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Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
Grant Naylor
Penguin UK, 304 pages

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
Grant Naylor
Collaborations between Rob Grant and Doug Naylor have often used the pseudonym Grant Naylor. Rob Grant was born in Salford and studied psychology at Liverpool University for two years. Doug Naylor was born in Manchester, England and studied at the University of Liverpool. He wrote (with Rob Grant) two regular science-fiction comedy sketch shows for BBC Radio 4 entitled Son of Cliché and Dave Hollins: Space Cadet and television programs such as Spitting Image, The 10 Percenters, and various Jasper Carrott projects..

Red Dwarf Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Andy Remic

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Red Dwarf. The Dwarf. The Boys From the Dwarf. Smeg Head. Kryten. Smeeeeg Head. Rasta Billy Skank. Holograms. SF trope rip-offs. Hell, every-decent-SF-movie-ever-made rip-offs!! And yes, that sentence does qualify a double exclamation in the best tradition of some seedy teen mag.

Red Dwarf, then. Where do I begin?

Well. Like real ale, you either love it or loathe it. Like a frontal lobotomy, it gets inside your brain and removes a part of your personality, replacing it with images of underpants sticking to the wall and the ignoble humping of mutant donner kebabs. But wait. WAIT!! Like a groom caught with a prostitute on his wedding night, it makes you wince. And like a hot-spoon of illegal crack, it always leaves you wanting more. But that's the TV show. The British TV show, not the aborted and abortive US attempt (which somehow missed the point -- Google it).

This is the book. The first book. A revisiting of the first book by me, something I enjoyed many a moon ago and thought, "You know, let's check it out again. Let's see if it still makes me laugh." And more importantly, see if stands up as an SF title in its own right.

So, I read the book. And laugh? I tried to stick my underpants to the wall, tried to hump a mutant donner kebab (again, Google it) and indeed, attempted to order Gazpacho Soup at the next restaurant I visited (and sent it back to have it heated up, much to the merriment of the Captain).

Forget the TV show. Even if you hated the TV show, Red Dwarf -- The Book -- is an absolutely cracking SF/adventure/social-exploration in its own right. It is a superbly crafted piece of fiction. It is a gestalt entity of clever plot, comedy dialogue, serious moral dilemmas, witty bantering, exploration of SF trope and adventure format, an analysis of the bitterness of not fitting in, and a celebration of what it is to be a slob.

For those not in the know, Dave Lister, Space Bum, after a drunken birthday "Monopoly-Board pub crawl" ends up on the Saturnian satellite of Mimas with a passport in the name of Emily Berkenstein, wearing yellow fishing waders, living in a luggage locker and unable to get off the planet because he does not officially exist. To escape, he signs up to the mining ship Red Dwarf as a lowly Third Technician, bunking up with the anally retentive Arnold Judas Rimmer, natural dickhead and the man you'd least like to be trapped in a lift with (never mind the rest of your life). Fast forward. Punished for smuggling aboard a cat, Lister is locked in stasis -- effectively trapped in time as a punishment -- and there is a massive radiation leak which wipes out the crew of Red Dwarf. Holly the ship's computer accelerates out of the universe until the radiation reaches a safe level -- which takes 3 million years. Upon which Dave is released, realises he is the last human alive, starts to crack up, and Holly brings back Rimmer as a hologram to stop Lister going insane.

Confused yet?

It get's madder. Lister's cat has evolved into Felis Sapiens, the ship accelerates past the speed of light after which Lister, Rimmer and The Cat see "future echoes" of what will be, which causes all kinds of mayhem, and then they tangle with the most addictive game in the galaxy, Better Than Life. More addictive than God and a damn sight more terminal.

Okay, those who've seen the show will know these facts; but what the book adds are a myriad of minor and major delights. Where in the TV show does Lister drive a Hopper around Mimas and have pimps knife-fighting on the bonnet as it rains ears? Where in the show does Rimmer and his double try and weld the Nova 5 spaceship back together again in order to jump back to Earth? And whereas on TV Better Than Life is a badly filmed comedic experiment, in the novel it becomes something quite chilling, sinister, and very, very dangerous.

There are some problems. I'm sure even dust wouldn't last 3 million years. And neither would the tinned supplies in the ship's stores. Have you recently checked the use-by-dates on the crap you buy from the supermarket? And I am still massively dubious about the whole cat-evolving-into-cat-man thing. However. Whereas a potato is boring, but when distilled into Vodka can be something quite brilliant, so Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers is a distillation of the TV show's best ideas, with a core spiral of inventiveness and snappy, clever writing worthy of the best of wordsmiths. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor truly are a writing juggernaut to be admired. And even though Red Dwarf gently pokes fun at SF, and indeed, Science Fiction, you sense the love of the authors; sense their joy and wanton abandon in celebrating this fine genre whilst subverting many aspects, and bringing in a fresh twist. Even now, 22 years after publication, the book is still a winner, and as sparkling as the day it was born.

Although you may cheer with Lister, cringe at Rimmer, roll your eyes at Kryten, and sigh at Holly, one thing cannot be denied. This is a damn fine book, a worthy purchase, and if you don't laugh -- then HELL, you're an alien. Without a funny bone. Or a spleen.

Copyright © 2011 Andy Remic

Andy Remic is a larger-than-life chainsaw warrior, sexual athlete and chef. He has twelve SFF novels published by Orbit, Solaris and Angry Robot. Remic is working on various new projects and threatens he will never stop. He also runs ebook publishers Anarchy Books. Read more at: www.andyremic.com and www.anarchy-books.com.


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