Mini-Reviews: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi and Deadlocked by A.R. Wise
I snagged this audiobook novella during the free promotional period for it on Audible. I had no information about the plot, but the two hour and 19 minute story was written by John Scalzi and narrated by Zachary Quinto.
A perfect pairing of science-fiction goodness!
The opening scene is set in an operating room with an irate surgeon. And I mean writhing in rage because the dispatcher has arrived. The dispatcher, Anthony Valdez, is 100% low-key calm. For several minutes I had no idea why these two were at odds.
Quinto creates various character voices in a subtle, but effective manner. The angry tones of the surgeon are distinctly different than Tony's mostly simple, even one-word answers, of mellowness.
Scalzi continues to build suspense by avoiding a stale info-dump on the background on dispatchers. Instead, we watch the surgery through the eyes of the dispatcher. Once the surgery begins to fail and it's obvious that the surgeon is going to lose her patient, the dispatcher steps in to perform his job.
Without being spoilery my reaction was complete shock. And I knew, this novella was going to be a good philosophical time!
Tony Valdez is writing his report about his dispatch when a police officer finds him and starts to question him. Tony stepped in for another dispatcher who has disappeared. And now the plot is revealed: a futuristic detective story with the dispatcher and the cop working together to solve the missing person's case.
The science of this science-fiction story is completely hinky. Scalzi doesn't even try to fabricate metachlorians or dilithium crystals. He goes for a straight-forward honest answer that the science cannot be explained.
The origin and evolution of this science has not been explained in this world. At all. It's merely studied as it is and people understand how to use the science, mostly to their advantage.
But this advantage gives people an edge in life that we're not supposed to have. And it creates a series of various moral questions that Scalzi explores in some interesting ways.
For instance, at one point Tony explains to the detective what most of his dating experiences are like. He uses a pair of ten-sided dice to illustrate perfectly the odds of anything going wrong with a dispatch.
In further conversations with the detective, Tony analyzes various moral questions and considers various bigger picture repercussions of this new science.
This story is a science-fiction gem that will philosophically startle you, and keep you wondering about the boundless moral questions explored in such a short time.
This novella was another freebie from Audible from months, possibly years, ago. Seven more installments are available in this series with the last four being books.
The story of this father's journey home through the zombie apocalypse was okay. To begin Wise explains the mass infection of the population on crowded subways by a mysterious stinging sensation that felt like needles. Sounds odd, but given that this unusual delivery system may be explained more in future stories, I'll suspend my disbelief.
Then he introduces his father character of David who's at work for the morning. He's leaving early to see his doctor, who wants to go over the test results for testicular cancer. David knows this news is not good news. Immediately, Wise gives away the death of a character, which I don't see the purpose of in a zombie story. Whatever happens to David now, the audience knows that he's aware that he's going to die so any type of heroic gestures or sacrifices seem less heroic and less noble. Why?
While at work, the news broadcasts a disturbing scene where the infected have turned to zombies and have begun to feed. Wise's choice for this scene is particularly disturbing. It very much felt like gratuitous shock-horror. Again, why?
But at least David is now on the move to find his family. As I was listening to this section of his journey walking, running, and evading zombies with his co-worker Barry, I did think about The Walking Dead. This whole witness to the outbreak story is one we haven't fully seen on TWD because Rick was hospitalized during the zombie outbreak.
And then Wise makes a direct comparison to TWD. David mentions how his knowledge of back streets, short cuts, and traffic work-arounds stems from the summer he was a pizza delivery boy. Oh Glenn, you will always be my favorite pizza delivery boy!
David eventually makes it back home so that he and his family can try to make their escape. I will give Wise some credit for having his characters scavenge in the local school. Plenty of food and basic medical supplies there with fewer people realizing what a treasure trove it is.
The ending? I don't really remember it. I have a vague idea of who lived and who died. If I chose to keep reading the series I could easily get up to speed, but I don't see me continuing this meh.