Travel By Bullet by John Scalzi, Narrated by Zachary Quinto

Travel By Bullet returns fans to John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher series following a pandemic that isn’t altogether too dissimilar to the one we’ve experienced in the real world. Unlike the real world, Tony Valdez and other dispatchers like him have had more work than they can handle, as grieving families insist on postponing the inevitable for loved ones hooked up to machines. Unfortunately, resetting only goes so far, and it won’t repair the damage done by the sickness itself. It’s a bleak and depressing scenario we find ourselves experiencing through Tony’s perspective.
When a friend is rushed to the hospital, begging Tony to let him die, it triggers a series of events that brings Tony to the attention of wealthy and powerful figures with secrets they’ll do anything to keep under wraps.
This installment continues Scalzi’s trend of combining the alternate reality science fiction of The Dispatcher series with an old-fashioned dose of noir that blends perfectly. The overarching mystery is satisfying and sufficiently convoluted, especially impressive considering the relatively short length of the story.
I particularly liked the concept behind the title of this installment of the series. The premise of utilizing the reset in that way seems both obvious and strangely horrific.
As with the previous two volumes, Zachary Quinto’s narration is superb, lending Tony a uniquely nuanced personality and bringing the other characters (many familiar faces from previous glimpses into the world of The Dispatcher) to life. I hope that Scalzi continues writing these tales and that Quinto continues narrating them because, like Scalzi’s seamless combination of genres, it’s a perfect blend.


Murder By Other Means by John Scalzi: Narrated by Zachary Quinto

Few authors could successfully pack as much intrigue, mystery, and suspense into a novella as John Scalzi. Murder By Other Means is a prime example of Scalzi at his fast-paced best. At the heart of this story is a question, “How do you successfully assassinate people when 99.99% of murder victims reappear–unharmed–in their homes, only moments later?”
We return to the world of Tony Valdez, the titular Dispatcher of the previous story in this sequence, not too long after we left him at the end of The Dispatcher. Legitimate work has dried up for him and the city of Chicago is on an austerity budget that prohibits him from finding many side gigs on the up-and-up. This is where we meet up with him again, as he enters a law firm for a less than legal utilization of his skills.
From there it’s a dizzying spiral of international corporate intrigue, organized crime, suicide, and survival…with a healthy dose of police procedural and noir-ish detective story providing the framework. This is a better story than The Dispatcher, which was a pretty high bar to clear.
Zachary Quinto again provides narration for the story, and there’s probably no need for me to point out that he’s beyond excellent in all respects. I can’t imagine Tony with a different voice.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi: Narrated by Zachary Quinto

The Dispatcher introduces us to John Scalzi’s exploration into a future where the dead don’t always stay dead…as long as the deceased happens to be murdered. If someone dies by accident or by their own hand, well, for whatever reason, they stay dead. If someone murders you, there’s only a chance of 1 in 1,000 that you’ll remain dead. Those other 999 times, you’ll wake up naked in your bed, uninjured, and with full recall of the event that led to your demise.
What might you do if you found yourself living in this future of inexplicable miracles?
Would you participate in vicious, violent bloodsports? Would you challenge those who anger you to duels? Would you perhaps accept a job as a Dispatcher, one who performs the killing for those who are soon to die in hospitals when surgical procedures go wrong?
That’s precisely the choice our protagonist made, to become a Dispatcher. Tony Valdez has a certain psychological makeup that allows him to perform the duties associated with his role without guilt or self-recrimination–without any real self-examination of any kind.
When one of his colleagues disappears, an intrepid detective thinks there’s something sinister going on, directly related to his occupation, and Tony finds himself caught up in a mystery that leads him into the expanding gray area surrounding underworld activities where a Dispatcher’s skills are required.
Zachary Quinto’s narration of this novella is spectacular. His voice is so distinct and perfectly suited for the cool detachment of Tony’s character. I’m pleased to see that he also narrates the sequel novella that came out last year.