The book begins in 2180. Most of the solid planets and moons in the Solar System have been colonised. Commercialism is still rife, and most of Earth's natural resources have been depleted. Orbiting Saturn is the Spanish-owned moon of Mimas, a major supply port in the Solar System. This is where the reader is introduced to space bum Lister, working as a taximan in a 'hopper', a vehicle that leaps over obstructions.
We discover Lister ended up on Mimas after celebrating his 25th birthday by binge drinking in London on a Monopoly Pub Crawl. When he sobered up, he has somehow ended up on Mimas, with no money to get a shuttle ticket home. His attempts to generate the money needed by stealing hoppers have not been successful due to either spending it all on alcohol or being mugged by others while spending nights sleeping in a luggage locker.
A man in a false moustache calling himself 'Christopher Todhunter' who works in the Space Corps hires his hopper to go to a brothel in the Red Light District of Mimas, supposedly to experience genuine Mimian cuisine. After waiting to pick him up for 40 minutes, Lister goes to get him. The brothel used highly life-like prosti-droids of women, men, and sheep. Lister is led to where the man is complaining that one of the droids 'nearly pulled the damn thing off'.
The encounter inspires Lister to sign up with the Jupiter Mining Corporation, with the intention of boarding an Earth-bound ship and going AWOL upon arriving. Despite his lack of qualifications and being registered as having an attitude problem due to his answers at the interview. He is assigned to Red Dwarf as a Third Technician on Z Shift, the lowest position on the ship. Upon heading to the ship, he meets a drunk Danish man named Olaf Petersen who tells him that Red Dwarf is only returning to Earth after a four-and-a-half year round trip much to Lister's horror. Boarding Red Dwarf Lister meets Holly, the ships computer with a genius level IQ before being escorted to his sleeping quarters which, as fate would have it, he shares with Rimmer, a first technician, and in charge of Z-Shift, handling menial tasks considered a waste of time for the service droids. Lister recognises him as the officer from the plasti-droid brothel incident, and Rimmer soon proves to be highly neurotic and pretentious causing him and Lister to develop a mutual dislike of each other.
Life in spaceEdit
Five months later, Lister has settled into the dull, monotonous routine of life aboard Red Dwarf. While he waits in his quarters for Petersen to arrive so they can go for a drink, the reader is given insight into Rimmer's background.
Born on Io, he is the youngest of four sons. His brothers have all had tremendous success in the Space Corps, which has made Rimmer jealous. His mother's low opinion of him has shaped his single desire: to become an officer. He strives to pass the astronavigation exam — the prerequisite to become a navigation officer — which he has failed 12 times.
Petersen and Lister go for a drink with their friends Selby and Chen where Lister spots Kristine Kochanski for the first time. He falls madly in love with her instantly, and after a few attempts, he gets her to go on a date with him. They have a passionate affair for five weeks and Lister is madly in love with her. However, it is revealed that she was going out with a flight coordinator until he left her for somebody else, and was on the rebound when Lister met her. When the flight coordinator returns, she leaves Lister. For the next three weeks — three days planet leave on Miranda aside — Lister misses her deeply.
While Lister goes off to try and get Petersen to have a drink, Rimmer finishes his revision for the night. He decides to spend the rest of the night in a stasis booth. Rimmer uses it to slow his aging process, and has so far been able to save up a year using it.
On the last day of his life, Rimmer pairs himself up with Lister to perform their Z-Shift duties. Shortly after 10:00, a rival First Technician named Petrovich arrives, and summons Lister to see the Captain (a large American woman with the unfortunate surname of Kirk). Before leaving, he asks Rimmer why he isn't at the astro-navigation exam. Believing the exam is still a month away, Rimmer runs back to his sleeping quarters, and discovers he included September twice on his timetable. With a month's worth of revision still to go, Rimmer opts to cheat, and copies as much of his textbooks onto his body as physically possible.
Petrovich escorts Lister to the Captain's office, where he is quizzed about a cat. After claiming that the stray cat was dying and after revealing she is pregnant Lister refuses to hand her over, so the Captain sentences him to stasis for the remainder of the trip for breaking quarantine regulations. It transpires that Lister wants to enter stasis. With his relationship with Kochanski over, there is nothing left for him, so his original objective of returning to Earth becomes a priority. He discovered that stasis booths were used for punishment of a variety of rules, including breaking quarantine regulations (the least serious crime that nevertheless carried it as a statutory sentence). On his last day of planet leave on Miranda, he bought a high-pedigree cat named 'Frankenstein', and had her inoculated against every disease so she actually didn't present a danger to the ship. He hid her in the ventilation system, which was too large to ever search properly. Lister reckoned three years' wages was worth it to find himself instantly back at Earth.
Meanwhile, Rimmer arrives at the exam room, an hour late. However, when he looks at the answers he copied down, his sweat has dissolved the writing, leaving an inky blob on his arm. He slams his hand on the answer paper, leaving a palm print, signs it and faints.
One of the nuclear reactors aboard the ship begins to malfunction. Rimmer is given sick leave, and decides to spend it in a stasis booth. Seconds before Rimmer enters the booth, the reactor reaches critical mass and unleashes its radioactive payload, rushing through the ship and killing everybody it encountered. Rimmer's last thought before it reaches him is of a bowl of gazpacho soup. Holly was able to seal the supply bay before any radiation reached Frankenstein and her new-born kittens.
Three million years laterEdit
Upon release from stasis, Holly explains what happened, and mentions how he has had to pilot Red Dwarf out of the Solar System, in case any radiation contaminated a planet. Holly could not release Lister until the radiation had reached a safe background level. However, because the Cadmium II which had leaked has such a long half-life, Lister has been in stasis for 3,000,000 years. Over these years, Holly is concerned he has gone somewhat peculiar.
This, in conjunction with the possibility that he is the last human alive, drives Lister insane. He doesn't dress or eat, and he drinks whiskey constantly. After five days of this, Lister collapses, and wakes up in the medical unit to find Rimmer, now a hologram.
A few days later, Lister tells Holly to turn Red Dwarf around and head back to Earth. Fully aware of the likelihood that mankind has long gone, Lister reckons that Earth is home, and there is really nowhere else to go. Rimmer objects to the idea, on the grounds that if mankind has survived, he won't need to be switched back on. In the midst of this argument, Holly interrupts, telling them that he senses a non-human life form.
Grabbing a bazookoid (A heavy-duty portable mining laser), Lister and Rimmer take a lift down to the floor where the life form is detected, where they discover a desolate city. As they reach a café area, Lister's visor shows the life form to be in the area. Suddenly, Lister is pinned by a man in a pink suit, who sniffs him, then uses a portable iron to smooth out a crease in his suit. He then apologises to Lister for attacking him, as he thought he was food.
It transpires that during the time Lister was in stasis, a race of cats evolved from Frankenstein and her kittens. In the last 2,000 years before Lister's emergence, they fought a holy war over the name of the saviour of Cat Kind (Cloister vs Clister), before leaving Red Dwarf to search for their saviour in commandeered shuttlecraft, leaving the weaker members of their race to die. The Cat was born to the very last two of these weaker members.
While Lister and the Cat are preparing to go into stasis, Holly explains that due to three million years of constant acceleration, Red Dwarf is about to reach the speed of light. They are accelerating so much that reverse thrusters have no effect.
Lister goes down to the recreation deck to tell Rimmer they are travelling faster than light. Rimmer, however, appears to be speaking to somebody who is invisible, and ignores Lister. As Rimmer leaves the room, another Rimmer enters from the opposite side, and his reactions to Lister's repeated questions match the first Rimmer said. Believing him mad, Rimmer makes his way back to the sleeping quarters, passing the Cat as he laments a lost tooth. Lister catches up with him at their quarters, where the Cat is standing, having just seen himself leave.
Holly explains that these are 'future echoes', a side effect of light speed travel. A polaroid photo appears on Lister's bunk, showing him holding two babies. Lister reaches to grab it, but it vanishes. Later, an explosion rocks the ship and Rimmer claims to have seen a future echo of Lister dying in a navi-comp accident. Lister reckons if he can stop the Cat breaking his tooth, as seen in the previous echo, then it means he won't necessarily die. He concludes the Cat will try to eat his robot goldfish and races off to stop him.
Indeed, the Cat is attempting to eat one of the fish as Lister arrives. He tackles the Cat and sends them crashing to the floor, breaking one of his teeth off. Eventually, Holly informs them that the navi-comp is malfunctioning, unable to cope with the influx of data at light speed, and someone needs to make a bypass or the ship will explode. Resigned to his fate, Lister puts on the clothes Rimmer saw him wearing and heads to the drive room.
Guided by Holly, Lister sets up the bypass and the navi-comp is stabilised. Lister realises that it is not going to explode. He and Rimmer argue about it on the way back to the sleeping quarters, where they see a very old Lister. He explains that it was Lister's grandson that Rimmer saw die in the drive room and tells Lister to get his camera and run to the medical unit.
As Lister arrives at the Medical unit another Lister comes out, holding twin babies (Jim and Bexley), and smiles for the camera. Present Lister takes the picture they previously saw in the sleeping quarters.
The next chapter begins on board the Nova 5. As the crew settles into stasis and prepares for the trip back to Earth, the ship ploughs into an icy moon, killing all but three crew members. It turns out that Kryten, the ship's mechanoid, washed the navigation computers, causing them to malfunction. Back on Red Dwarf, Holly informs the crew that they are receiving a distress call. Kryten manages to communicate with the crew. Three young, female members of the crew are injured and in need of rescue.
Upon boarding the Nova 5, Lister notices that the ship's engines are far more advanced than the Dwarf's. When Kryten introduces Lister, Rimmer, and the Cat to his female charges they find that the girls have been dead for millions of years. When Rimmer confronts Kryten about the dead girls, Kryten has an emotional breakdown. He had convinced himself they weren't dead, as he enjoyed being needed. Kryten informs the crew that he now has no function, removes his head, and shuts himself off.
Rimmer's self confrontationEdit
The crew salvages the two halves of the Nova 5. Lister attempts to repair Kryten. After much work, he brings the mechanoid back online and asks him about the Nova's duality drive. Kryten reveals that the new technology could bring the crew back to Earth in a matter of months, but the fuel decayed centuries ago. Rimmer, meanwhile, explores the second half of the Nova 5 and finds it too has a hologram projection unit. He decides to make a duplicate of his own disk, since no-one else likes him.
Lister decides to repair the Nova 5. He, the Cat, and Kryten will fly to a nearby moon to mine for the isotope needed for fuel, while the Rimmers will stay behind and repair the ship. However, the Rimmers try to one-up each other, working harder, exercising longer, and going without sleep.
After months of work, the mining trio return to the ship. The Nova is repaired, but the Rimmers are having a fight. The original Rimmer realises that he cannot even get along with himself. Lister then points out only one Rimmer can go back to Earth. He flips a coin, and the original Rimmer loses. He is to be erased in the morning.
Rimmer spends a miserable night, reflecting on how much of life is luck (and how he never had any). He tells Lister he wants to be turned off then. Lister asks him about gazpacho soup and why it torments him. Rimmer tells Lister about the night he was invited to the captain's table after years with the company. Thing started it go wrong before it began, as the escort agency he paid to send him a date for the evening turned into a chinese laundry. Then, when he got to the dinner, he claimed that his date had been killed in an accident earlier that day. Later, he started to tell a joke but forgot the punchline halfway through, leading the other guests to think he was half-mad with grief. When the chef served Rimmer gazpacho soup, Rimmer saw a chance to impress the others and loudly complained and berated the waiter, sending the soup back to the kitchen to be warmed up. He did not know the Spanish dish was meant to be served cold and later realized his mistake and that everyone else's laughter was directed at him instead of the waiter. Rimmer attributes his failure in the Space Corps to this gaffe. Lister tries to convince him that anyone could have made that mistake and it was not worth tormenting himself. He then tells Rimmer that he already erased the double; he just wanted to know about the soup.
The section opens on Christmas Eve, with Lister closing his Indian food store in the small town of Bedford Falls. The trip on the Nova 5 was a success, the crew has returned to Earth. Humanity is more or less unchanged, and the crew become heroes.
Lister hated the notoriety and moved to the small American town to live in peace. Bedford Falls, as it turns out, is almost exactly like its namesake from Lister's favourite film, It's a Wonderful Life. Lister married Kristine Kochanski (a direct descendant of the original Kochanski from Red Dwarf). They have twin sons, Jim and Bexely, and Lister has never been happier. However, his arms have begun hurting for no reason, and he is starting to worry. When Lister applies ointment to the painful spots, he is shocked to find the pain spells a word: 'DYING'.
Meanwhile, Rimmer is the third richest man in the world. He invested the money he made as a product spokesman into hologramatic research, and developed the 'solidgram.' He now has an indestructible body. He lives in a penthouse above Paris and is married to a Brazilian actress named Juanita Chicata. However, she has not let Rimmer touch her for over a year, and she admits to sleeping with the pool man.
Back in Bedford Falls, Lister is starting to panic. He realises his life is impossibly happy: meeting Kochanski, babies that change each other's nappies, and it being Christmas Eve every night.
Lister flies to Paris to meet Rimmer, who is having a huge party. He informs Rimmer that they are playing 'Better Than Life', a virtual reality video game, and are actually still on Red Dwarf. Rimmer balks, but decides Lister may have a point. They agree to fly to Denmark to meet the Cat.
En route, Rimmer wonders why, if he is really playing Better Than Life, his wife cheats on him. He realizes his self-hatred is so ingrained that the program decided he wanted to be unloved and humiliated. He envies Lister's simple fantasy. Lister, on the other hand, feels like a dope for still obsessing over Kochanski, and envies Rimmer's fantasies.
When they arrive in Denmark, they have no more doubts about playing Better Than Life: The Cat is living in a castle surrounded by a milk-filled moat, serviced by an army of giant Valkyrie warriors.
After explaining the situation to the Cat, Kryten (whose fantasies only involve getting a new mop) arrives and explains what happened. Heavily boozed while celebrating their departure, the Cat had found a cache of game headbands in Petrovich's old quarters and put one on. Lister and Rimmer tried to go into the game to save him, drunkenly overconfident of their ability to escape, but never came out as the game protects itself by removing the memory of being put on, making the person think that everything that is happening is reality despite the implausibility. Holly convinced Kryten to laser warnings into Lister's arms. When that didn't work, he went in himself (as his mechanoid brain allowed him to remember entering the game).
The book ends with Lister driving towards Bedford Falls. Now that he knows he is in the game, all he has to do is want to leave...but not on Christmas Eve. He decides to just spend one more night with his family, and leave after the holiday.
But in Bedford Falls, it's always Christmas Eve...
|This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tongue Tied, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|