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Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers / Better Than Life - Grant Naylor

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      28.02.2013 22:37
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      An excellent retelling of the Red Dwarf story.

      I must have read these books a dozen times back in the 90's. I was a huge fan of the show and it was one of the few SF programs made in those days. The books are written by the same writers behind the TV series so it remains true to the characters and the themes of the show. But (being a novel) it has none of the restrictions of a BBC special effects budget. This is Red Dwarf as it was intended.

      All the classic story lines are there: Lister's doomed relationship with Kachanski, how they met Kryton, the Gazpacho soup story, Better then Life, Backwards World, Talkie Toaster... its all there. But extended and interwoven into a much longer and more satisfying story.

      Oh, and if you get the chance listen to the audiobook versions. They are narrated by Chris Barrie (the actor who played Rimmer) and he does all the voices himself.

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        28.10.2011 20:15
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        Have you Read 'Dwarf? If not, you should. Now!

        It was only a matter of time before I finally got round to writing a book review, so I thought the best place to start is with my favourite Red Dwarf novel, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. Surprisingly, I don't own a lot of books, and most of them are part of the Red Dwarf franchise. This was the first novelization of the Red Dwarf series, and it still for me is the best one of the four books. Strangely, Dooyoo feature this as both the first and second books, which is known as the Red Dwarf Omnibus. This review is solely about the first book, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.

        --I've Never Read.......A Book!--

        First published in 1989, Red Dwarf - Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers (will be referred as IWCD hereafter) was the very first book releated to the Red Dwarf Series. At this point, the third series of the show was broadcast, so Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (Grant Naylor) had co-written this in-between the series'. They would go on to write another novel the following year, and then each write a third sequel separately, making four books in total but with two different directions in the narrative, depending which third book to choose to follow. In 1992, this and the second book were amalgamated into one book to be released as the Red Dwarf Omnibus.

        Unlike the series' which gave very little backstory to the main characters, IWCD maps out the entire Red Dwarf universe and history of each of the four primary crew members, focusing on Lister and Rimmer in the main. Grant Naylor choose to not simply write a written version of the series episodes glued together, but totally re-write the story parallel to the show. Elements of storyline and dialogue from various episodes from series 1 and 2 are included, but fleshed out, expanded and pushed into a far wider story arc than the show could ever achieve. It's very important to make this distinction and not expect to read a word-for-word copy of the shows scripts, and be prepared to meet a Rimmer and Lister who are far more realistic to the lives we know in present reality, and a Red Dwarf that becomes darker and even serious at times, but rest assured the witty and clever comedy writing of Grant and Naylor is never far away.

        First Published: 1989
        Publisher: Penguin
        ISBN: 0-14-012437-3

        --Price, Availability and Cover Art--

        Sadly, the original paperback version of IWCD is now out of print, but you will be able to pick it up in many shops and online stores second hand, or by contacting the Red Dwarf Fan Club. The hardback edition is still available new, as is the Omnibus version. My copy of IWCD has never been read, as I have a second copy for reading being an obsessive fan of the show! Expect to pay around £10 to £12 for the hardback edition, and anything between £1 and £6 for the paperback. It is not available as an Ebook as yet, but I would imagine this is only a matter of time before it makes that progression. It is also available as a audio book, both abridged and unabridged and read by Chris Barrie who plays Rimmer in the show.

        The cover illustration is rather basic, but gives that element of comedy and sci-fi about it. The classic thick font Red Dwarf logo is prominent, and a light speed whoosh runs across thought the background of a starry space-scape, damaging a pseudo road sign hovering in space which bares the title of the book. It's a design which is familiar and sharply drawn but doesn't give much away about the contents.

        --Plot Summary and Primary Characters--

        Taking the primary plot from the TV show, Dave Lister, a scruffy Liverpudlian shop worker somehow finds himself on board the giant Mining Ship Red Dwarf bound for the outer reaches of the solar system. Whilst planning to return back to Earth more quickly, he gets suspended in time and accidentally shot 3 million years into deep space. He wakes to find himself with only the ships computer for company, a hologram of his deceased bunkmate whom share a mutual hatred, a creature evolved from domestic cats and a old and near-mad service robot. Although millions of miles away from home, he embarks on a quest to return to Earth along with his new crew-mates, and the book chronicles this journey and subsequent adventures.

        Unlike the TV show, all the main characters have been given their own unique back-stories and the book delves into this one at a time and also through flashbacks now and then. Starting with Arnold Rimmer, Listers bunkmate. He is underachieving, snivelling, selfish, cowardly and generally an unlike-able person. Lister on the other hand is chirpy, morally high standing, wise and determined, off set by his slobby and underclass tendencies. Kryten 2X4B 523P the service mechanoid, whom has a loyalty to Lister but yearns to fully break is original programming to become more independent. The Cat is a last surviving member of his people, and is only interested in one thing, himself. Vain, confident, shallow and narcissistic he tags along with the others because there nothing else other to do. A mention should go to Holly, the ships computer, who has a much more equal part of the proceedings than in the TV show.

        --My Thoughts--

        The first thing that can be said about this book is that you do not need to have watched, or even heard about the TV show that came before. The story starts from scratch, and everything is laid down as you read. As I have seen all the episodes up till the release of IWCD, I found myself picturing the show's sets, actors and special effects during reading, but a newcomer to Red Dwarf could interpret the book entirely differently to the show. This is a big coup for Grant Naylor, as it separates the novel to become it's own version of Red Dwarf entirely. Like reading Jurassic Park AFTER watching the film, you always find yourself imaging pictures from the screen and not from your own mind. It's a shame I cannot fully appreciate this with IWCD, but others can if they have never seen the show.

        Grant Naylor have a writing style that is very descriptive and direct, but doesn't take anyone's sci-fi influenced mind for granted. The feelings and images generated are strong from the words, and most of the time a witty twist or metaphor to compare with makes a smile too. For instance, the description of Red Dwarf itself, as from the mind of Lister the first time he claps eyes on it is a wonderful line. "A big red, red, big, big, red BIG....Clenched fist of metal!" Gets straight to point while being amusing too. You get the feeling of a future environment that is very mixed, and while the city on Mimas comes across as a typical science fiction dystopia, the grime and realness of the working mining ship feels correct and what it would be like in reality.

        The characters are much more fleshed out here too than in the shows. We now understand them all far better, and can empathise with them. Lister and Rimmer in particular are given the full treatment, and while we may despise Rimmer you also pity him, and are always rooting for Lister to succeed in his escapades. Some of the funniest lines certainly go to Rimmer however, and the Z-shift classroom introduction is a highlight, as is the first time Rimmer and Lister meet... in a brothel! All the other primary figures have their back-stories put into place at the correct times too, Kryten being the most welcome person aboard to bring some sanity to the ship, especially after his shameful mishap that is wonderfully played out, and makes you feel sorry for the hapless android.

        We don't get lost with the technology too. The concept of a walking, talking hologram is laid down very early, before Rimmer becomes one, and thus we understand more into his personal angst. Everything that doesn't exist now is all briefly but cleverly described as so we know what is going on, and for the most part this is easy to follow. Sometimes, a quick re-read of a paragraph maybe in order to 'get it' though, as the sentences can highlight the joke and you may miss a bit of plot into the bargain!

        The comedy within the book varies from page to page. Witty put-downs, ridiculous metaphors and satirical humour are all included. One of my favourite parts that satirises the 90's drug culture is the vision of an massively additive drug in the future and it's effects, it's a moment that always has me smiling from ear to ear. The combination of this sometimes madcap humour and serious human topics is well balanced however, much more so than the series, and their are parts where we despair for Lister and co, and the cliff-hanger ending is emotional, thoughtful and definitely make you want to read the sequel, as all cliff-hangers should.

        --Conclusion--

        It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I fully recommend this book for an amusing read. You don't have to have seen Red Dwarf, or even be interested in it for this to be satisfying book. Of course, this appeals more to Sci-fi and comedy fans in the main, but it's an enjoyable read for lots of different tastes. The only downside I would say would be that the story does jump sometimes from one situation to another, and with a few flashbacks and set-pieces taken from different time-lines, this can get a little confusing. Dark in places, but hilarious for the most part, it also has some buried but poignant moments. It's a book I have read several times over and still never bore of it, and after the mirth and mayhem, that smile it gives me should stay with you for a while.

        Thanks For Reading. © Novabug

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          19.04.2010 22:00
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          Recommended to all

          As a massive Red Dwarf fan, when I first saw this book when I was younger I had to have it!

          This is the first book from Grant Naylor, the pen name for Rob Grant and Doug Naylor who wrote the tv series together.

          The story is very similar to the TV series; After getting drunk celebrating his 25th birthday, Dave Lister wakes up on one of Saturn's moons with no recollection of how he got there. His main aim is to raise funds to get back to Earth, but after several months of getting nowhere he signs up to join the Space Corps and is assigned aboard Red Dwarf.

          This is where he meets Arnold Rimmer who is his bunkmate and shift leader. He also meets and falls in love with Kristine Kochanski. After a brief fling she dumps him leaving poor Lister heartbroken.

          He has no wish to continue with Red Dwarf to Jupiter where they will be mining ore, so he sets a plan in action. He smuggles a cat aboard the ship knowing the Captain will have no option but to put him into suspended animation until they get back to Earth. His plan works but he reawakes to find himself 3 million years in the future. Rimmer has been brought back as a hologram to keep him company, there is a feline humanoid on board who has evolved from his cat and everyone is dead!

          They find a way back home after salvaging a Jump Drive from a crashed Earth ship and in the process acquire a service mechanoid called Kryten. They complete the process to find themselves back on Earth. Unbeknownst to them they aren't on Earth at all, they are playing the highly addictive game; Better Than Life where each person lives in their own personal bliss. The game is hidden in their memories, can they figure it out and stop playing the game?

          I really enjoyed the book, it goes into a bit more detail than the tv programme had time for, for instance we learn the reason Lister ends up on Red Dwarf in the first place and various pieces of Rimmer's back story and why he is the way he is. We also learn what happened to cat race and where Kryten came from.

          There are a few sections of the book that sound very familiar, the reason for this is a lot of the gags are also used in episode in Season 2. I didn't mind this as it's a good way of linking the tv show and book together.

          Even if you're not a fan of the series I would recommend reading this book, it's well written and even if you never read the following books it works well as a standalone novel.

          In total there are four Red Dwarf novels, the sequel to this book is Better Than Life followed by Last Human and Backwards.

          Currently available at Amazon either by itself or as an omnibus with Better Than Life.

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            04.10.2009 12:20
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            A must for Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams fans

            I must have read this book four or five times now. The Red Dwarf Omnibus consists of the first two Red Dwarf novels, co-penned by the show's writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. As in the tv series, the books follow the adventures of Dave Lister, the last human being alive who finds himself 3 million years in the future billions of light years from Earth on a mining ship the size of a city, his only companions being Holly, the ship's senile computer, Rimmer, a hologramatic recreation of his former bunkmate resurrected to keep Lister sane, the Cat, a vain humanoid creature that evolved from Lister's pregnant cat in the 3 million years that Lister was in stasis (Rimmer accidentally caused a nuclear explosion on the ship that killed everyone but the incarcerated Dave) and Kryten, a deranged service mechanoid that the crew pick up from a shipwreck on a barren moon.

            Unsurprisingly, the style of the writing bears much similarity to that of the TV Show's scripts, with the same sense of unmistakably British humour present throughout, and the book is also very clearly influenced by Douglas Adams' 'HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy' in the playful way that it messes about with the laws of space and time. The book essentially embellishes and expands upon the various TV show scripts, weaving them together into a coherent narrative that makes for a hugely exciting and absorbing read. Plotlines from the episodes Better Than Life, Backwards, Future Echoes Polymorph and many others work their way into the story, and the character development is excellent, particularly regarding Rimmer, who is more fleshed out as a unpleasant, pathetic but ultimately likable character even more than in the tv show. Talkie Toaster, the bread-obsessed kitchen appliance from series 4 is far more prominent in the book than the show, becoming a character in its own right rather than the one-off one dimensional character that he was in the TV series.

            The book also reminds of Iain M Banks' early sci-fi novel 'Consider Philebas' in places, with its rag-tag bunch of human and machine space oddities flying around space and trying to get themselves out of ridiculous amounts of trouble. Indeed Talkie Toaster's character is hugely similar to Consider Philebas' character Unaha-Closp- an irritating little drone that floats about getting on everybody's nerves whilst mocking the rest of the crew and expressing delusions of grandeour. The Red Dwarf Omnibus also comes with the script of Dave Hollister: Space Cadet- the radio show upon which the books and tv series were based, and is an absolutely essential read for fans of comedy and scifi in general, and Douglas Adams in particular.

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            01.07.2009 21:59
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            A brilliant book!

            Red Dwarf - Infinity welcomes careful drivers

            ~Red what?~
            Red Dwarf was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor for BBC Television, it was a series starring Craig Charles. They also wrote several books to go along with the series. To date there have been 9 series of Red Dwarf and the series has been very popular

            ~What is it about?~
            Red Dwarf is a comedy about the last human alive, Dave Lister who was put into suspended animation and revived 3 million years later and his life aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf, with only a hologram of his dead crewmate, a senile computer and a creature who evolved from his cat as company.

            ~Infinity welcomes careful drivers~
            This is the first book in the series. Lister got drunk and joined up with the space corps, but it never made it and now he is the last human alive. This book chronicles Lister's attempts to make it back home, and the strange and the surreal adventures they get into, with Rimmer the hologram, Holly the senile ships computer, and Cat...a very evolved feline.

            ~Is it any good?~
            It is VERY funny, almost rolling around on the floor, clutching your stomach laughing funny, and the larger than life characters keep the book very entertaining, with plenty of "smeg off'" if you like that kind of thing. The writers are excellent , true genius.

            ~An excerpt~ From Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
            "Lister had ordered his customary breakfast of prawn Bangalore phall, half rice, half chips, seven spicy poppadoms, a lager-flavoured milkshake and two Rennies. The machine had delivered a raspberry pavlova in onion gravy.
            "There's something wrong with your voice recognition unit"
            "Coming right up" said the dispensing machine and served two lightly grilled kippers."

            ~So is it for me?~

            If you like comedy, then this is for you. It's funny, well written and entertaining, and then you should watch the TV show if you haven't already, if you have already then you will LOVE this book.

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            26.11.2008 21:48
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            the genious that is grant naylor! how can i really critisize it?

            Grant Taylor... what a writer! the genious stands out in his writing, i never belived i could enjoy a book more than a tv show, or that i could ever find myself engulfed in a book! but this did it for me, the humour, origional and crisp, described brilliantly throughout the novels, i could not put it down. Even though i had a good idea of what lied ahead, having seen every episode of red dwarf, the story version bettered on account of just being so out of this world, so insane, it opened doors allowing a whole new perception into the crazy world of red dwarf. Of course, being a novel and not a show, money was no option, and things happened in the book that would have cost a phenominal amount to film, (eg. planet earth farts out of the solar system, that would have been a toughie to film i imagine.) making it as origional and insane, if not moreso, than the series. If you want to read something you guaranteed wont want to put down, like a good laugh, love red dwarf and want a deeper experiance, this is for you. or maybe your all of these, in which case i imagine you already own the book, and have no real reason to be reading this. if so, your odd! and i smite thee... :D its a great read.

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            25.10.2008 14:17
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            Great book for all, not just sci-fi people!

            I was introduced to Red Dwarf through the TV series when I was a wee small child. I think maybe some of the humour was lost on me then but as I grew up with it I started to understand more of them.

            I somehow now live with someone who doesnt like Red Dwarf (???) but I have a good friend who does. He however told me that the books are much better than the TV programme. To be honest I may have outgrown the TV series or it may have been when it became more Americanised (if thats a word!) but I am now inclined to agree with him.

            This book is easily recognisable as Red Dwarf (for thoses who have watched the TV series of course!). I instantly recognised the jokes, certain story lines and senarios. THis however does not spoil the book as there are bit in the book which doesnt appear on TV.

            'Better Than Life' sounds as addictive as Heroin but somehow living the perfect life sounds great! Attched into the game via a headset that is impanted partially in your brain it is 3D virtual reality world where you live your wildest dreams. However the longer you spend in the game the more your body detriorates in the real world.

            Can Kryten save them in time before they die? You'll have to read it to find out.

            This is a great read, not too geeky with the sci-fi so ieven if sci-fi isnt your thing you could easily get in to this. If you do not like sarcasim then dontbother though becasue this book is full of it! A dry sense of humour is certainly needed!

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              11.09.2008 18:59
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              Fun science-fiction comedy novel, standing proud next to the popular BBC series

              Other than to introduce the conept of a living dead man, it mystifies me as to why Grant Naylor chose to begin this book(s) with a story about a character who never appears again in the story. Other than that, these book(s) are BRILLIANT.

              I'm something of a Red Dwarf fanatic (having watched all 8 series at least 8 times) and was delighted to receive these books as a gift. When I was given them, they were in two separate volumes - I see nowadays the publishers have stuck the two together. A wise choice. "Better Than Life" follows on (fairly) well from where "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" left off.

              But what's it all about? Well, I already see a magnificent summary of the plot in other reviews. Let's just say that these books create a universe all for one man, the exceedingly slobbish and unlikely hero, Dave Lister. He and his bizarre, bordering on psychopathic friends (well, perhaps "friend" isn't quite the word for Arnold J. Rimmer) career around the very furthest reaches of space on... well, there's no traditional "mission" as such. They're just wandering around aimlessly through the void!

              Which is why they plug themselves into the virtual reality game "Better Than Life". It's up to Kryten, the ship's seriously (and hilariously) obsessive cleaning robot, to bust them all outta there.

              This book offers lots of laughs and a friendly poke at the science-fiction genre. It works well (in my opinion) as a stand alone novel - well written, as well as funny. If you've enjoyed watching the TV series, this book will fill out some of the familiar plots and give you an even better feel for the already well-developed characters that we know and love (or in Rimmer's case, love to hate!).

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              10.06.2006 04:14
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              'The Red Dwarf Omnibus' combines 'Red Dwarf' (1989) and 'Better Than Life' (1990) in one volume.

              Just like the television series and proposed feature film, the popular series of Red Dwarf novels, written parallel to the show’s run in the late 80s and early 90s, seems consigned to a frozen existence in stasis for the foreseeable future. The four novels – ‘Red Dwarf’ (a.k.a. ‘Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers’), ‘Better Than Life,’ ‘Last Human’ and ‘Backwards’ – were well-received by fans of the series and of science-fiction comedy in general, and were consciously (and admittedly) written to provide a more definitive and epic account of the story Rob Grant and Doug Naylor developed in the 1980s, but were never really able to communicate in Red Dwarf’s 52 episode run.

              ‘The Red Dwarf Omnibus’ (which should really be this category’s title…) collects together the first two classic Red Dwarf novels, the two written by Grant and Naylor cooperatively and published by Penguin in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Both books pick up on (and in the case of Better Than Life, pre-empt) events from specific episodes of the series, making for something of an episodic feel to the books, however hard the writers try to create an overarching storyline. To their credit, the action and humour in these books never slips up for long, and the plot that evolves and mutates between escapades and ‘to be continued…’ conclusions would make for a far more satisfying movie than anything Grant Naylor Productions will finally come up with, ten years on from the split of the duo’s writing partnership. With under 300 words each, these books make for relatively easygoing reading, aided by the division of each book into three distinct and named parts.

              The major difference between the novels (which are not simply novelisations) and the TV episodes is one of style, and all comes down to the books being liberated from the constraints of a twenty-eight minute television sitcom format. For a show like Red Dwarf to be well received by viewers, the writers would be required to find a middle ground between their desire to tell an epic character story and the BBC’s desire for a series with plenty of laughs that won’t deter viewers with lofty sci-fi concepts. The books, however, target a more selective audience than a television comedy series can afford to. Firstly, the books will primarily be read by fans of the show, eager to discover more. Secondly, the books are commonly classed as science fiction; that’s where they can be found in most bookshops and libraries.

              Simply comparing the blurbs of the books and DVD/VHS releases of the show indicates that the essential premise of the Red Dwarf story remains consistent in both mediums. 24-year-old Dave Lister reluctantly finds himself three million years in the future, and the last human being alive (at least, that’s the logical assumption). As the colossal dilapidated mining ship Red Dwarf begins the hopeless journey back to Earth’s solar system, its crew of a endangered slob Lister, deranged computer (Holly), resurrected hologram (Arnold J. Rimmer) and humanoid cat (known simply as Cat) essentially devise ever more ingenious ways of wasting time between ‘zany’ space adventures. At least, that’s the word generally favoured on these types of blurb.

              The first novel (commonly referred to as ‘Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers’ or ‘IWCD’ due to the exploding space traffic sign on its cover) expands these ideas from the TV show’s first episode into truly epic proportions. The story is deepened, extended backwards and forwards. The book opens with Lister scrounging a meagre living on the seedy Saturnian moon Mimas, and explains his reasons for joining Red Dwarf, and presents his first encounter with future bunkmate Arnold Rimmer in an excellent scene involving android brothels. The writers revel in their newfound freedom on occasion; the football pitch sized monitor displaying the face of the ship’s computer Holly smacks of this enthusiasm, as do the repeated attempts to wow the reader with descriptions of Red Dwarf’s immense size and crew complement (it’s roughly as big as a city, has at least a few thousand decks and boasts 1,169 crew members, of which Lister ranks position 1,169).

              After spending the necessary amount of time setting up the premise and introducing the characters, the novel moves on to deal with story concepts from the early TV episodes ‘Future Echoes’ (flashes of the future, and the futility of trying to escape fate), ‘Kryten’ (the introduction of the eponymous fifth main character) and, finally, ‘Better Than Life.’ The concept of the total immersion video game is expanded to incredibly sinister proportions from the comparatively shallow and whimsical version featured in the episode, and provides the cliff-hanger ending that leads into book two.

              ‘Mistakes’ are rectified in this debut book; some of the glaring differences of opinion present in the first two series of the TV show compared to the latter majority. The sanitation Mechanoid Kryten is introduced to the cast at the earliest opportunity, and Lister’s dream of a relationship with the deceased console officer Kristine Kochanski is rendered less immature now they are provided a history as a couple, for a brief time. The writers’ thanks to the cast are certainly well meant, as the dialogue in the books owes a small debt to the talents of the more impressive cast members, especially Robert Llewelyn’s Kryten and Norman Lovett’s deadpan Holly. Rimmer, oddly, seems somewhat different in the books than in the TV series, despite many of the same lines being recycled between formats. Perhaps it’s the frequent dips into his mindset and memories, excellently avoiding generating more than the tiniest amount of sympathy for the bitter, snide and unlikeable character, who is clearly the real focal point of Red Dwarf and the best reason to watch or read.

              ‘Better Than Life,’ often described as ‘the not-very-long awaited sequel,’ in fact only spends something like a quarter of its pages concluding the story of the previous book, and is in fact a little less impressive as a result. But once the subject matter shifts, this second novel proves itself to be on equal par with the first, perhaps exceeding it in terms of originality and ingenious sci-fi. The central section of the book would later form the fourth series episode ‘White Hole,’ and the finale, another cliff-hanger, owes to the earlier ‘Backwards,’ yet the most memorable and creative segments have yet to appear in any other form. Then again, I can’t really imagine seeing Craig Charles fly around towering mountains of broken green glass bottles on enormous sofa-eating cockroaches under a BBC2 budget.

              Serious fans of the television series will almost certainly enjoy the books, as the characters (with the possible exception of Rimmer, as mentioned earlier) are recognisable and easy to visualise, even in the ludicrous fantasy landscapes of Better Than Life. Grant and Naylor were the sole brains behind Red Dwarf in its heyday, and it’s incredible to see how far they intended to take their idea beyond the limits of an episodic TV format.

              My primary criticism of these two books is that they are quite disjointed; IWCD and BTL each contain three to four separate episodes that conflict slightly and don’t always convince me of a dominant plot, but it’s still very enjoyable to see how elements from the TV series are combined to link these sections. And although it’s a comedy as much as it is science-fiction (although the books tend toward the latter more than the series ever did, even in its later years), sometimes the tone seems a little off. The writers feel the need to include classic dialogue segments from episodes, such as the Wilma Flintstone exchange from ‘Backwards,’ but such arbitrariness is more distracting on the page than on the screen. The books focus heavily on dialogue, which is always excellently written, but sometimes the witty put-downs and contrived similes seem a little too out of place. The writing is best when the humour of a situation is balanced out with a sobering, serious coda, such as Lister and Cat’s shockingly frail and malnourished bodies resulting from two years trapped inside the virtual computer game that previously brought so many laughs.

              Like the successful series of books spawned by the late Douglas Adams from his ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ radio series, the Red Dwarf novel series clearly aims itself at readers looking to be amused and entertained with quality sci-fi. Comparisons of Red Dwarf with Hitchhiker’s Guide have existed from the start, and are to be expected. Both series originated (in a way) on the radio before appearing on the BBC, and the novels (written afterward) bear both of these broadcast versions in mind in crafting and perfecting a definitive version of the events with which fans are familiar. Red Dwarf and Hitchhiker’s Guide also concern themselves with the story of the last surviving human hurled headlong into the insanity of space travel and its inhabitants. Picking a favourite and discussing at length why Hitchhiker’s Guide is clearly superior is as tiresome as arguing that Kirk was better than Picard, or that Jaffa Cakes are clearly biscuits, no matter what the lawyers think. So let’s all just get along. In my opinion, the Red Dwarf books aren’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the television episodes, but are more thought-provoking and rewarding for fans.

              This Omnibus was originally intended as more than simply a cheaper alternative to buying these two books separately. As well as providing fans with a couple of cheap thrills in the form of a section of script and what is allegedly a photocopy of ‘the original Red Dwarf beermat’ on which Grant and Naylor first scrawled their ideas (I don’t care if it’s genuine or not, it’s a funny idea), the Omnibus was perhaps the first in the infuriating attempt to make Red Dwarf more universally accessible by altering its content. Creating a more America-friendly version of Red Dwarf is a noble goal, I guess, but the 90s saw many embarrassing and botched attempts at achieving this goal. Most notorious were the unsuccessful American pilot episodes of Red Dwarf, with a US cast, and later came the pointlessly re-edited remastered versions of the BBC episodes.

              The Omnibus sets the trend by removing some jokes deemed ‘too contemporary,’ namely those criticising Kevin Keegan’s authorship skills and references to 80s popular culture, and trimming some sections of the books to make for a slimmer volume. My advice would be to buy the novels separately, as they can often be found second hand on eBay or in charity shops, but the Omnibus is a more cost-effective way of collecting these two publications, which now commonly retail at £6.99 each. The other two books, Doug Naylor’s ‘Last Human’ and Rob Grant’s ‘Backwards,’ each act as individual, unconnected sequels to the action of Better Than Life, but the break-up of the classic writing partnership results in less impressive books. I’m glad that Grant and Naylor have never advocated further Red Dwarf novels written by other writers; as such, Red Dwarf (IWCD) and Better Than Life remain sought-after and acclaimed books that offer something new to fans sick of repeat viewings of Red Dwarf DVDs.

              The real strength of these books is that readers need no prior involvement with the TV series to appreciate them fully; compulsive fans set the books in an alternate reality to the TV shows to comfortably explain away the differences, but Grant Naylor couldn't give two hoots. Their decision to publish with Penguin and disassociate the novels from the BBC label intended to grant the books a wider and more accepting readership, and this was completely successful. As Tony Lacey of Penguin asserted in the BBC's 1998 'Red Dwarf Night,' the novels sold so well (over two million by that date) due to their excellent quality. This is no cheap TV cash-in, but a lovingly detailed definitive vision of a sci-fi sitcom freed from its bonds.

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                09.04.2002 08:38
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                This book was written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and was originally two books (Red Dwarf and Better Than Life); it was an extension of the extremely successful television series Red Dwarf. Although the series was very funny and enjoyable it did lack the history needed to make it fantastic. This book takes the series and throws more light on the characters and the situations they find themselves in. Dave Lister is human, but only just some would argue, he is in-fact a complete and utter slob, whose idea of getting dressed up involves turning his underpants inside out, using car spray to cover the hole in his trousers, and wearing the t-shirt with only two curry stains! On his 25th birthday he decides to go on a Monopoly board pub-crawl with his friends, as a result of which he is now stranded on the Spanish owned satellite of Mimas with nothing more than a pair fishing waders, a ladies crimpolien hat and passport in the name of Emily Berkinstein. Desperate to get back to earth Lister first tries to raise the money for the space fair to get back home, but when this fails he decides to join the Space Corps (on a five-year contract) as they regularly send ships loaded with raw material back to earth. Lister gets assigned to the mining ship Red Dwarf and reasons that once he gets to Earth he can abscond. When he realises the amount of time it will take to get back to Earth he tries to get put into stasis (so no time will pass for him until he comes out of stasis) by breaking quarantine rules by bringing a cat on board. As a result of an accident on board Red Dwarf the whole crew is killed, the only survivors are Lister (who has been sealed in stasis for millions of years) and a humanoid cat, descended from the cat Lister brought aboard, who was safely contained in the sealed off cargo decks. There are also several other main characters in the book. Kryten is a mechanoid who absolutely has to take orders from human masters and has an unhea
                lthy obsession with cleaning. He is Listers pet project, getting Kryten to be able to lie is one of Listers ambitions. Holly is the ships computer and was responsible for sealing the cargo decks and keeping Lister in stasis. Holly also chose the person most likely to keep Lister sane and brought Rimmer back to life as a hologram. Rimmer is probably the person most hated by Lister. Rimmer wants to ascend the ranks of office like his brothers had, but its not to be, after numerous attempts at his astronavigation exam he still managed to fail even when cheating. The novels stay true to the characters created in the television series and expand on them. The ideas in the book are really funny and completely original. "Me squared" is where Rimmer creates another hologram of himself and sets a precedent for one-upmanship which he can't control and so eventually ends up having about 10 minutes sleep a night. This book will be enjoyed by anyone who doesn't take sci-fi too seriously. Even if you've never seen the television show I'd recommend this book everything you need to understand the idea of the book is explained. I've had a copy of this book for years and although its very dog-eared now I sill pick it up to read whenever I need a really good laugh.

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                  04.07.2001 01:40
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                  'Red Dwarf', for those of you don't know, is a situation comedy set in space and the most successful television programme (viewers wise) that BBC2 has ever shown. However, the creators of the series, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, felt that the show didn't do justice to their vision and decided to write a series of novels based around the television series. 'The Red Dwarf Omnibus' is the first and second of the four novel series - 'Red Dwarf' (also known as 'Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers') and 'Better Than Life' - bundled together. The premise is this: Dave Lister, a slob from the twenty-fourth century, ushers in his twenty-fifth year by going on a 'Monopoly' board pub-crawl round London, having a drink in every one of the squares. Naturally he's totally blotto by about halfway round and wakes up the next morning on the seedy Spanish-owned Saturnian moon of Mimas, his mind a blank. Desperate to get back to Earth but unable to raise the funds, he decides to join the Space Corps on a mining ship, the eponymous Red Dwarf, bound for home. However, he hadn't banked on the time it would take so, to make the journey seem faster, he deliberately breaks quarantine regulations knowing he'll be imprisoned in suspended animation (or stasis) for the rest of journey. He is in for a big shock when he is let... This will be familiar to fans of 'Red Dwarf' on television as will most of the subsequent goings on but this is not as bad as it might seem. You see, science fiction needs background to make its otherwise ridiculous universe seem believable and that's just not possible in a series of half-hour shows. It is in a book though and this medium really does Grant and Naylor's overall vision justice. It's like a tired old dog suddenly awakening and starting to jump through hoops. To write good science fiction you need imagination and Grant and Naylor have this in spades
                  proving that they're not just joke writers. Lister is a reasonably good creation, although a drunken slob is hardly the rarest of comedy characters, but Rimmer, Lister's holographic (in other words, dead but being simulated by a computer from personality data he recorded while he was alive) companion is excellent. An emotional cripple and a thoroughly dislikable person (or smeg head in Dwarfian), both of which he attributes to his horrendous upbringing, Rimmer is a totally original and utterly hilarious character. Most of the comedy in the two tomes is focused on Lister and Rimmer's relationship (as was the case in the early episodes of the television show) but other characters feature quite prominently. Primary in this role is Kryten (named after author Michael Crichton), a sanitation mechanoid (or 'bog bot'), who absolutely must follow orders from his human masters, has an overactive guilt chip and an unwavering belief in Silicon Heaven, a creation of humans to keep mechanoids in line. There is also Cat, a humanoid who evolved from the common domestic cat in the three million years of inactivity on Red Dwarf. The ship's computer, Holly, who fears his IQ of six thousand has diminished somewhat in three million years on his own, also features. Worthy of an honourable mention, even though it only plays a small role in the second novel, is Talkie Toaster, a novelty kitchen appliance who is obsessed with toast. Without exception, the ensemble cast is totally original, very funny and offer the novels a good balance of personalities. The scenarios also show great imagination. The creation of the Total Immersion Videogame and the effect it has on Rimmer with his diseased psyche is pure comic and science fiction genius as is the part when Rimmer moves in with a clone of himself. The polymorph, a creature able to feed on the emotions of its prey with absolutely hilarious results is also inspired. The fact that the 'Red
                  Dwarf' universe is totally devoid of any type of extra terrestrials is an imaginative twist on the tired old science fiction assumption that intelligent life is out there somewhere. To make everything even better, the books are executed perfectly ensuring that no comic opportunity is missed. As well as this, the dramatic parts are written with suitable gravitas meaning that the plot is not merely a framework around which the jokes are woven. Okay, so it's a book of a television series but don't let this put you off taking the opportunity to read one of the funniest books around. Very rarely does a book make me laugh out loud but 'The Red Dwarf Omnibus' did. And then some. In fact, even though it's sacrilege amongst the science fiction fraternity and I'll no doubt get chastised for it in the commentary section, I'd go as far to say that 'The Red Dwarf Omnibus' is better than the late Douglas Adams's 'The Hitchhiker?s Guide To The Galaxy'. If you watch 'Red Dwarf', you will love this but if you don't watch 'Red Dwarf' you will consider it the funniest thing you've ever read.

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                  In both INFINITY WELCOMES CAREFUL DRIVERS and BETTER than life, the writing partnership of Grant and Naylor got a chance to rewrite some of these early errors and produce a couplet of novels which stand out in their own right. The plot is still the same. One man lost alone in space, the human race by now exstinct, with only the comany of a senile computer, a creatture descended from cats, a nuerotic android, and a holographic recreation of the one man from existence who irritates you most for, company.