The Dispatcher #3
Scifi, Thriller, Novella
Subterranean Press; April 30, 2023
224 pages (ebook)
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7 / 10 ✪
I was kindly granted a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Many thanks to Subterranean Press (@SubPress) and NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.
• The Dispatcher Review • Murder by Other Means Review •
Please beware minor spoilers for previous Dispatcher books. Or check out my reviews above.
Sometime in the near future, the world will change. When someone is murdered, they come back; returning to a place of personal safety, naked as the day they were born. Nowadays, society has created a new role to exploit this quirk of creation—a killer for hire, but in order to save lives, rather than steal them.
Tony Valdez is a dispatcher, and life has never been busier. The pandemic has ravaged the world, and people are dying. Most of the time dispatching those that are near death does nothing—sometimes even helping quicken their demise. But the public is scared, and the scared often do stupid things.
When Tony is summoned to a Chicago ER, he is confronted by a familiar face: a fellow dispatcher. But Mason isn’t looking too hot. He’s been cut and bled, hit by a car and is suffering internal bleeding, hemorrhaging, and organ failure. In short—without dispatching, he’ll die.
But Mason is resisting being dispatched, saying he’d die first. And it’s up to Tony to convince him otherwise.
All Tony wants to do is keep his friend safe, but to do that he’s forced into a conspiracy involving billions of dollars in cryptocurrency, murder, betrayal, and a new and innovative form of travel—by bullet.
“How much money?”
It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually thought about how much money to ask for. I went for the first number I could think of. “I want three point one four million dollars.”
Williamson thought about this for a second. “You want pi million dollars.”
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s a nice round number.”
“It’s literally not.”
For a series set in the “near future”, I certainly didn’t expect the Dispatcher to return us to the not-so-distant past. But that’s the problem with a book set in the near future—when something like the pandemic happens, you can’t just write it into all your books without at least one of them reducing the timeline to nonsense. Now, the bad news is that I was pretty annoyed by this obvious mistake that’s completely central to the plot. The good news is that that’s really my main complaint.
All in all, I actually quite enjoyed this one.
That said… I mean, yeah, most of the plot revolves around issues that are topical to the near PAST, but that doesn’t mean that they ruin the story itself. Pandemic and cryptocurrencies aside, the conspiracy of corruption and greed reads about how one would suspect. It’s generally straightforward—something I’d expect from Scalzi, to be honest—but with some nice twists thrown in, particularly those from the world of the Dispatcher itself, particularly the concept of “travel by bullet”. But, to be fair, this installment neither pioneers the concept nor leans into it nearly as much as I’d’ve suspected. There’s really only one instance, and it’s pretty close to the beginning.
As for the rest of it, well, there’s not a whole lot of the dispatcher world involved in the conspiracy. There’s some (as I’ve previously noted), but I’d’ve liked to see more science fiction in this supposed science fiction novella. Don’t get me wrong—I actually quite enjoyed the story, especially at the time, but looking back on it… there were a decent amount of world-building points that annoyed me. In the end these all kind of evened-out. I’d definitely recommend Travel by Bullet—it progresses the Dispatcher story, and indicates that Scalzi likely will return to the world again (both things that I’d be a fan of)—but not without a few caveats. The “near-future” set in the recent past is a big one, but so is the lack of a wholly Dispatcher world. Overall… it’s a good read, just try not to read too much into it.