Red Dwarf, by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor Red dwarf was written in collaboration by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. However on the cover of the book the author is called Grant Naylor and is referred to as a “Gestalt entity” giving the reader a clue as to what style the book is going to take. The BBC television series of the same name is based on this book but the events of the book and series are quite different and in my opinion the book is superior. The central character of this book is Dave Lister and it focuses on his journey through space which brings him farther and farther from the planet of his birth.
The other characters in the book are Arnold Rimmer (the hologram of a third grade technician who was killed by a nuclear explosion, which had the power of a neutron bomb); Holly (a computer that once had an IQ of 6000 but went computer senile due to 3 million years alone in deep space; ) and Cat (a humanoid whose race evolved from a cat which was protected from the radiation, in the ship’s hold).
The first stage of Lister’s journey began on his 25 birthday. He decided to take a monopoly board pub crawl around London. When he woke up with a huge hangover he was on Mimas (one of Saturn’s moons) with no money wearing a lady’s hat and a pair of yellow fishing waders and a passport / work permit made out in the name of Emily Berkenstein. Since he had no work permit he could not earn enough money to buy his way off the moon and so the only way he could think of to get home was to join the Space Corps on the mining ship Red Dwarf. His plan was to work his way round the solar system until he reached Earth, then he would go AWOL.
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However this plan was altered when something drastic befell him, he fell in love. For five weeks the boring monotony of ship life was bearable but then Kristine Kochanski broke it off with him. This made life on ship unbearable and so he formulated a plan by which he could get to Earth sooner (at least from his perspective).
He bought a cat on one of his shore leave holidays and then took pictures of himself and the cat to be developed to make sure he was caught.
The crime of endangering the crew warranted the rest of the trip being spent in stat is (in suspended animation) with no pay. For the trip back to Earth Lister would live in the stat is, outside time, so when he stepped out about three years later he would not have aged a day. However all did not go according to plan, a fault in the reactor caused a chain reaction which was to kill every living thing on the ship. Everything except Lister and his pregnant cat.
Holly (the computer) turned the ship around and flew it out of the solar system and continued its journey until the radiation levels were safe again. This took 3 million years. In this time Holly’s IQ was reduced from 6000 to about 100 due to computer senility and the cat that was protected inside the ship’s cargo bay bred and over time evolved into Felis Sapiens. However among the cats there was a holy war.
All the young and strong cats left the ship in search of the promised lands. The only surviving cat was born of an idiot and a cripple and was know to the crew of Red Dwarf simply as cat. When Lister was reanimated and learnt of the death of the Crew he was devastated and started to go mad. So Holly resurrected Rimmer in an effort to keep Lister sane. Life on board ship would have been fine, the cat and Lister could have gone into Statis for the very long trip home, had it not been due to the fact that Red Dwarf had been accelerating for 3 million years. This huge acceleration meant that they broke the light barrier.
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They then began to experience future echoes. They saw things before they actually happened. In these echoes Lister was not in stat is and so must not have gone into stat is. They then began to slow the ship down so they could sling shot the ship around a planet and begin the journey back to earth. On their way back to Earth they received a distress call from a ship called the Nova Five.
The only surviving crew member on this ship was a called Kryten who was obsessed with cleaning. On the Nova Five there is Duality Drive which would enable the ship to shorten their journey from 3 million years to about three months. They used the Duality Drive to get back to Earth to find that the Human race is still alive and that they are huge celebrities. Rimmer and the Cat both have luxurious life styles while Lister opts for a quieter life in a town just like the town out of his favourite film “Its a wonderful Life” with his new wife who just happened to be a “e ganger of Kristine Kochanski and every day is Christmas Eve. In fact the Red Dwarf crew were no longer living in reality, they were living inside a game called Better Than Life. This game gave you everything your sub conscious desired and hides itself so well from your mind that you could not even tell you are living in it.
The crew were still in deep space, they had not really returned to earth. The book ends with Lister realising the Truth and imagining his exit from the game. He is about to leave the game when he thinks of his family and realise’s that he could never leave them on Christmas Eve. I liked enjoyed reading this book it was very entertaining and funny throughout.
The funniest part for me was the description of the long 3 million year journey away from earth where Holly misses sights that many physicists would kill to see because he was too preoccupied thinking about the book “Football – Its a funny old game” by Kevin Keegan and how bad it was. Coming in a close second was how Holly spent 2000 years Gurning, thought he was going senile and so decided to build a perfect facsimile of a human woman capable of independent thought. He then realised he could even begin to build this woman’s nose, put it down as a bad job and so went back to Gurning again. Of the Red dwarf books that I have read this is the best. It is only slightly better than Better than life (the sequel to Red Dwarf) and much better than Last Human which in my opinion was pretty pathetic. This book was a very good read and I would give it 8 out of 10 and urge you to read it.
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However if you are not a great fan of science fiction or did not like the first few series of the television show you may not find it quite as enjoyable as I did.