Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 21st April 2017
I pounced to request this as soon as I saw it. John Scalzi reliably writes solid, entertaining stories, and I usually enjoy his central idea. I didn’t actually read the blurb on this one, so it took me a little while to get settled into exactly what was going on — I think I actually preferred it that way, because it made the opening of the story a little more confusing but in the way where you can start to work it out if you’re interested.
I don’t love the main character; while I like seeing grey areas in fiction, I felt like his character wasn’t explored enough for me to understand why he worked within grey areas and how he felt about it. With a little more of that context, I’d probably have enjoyed the whole story more — I tend to connect to characters before clever ideas, however clever the ideas are. Still, I found the story enjoyable, and though the idea is weird and you don’t know how it could possibly work, it’s a fun intellectual exercise to posit these constraints and then write a mystery story within them. Don’t worry too much about the how and why of the Dispatchers and what they do, because that aspect isn’t what the story is interested in.
My only quibble would be that some of the dialogue wasn’t really signposted well enough. Without knowing the characters extremely well, it’s hard to tell which is speaking, and there were long stretches here where it was just a back and forth of dialogue. Sometimes it worked, but not always.
Definitely enjoyable, pretty much as I’d expect from Scalzi.