Saturday, January 21, 2023

Travel by Bullet (The Dispatcher #3), by John Scalzi (author), Zachary Quinto (narrator)

Audible Originals, September 2022

Tony Valdez is a "dispatcher" who, in the strange, new world where people intentionally killed nearly always come back, very quickly, in the condition they were in a few hours before they were killed, kills people to save lives. He works in a hospital, and when injuries are too severe or surgery goes wrong, he can kill a person to reset them to the condition they were in a few hours earlier.

But the pandemic has changed things, and now dispatchers are called in, by families, in cases where it really won't help. When the patient has had serious organ damage for long enough that the "reset" of being killed and returning won't change anything. Tony and other dispatchers are feeling drained and frustrated by a new law that means every patient, or the family members making their legal decisions, is legally entitled to a dispatcher's "services" even in cases where the dispatcher knows it won't help. It's in the midst of a frustrating, depressing day at the hospital where Tony now works fulltime that he is summoned to the ER--which has its own dispatcher. Why is he being called in?

It's because a friend, or at least a colleague, of his Mason Schilling, was badly injured jumping out of a car on the highway. The ER has its own dispatcher, but Mason has said he won't agree to be dispatched till he has spoken to Tony. This isn't someone who is uncertain about the process and wants the reassurance of a more knowledgeable friend. He's a dispatcher himself, with looser ethics than Tony, which is why they aren't closer than they are. Mason has been involved in some of the shadier sides of the dispatching business. He doesn't want to be dispatched because the dispatched person returns not to where they were dispatched, but to the place they feel safest. Mason tells Tony there's no place he'll be safe. Tony whispers in his ear that he'll be safe in Tony's apartment, and he agrees to have the ER dispatcher dispatch him.

This is, of course, just the start of Tony's troubles. Mason has dragged him into the middle of a clash between tech billionaires, involving cryptocurrency, embezzlement, fraud, and some really seriously unethical uses of the dispatching process--including, yes, "travel by bullet," to flee the jurisdiction of police who want to talk to you. His police detective friend, Langdon, wants to know what he's keeping from her, doesn't believe he doesn't know where Mason is. 

He's not lying about that. He is lying about not knowing where the crypto wallet Mason left behind is. Soon he's dodging tech billionaires, hired thugs, and possible unknown others, trying to protect Mason, whom the same people all want to get their hands on. It's a wild ride, and a good listen.

A minor detail that I really liked: Masks are just a routine fact of life for Tony and those around him. The changes the pandemic has made in our everyday lives are just there, taken for granted, in a story that isn't about the pandemic. It's not happening on some alternate timeline where covid never happened.

I really enjoyed this, and would like to see more in the series.

I bought this audiobook.

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