ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR:

    The most unforeseen circumstance is that I fucking lost my copy of the fucking book. Turns out it was inexplicably in a drawer that I never use. But I found it too late to do all my reading in time.

    I just assumed you were reading this section at 0.8219178 words per day.

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