★ ★ 1/2
Written at the proverbial, easy-to-access, reach-all-literacy-levels eighth-grade level, The Dispatcher has an intriguing core idea. Unfortunately, the writing kept it only two steps above boring for me. Dialogue-heavy, it lacks descriptors and imagery that would have made it more immersive. On the plus side, the fundamental concept is decently integrated into the dialogue, always a challenging task in sci-fi/fantasy. Yet, since description is so scanty in other areas, it does make those moments stand out. Seriously, this was pretty close to boring for me; beyond the hook of ‘dispatching,’ it was very underwritten.
Apparently, it was first conceived of as an audio story, and read by Zacharay Quinto. I read the paper edition, so I missed the dynamicism a talented actor might have brought to the story. Still, when I contrast it with Aaronovitch’s novellas and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, I can’t help but think Scalzi provided too little material for an actor to work with.
Note: I read the Subterranean Press edition which contained a few line drawings. They didn’t do much for me, and one contains a pretty solidly triggering image of a suicide right before pulling the trigger. Given a good 20K people a year suicide by guns, I’d call that a questionable choice. Stick with zombies eating brains, will ya? https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suic…
Here’s a sample from page 32, shortly after the main character meets a police officer.It makes me a little sad to see so much love for such a poorly fleshed out story, when I think of the wonderful novella writing by Zelazny, Aaronovitch, Hurley and others. I love Scalzi’s public commentary and willingness to take his Mallet of Correction to the troll-verse, so I’m rounding this up to three stars on GR.
Here’s a sample from page 32, shortly after the main character meets a police officer.
“What if it was a private gig?”
“You mean, if he was working for a client directly, not through the Agency or through an insurance company.”
“Yeah. I understand that happens from time to time.”
“Sure. I definitely wouldn’t know about those.”
“They’re kind of a gray area, legally speaking.”
“Do you have any private clients?”
“What part of ‘it’s a gray area, legally speaking’ are you having trouble with?”
“You can tell me confidentially.”
I raised my cup to Langdon. “I appreciate the coffee, but I’m not that cheap. Or stupid.”
“Fair enough,” Langdon said. “Who would know if he had any private clients?”
“Katie might,” I said. “His wife. You’ve spoken to her?”
Langdon nodded. “Briefly. We asked her who she knew that might want to do harm to her husband. She wasn’t coming up with anyone.”
“You might ask her again. She might have thought you were asking about someone who had a grudge against him, not one of his private clients.”
“Would she tell us?”
“She might. Jimmy wouldn’t like it, but Jimmy’s missing.”