The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

The world has mysteriously changed. If someone dies due to the actions of another they disappear from the site and appear later, naked and in their bed, healed back to the way they were twelve hours before. It’s a mystery to everyone but the world has adjusted to this new miracle. The only times it doesn’t work is when the person commits suicide or dies from disease.

Tony Valdez is a licensed dispatcher in this world. He dispatches people back to their homes. If an operation fails Valdez and the other dispatchers are authorized to initiate the death of the person on the operating table. They wake up at home, naked in their own bed with no sign of the trauma that led to death.

On this day Valdez is filling in at a hospital for another dispatcher named Jimmy Albert. But he soon learns that Albert has disappeared. Valdez is enlisted by a detective to help investigate the disappearance. A bizarre freelance business is exposed, with dispatchers working off the clock for less than savory people. Is this why he disappeared, and which of many unsavory persons is responsible?

John Scalzi is always masterful at making a bizarre concept into a realistic story and this brief novella is no exception. It reads like a detective story or police procedural with the odd twist of instant resurrection, and since Scalzi seems intent on becoming master of all tropes this fits into the trope of future mystery, one that shows up a lot in sci-fi magazines. It’s a fun, fast read. While it may not stand out likeĀ Redshirts orĀ Old Man’s War it’s a worthwhile novella to add to a lazy weekend.