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Red Dwarf #3


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This is the third adventure of the unlikely space heroes of the cult TV hit Red Dwarf – Lister, Rimmer, Kryten, Holly and the Cat – as they continue their epic journey through frontal-lobe-knotting realities. We join them just as Dave Lister has finally found his way back to planet Earth – which is good. What’s bad, however, is that time isn’t running in quite the right direction. And if he doesn’t get off the planet soon, he’s going to have to go through puberty again – backwards. If his crewmates can’t help him, Lister will carry on growing younger until he becomes a baby, then an embryo, meeting a very sticky end indeed.

342 pages, Paperback

First published February 5, 1996

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About the author

Rob Grant

16 books145 followers

Writes under the name Grant Naylor when collaborating with Doug Naylor

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,771 reviews300 followers
April 23, 2016
Life in Reverse
23 April 2016

So, at the end of Better Than Life we leave Lister trapped in a universe in which time goes in reverse, namely because he had become so old (due to being caught up in a temporal distortion caused by a black hole) that when they encountered the polymorph he had literally been scared to death (or something like that – I'm not quite sure even though it was about a month ago that I actually read the book). Anyway, in an effort to save his life they take his body to an alternate universe, in which time runs backwards (as I have mentioned), with the intention of picking him up again when he is much younger. I must admit that that is a pretty interesting way of saving one's life, especially when onehas aged a lot quicker to those around them, thanks to the local black hole (though this is all speculation since nobody has actually tested it out – it's based on some guy's, possibly Einstein's, mathematical modeling).

In the previous book it was suggested that life makes no sense to us because our timeline travels in the wrong direction, which means that we find ourselves travelling into the future, namely from birth to death. While hindsight is 20/20, our vision of the future is basically non-existent (though we do have a habit of making speculative assumptions, and once again resorting to mathematical models). Mind you, the fact that the future is unknown gives way for some very profitable industries, form your average circus fortune teller, to the gambling industry, to investment banks like Goldmen Sachs (and isn't all they are doing is making bets based upon statistical probabilities?). However, if we travel backwards it sort of works a little different, we know where we are going, it is just that we progressively forget where we have been.

Okay, I know, this is a Red Dwarf book, so it isn't meant to be taken seriously, but in reality we really don't know if these people in this backwards universe actually realise that their universe is travelling in the opposite direction to our own, and the funny thing is that Lister, who is living through this backwards universe with a forward looking mindset, sort of knows the future, but is mystified by the past (though of course he could always pick up a history book). It's sort of like having an accent – you notice everybody's but your own.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this addition to the Red Dwarf series – for some reason it didn't seem to work as well as the previous two books. I guess it had something to do with the episodes not being some of my favourite. Also it is a lot less episodic than the previous two books, so while Grant is making the story flow better, it sort of doesn't work as well. For instance Grant spent way too much time on developing Ace's character (the alternate Rimmer for those who don't know, who is much more daring, sophisticate, and loved), to the point that it started to get somewhat dry. So to were the four horsemen of the apocalypse part. While I understand that he wanted to create a but of a mystery in the lead up to the story, it didn't seem to really work all that well.

As for Rimmer, I don't know whether to feel sorry for the guy or not. I guess that is what the character is trying to do though. By blaming everybody else for his shortcomings, and also regularly fails, I sort of feel that maybe the guy should get a bit of a break. Mind you, the fact is that he does blame everybody, and refuses to admit that he is wrong. Still, there are a lot of people out there that are pretty smart that seem to be forever condemned to mediocrity, and they actually aren't like Rimmer because they don't complain about it. Okay, they might not be content, but the sad thing is that where one is born to a wealthy family, is sent to a good school, and inherits the family business (and is a thick as a brick), there is another that is basically lands up, though no fault o their own, on the wrong side of the tracks. The difference is how they learned to roll with it. It is clear that Rimmer's mother isn't a very nice person, and even when Ace succeeds she doesn't show a huge amount of emotion. It is just that Rimmer is trying too hard to impress her, and failing miserably, particularly since he is never going to get an “I'm proud of you” from her.

7 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2010
This is Rob Grant's unadorned vision for Red Dwarf, as opposed to his collaborative view with Doug Naylor. Backwards follows Lister's journey to a planet going back in time, another encounter with Ace Rimmer and a tangle with some simulants - all of which have been covered in some way by the TV show.

Grant's description of Red Dwarf is a little darker than that found in the TV show, with more rounded characters. The Cat barely gets a look in, as Lister and Kryten dominate the book - the book's fun, but it's different to the TV show, and if you've seen the TV show then having the same scenarios played out in a different manner (Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Backwards and also a nod to Dimension Jump) may sit uneasily with you. Trying to compare this with the TV show is like comparing the TV show and the book of HHGTG. It's difficult to get across the differences in text, and you should really experience both!
Profile Image for Jason.
1,170 reviews103 followers
October 19, 2015
I am am huge fan of Red Dwarf, one of the best sci-fi series ever made and backwards is one of my favourite episodes. I was really pleased when Rob Grant decided to make this episode into a book. Reading the book was like reliving the episode but it was an extended version, everything from the episode is there and there was more new stuff. One of my favourite Red Dwarf scenes was The Cat doing a backwards poo. :)

If you've never watched Red Dwarf, it doesn't matter, read this book anyway as it is really funny.
Profile Image for Michiel.
Author 5 books15 followers
January 10, 2018
Lastig om in te komen, maar zeker geen onaardig boek.
Profile Image for Ashley Lister.
Author 42 books72 followers
February 27, 2022
A satisfying conclusion to the series. well-written, packed with humour and genuinely thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Jacca.
162 reviews5 followers
July 2, 2022
Isn't it terrible to regret reading a book?

This has sat on my shelf for so long, having been an avid watcher and lover of the TV series Red Dwarf when I was a wee boy. Looking for something light to read after finishing A Russian Diary by Anna Politkovskaya, and loving my recent discoveries of British comedic, silly-witty series in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Discworld novels, I thought it was time at last to try Red Dwarf in novel form.

The story was tiring and the comedy amounting to much the same as the TV series one-liner, ridiculous insults that the character's throw at each other; ridiculous similes most of the time. The book basically expands upon and links three episodes from the TV series, re-using many of the same lines from it. The initial segment of the story which follows the gang's exploration of a version of Earth where time runs backwards is at least more entertaining as the novel form allows the concept to be explored more richly and with narrative detail; something the TV episode was unable to do for obvious limitations. The rest of it however does not benefit from being in TV form and in-fact suffers for it. The story jumps all over the place but follows essentially the same formula to an excruciating extent: danger, now we're safe from danger, oh-no the danger is actually still here but worse!, oh thank goodness we worked that one out.

I don't think I'll be rushing off to read the other Novelised offerings of Red Dwarf.
Profile Image for John Kirk.
394 reviews13 followers
April 8, 2012
Although this book was published after Last Human, I think of it as the third novel in the series, because it follows so closely from Better Than Life. Also, it seems fairly clear to me that Rob Grant brought most of the talent to the "Grant Naylor" gestalt.

This novel introduces some completely new ideas, as well as tying together several episodes from the TV series.
Profile Image for Sandi.
276 reviews52 followers
October 7, 2011
I'm sorry to say that this one did not have an audio version read by Chris Barrie so I stuck with the written edition. Maybe it was the lack of Chris or maybe that Grant does need Naylor to balance him but I wasn't as happy with this outing.

I don't think I minded that there were less laughs and some of the humour was darker. What I did mind was that living backwards just couldn't sustain the concept for an entire book. I still laughed and enjoyed it but just not near as much as the first two. I also missed the Cat. He seemed to be MIA for a good portion of the book.
Profile Image for Iva Jar.
1,309 reviews33 followers
June 11, 2019
konstrukce života pozpátku byly pro mě občas "na bednu", ale pořád se mi to dost líbilo
Profile Image for Christopher.
587 reviews
March 13, 2018
I really loved the concept of writing a world that existed backwards. The writing was very clever and extremely fun. I felt that the story flagged a little when they escaped but the inclusion of "Ace" was interesting, and the epilogue really helped flesh the character out. Made me think of the little decisions I've made over the years to get me to where I am now and wonder which ones I could (or should) have avoided to be a better person.

The story was kind of dull around the whole killbot scenario. I lost track of who was trying to kill whom and then Red Dwarf is just forgotten about and everyone's dead. Set up a sequel nicely, though seeing that this is book four of four...probably not in the cards.

I'm going to read book three now (I started it but it didn't follow book two very well in the beginning and I saw a review saying book four did.) and then on to the TV show.
Profile Image for Paul Dobson.
67 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2020
If you thought the episode was good, let me assure you the novel is right there with it. More backstory, and all the character panache from Rob Grant. As far as sci-fi comedy goes, this is gold. Don't miss the other Red Dwarf novels as well!
Profile Image for Liz.
359 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2020
Huge shame that they had to split. Though still a good read, 'Backwards' just doesn't have the same finesse in its narrative and characters that the first two Red Dwarf books did. It is very interesting to see, after reading this and then the subsequent novel, 'The Last Human', just how different Grant and Naylor's writing styles are. It makes it all the more impressive that they managed to co-write two books in which you could not spot any differences in writing style or lack of cohesion in the plot. Reunion guys? Just a small one?

Reread - Jan 2020
Profile Image for Elden.
136 reviews25 followers
August 30, 2021
For those like me that are wondering, both Backwards, and Last Human are the 3rd book in the series. They were written after the original writers went there seperate ways. Each is a different interpretation of how they wanted the story to progress.

I read this book directly after reading the first 2 in the series. I feel it was pretty good, not happy that the stories don't continue. I plan on reading Last Human next, and when I do I will compare and see what was better.

Profile Image for Jane.
201 reviews7 followers
February 26, 2014
This was a disappointing read for me in comparison to the other Red Dwarf books. The core of the book is based across three well known episodes... episodes that happen to be three of my favourites. They are joint together in an interesting way but for me it just heavily diluted three sterling episodes into something only so-so.
Profile Image for Abi.
46 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2019
I'm so sad that I finished this
35 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2019
This book isn't perfect, but I enjoyed reading it. Rob Grant's writing is as detailed and talented as ever, and this book is based on a few great episodes of a great television show. I suppose my major complaints about it are more personal than anything. While I admire how Rob Grant chooses to go beyond the details set by the original television show and change the story, I found myself loving some changes, but not appreciating others. For instance, we spend a lot more time in the Backwards universe than the show does. While it's an interesting location, I found myself frustrated. Without spoiling the plot, the specific changes for that part didn't appeal to my interests, and because I knew the characters would leave that universe eventually, I kept waiting for it to be over.

Another example is the excruciating detail of pain. This book is a lot more violent than the show was, and it's easy to see why. The television show, while never shying away from violence and dark humor, was still a goofy sitcom, and had to have everything wrap up nicely at the end of thirty minutes. This book, however, goes to a lot darker places, and puts these characters through even more hell than the show does. At one point, I even started to feel physically sick at something horrible that happens to Lister. (Well, I think it was something else. I blacked out for two minutes after a sudden stomachache and moaned/hyperventilated until I could take a nap. But I never found out what caused it and it happened right as I was reading that part of the book, so.... who knows?) While it was sometimes nice to have higher stakes, I would've liked the book to feel less like torture porn.

My last major criticism is about how the book uses one of my favorite characters, Ace Rimmer.... but I can't discuss it without spoilers. The most I can say is that while we get some fantastic chapters in his original universe, the way he leaves the crew is sudden and disappointing. He does get a lovely epilogue, though. Still, it made me sad to think about how much better his exit was in the show, at least from the point of view of an audience member who only wants the best for him.

I'll end this review with something I loved about the book- its cliffhangers. I know I'm only giving it three stars, but I couldn't put this thing down. Rob Grant ends practically every chapter with something that makes you ACHE to know what happens next.

Overall, if you like the show and don't mind seeing these characters in even more gruesome situations, give Backwards a try. Alternate universes may not turn out exactly like you want them to, but you'll definitely have an interesting time in them.
Profile Image for Tyson Adams.
Author 5 books17 followers
November 4, 2021
It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere, I'm all alone, more or less.

Last Human and Backwards continues the adventures of the crew of Red Dwarf after the events of Better Than Life. Doug Naylor tells the tale of Lister reuniting with his crew and adventuring into an alternate universe where they are mistaken for versions of themselves accused of crimes. Rob Grant tells the tale of Lister reuniting with the crew only to be stuck in the backward universe.

After Grant Naylor split up and became Doug Naylor and Rob Grant to write their respective third instalments in the Red Dwarf series, interesting things happened. I'm reviewing both books as one because I read both back to back and wanted to compare the two.

Last Human is the better of the two third instalments (4 stars). The adventure is a challenge for everyone and shows how far all the characters have come. While not as humorous as the previous books, it does manage to revel in the absurdity. I especially like (and remember from when I originally read this book 25 years ago) the luck virus and its part in the story.

Superficially, Backwards is the more absurd and humorous premise (2 stars). The multiverse crossovers, Ace Rimmer, and the Agonoids should make for an amazing adventure. But I found the jokes a bit flat and the story felt like a series of set-pieces - which is unsurprising given the previous instalments and that this was based on episodic TV scripts.

The main difference I wanted to discuss was the pig. I can still remember this mean "joke" from when I first read the series in the 90s. The "joke" in question appears in Backwards and it becomes apparent that the pig was actually a woman who had become morbidly obese and depressed as a result of being sexually assaulted as a teen by Cat.

The first time I read Backwards I felt sad for that character. This time I felt that Grant didn't like his characters and would go as far as to be unnecessarily mean to them for fun and sadistic "laughs".

This is also true of Rimmer. In Last Human, Rimmer is still the coward but manages to grow and be the character who says "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast". Naylor lets him become more than a joke. Whereas in Backwards, Grant rubs in just how terrible Rimmer is and how one decision had irreversibly led him to be the loser we're meant to laugh at.

As Grant Naylor, I think the rough edges of both writers were smoothed out. Gestalt really is a great term for their partnership. But without Naylor, I think that Grant became mean (his own books seem to paint people as incompetent, dumb, and his stories are very dark).
Profile Image for Tom Sadira.
Author 7 books10 followers
February 19, 2019
This one had all the great Red Dwarf stuff: Lister and the gang, absurd dimensions that defy reason, plenty of action (not always forward in time, which was a triiiiip), and sadistic-murderous-insane robots.

Act One was great, even if it forced me to bend my mind to think backwards (how's that for titularity, dude?!) For example, characters would regurgitate bites of their food until their lunch was reassembled on their plates, then hand it off to a waiter and collect a fee. Other mundane activities became pretty interesting: fighting, having sex, and... shitting. Whoa.

I'm giving this one 4 stars rather than 5 due to some of the story/character arch clumsiness in Acts Two & Three. There seemed to be no character focus, and more filler than the previous Red Dwarfs. While the wild west chapters were an interesting and refreshing change ("...he felt lower than a scorpion's scrotum..."), it seemed like Act Three was just a series of endless climaxes. I'm the last person to complain of this sort of thing, but every resolution felt a little too contrived for my tastes.

All in all, it was a solid 4 star book filled with incredible sci-fi hilarity and weirdness. I'm very sad to be finished with the series.
Profile Image for Sterling Wesson.
119 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2022
It’s been a while since I’ve been actually EXCITED to pick up a book again. Excluding Critical Role Origins which was a comic book I read in one day I think the last book I’ve felt hungry to pick up and read all the time was probably Blade Runner back in December of last year. Picking this book up a year ago was a complete chance encounter at a bookstore and I finally got around to it today. I didn’t realize that the books are actually connected, but with my knowledge of the show I slotted in well. I think that this could even be enjoyed without that knowledge though. Something this book does really well is always having something new happening to keep you engaged. They basically condense 1-2 seasons of Red Dwarf all into one book and it has the affect that you never feel bored for a second because you usually have 2-3 plot lines going on at the same time. Brilliantly funny read and I liked the insight into Ace Rimmer, gives him a bit more depth and gosh darn it am I really looking up to him still all these years later?
Profile Image for Nicola Michelle.
946 reviews5 followers
September 13, 2021
As a huge fan of Red Dwarf, I was so happy to see that there was a few books in addition to the hugely popular TV show. It gave me the perfect opportunity to rejoin Kryton, Lister, Rimmer and the Cat and renter the world of Red Dwarf through its pages.

It was such a nostalgic read, as I remember the episodes that some of the events in the book alludes too. Living through backwards time, the AR reality played out like a bad western and of course, everyone’s favourite hero: Ace.

It was written just like you’d expect to see on screen, with plenty of hilarious dialogue and the characters written perfectly to what you would expect. It was an enjoyable read (if a little crass and rude at times of course) but an entertaining book and great for fans of red dwarf.
Profile Image for Sandy Maguire.
Author 2 books155 followers
August 22, 2022
A fun Red Dwarf book, especially so after just slogging through whatever #2 was called. The first third of this book is in a backwards universe where all of the characters' actions need to be interpreted backwards --- for example, when they're looking to find their ship and discover it in the woods and need to dig it out a bit, in the normal direction of time they're *hiding* it. I had weird backwards dreams for a few days while my brain readjusted to thinking about time like this. It was neat.

Part two has fan favorite Ace Rimmer return, who is always a good romp.

And then it sorta falls apart in part three, which is a novelization of the weird western episode. It's fine I guess but is a rather unspectacular ending to an otherwise great book.
Profile Image for Nimish.
66 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2019
This book is an alternate continuation to "Better than Life" (the other continuation being "Last Human"). About the first 1/3 of the book takes place exclusively in the Backwards universe, and that part, I have to admit, is amazing. Grant does a great job of reverse-engineering all the events and putting the characters in interesting positions throughout that bit.

The rest of the book feels a bit weird... as though Grant is trying to set up surprizes for the reader that aren't surprizes at all if you've seen the show. The other books had a little of this, but they didn't tease it out for anywhere near as long, and didn't lean so heavily on that.
Profile Image for Lily.
1 review
May 26, 2018
When people ask me for book recommendations, this is always my go-to.

No kidding, I was in tears from laughing while reading this book. It is absolutely hilarious and a must read for any Red Dwarf fan.

Some of the funniest moments in the series were taken from these pages and being able to read certain character's thoughts and reactions to the events unfolding is an added bonus.

Red Dwarf: Backwards, in my honest opinion, is hands down the best of the Red Dwarf books and the smegging funniest book I have ever read. Get on it.
Profile Image for Martha Ginny.
185 reviews13 followers
March 7, 2020
This felt a little more all-over-the-place than the other Red Dwarf novelisations that I've read - I think partly because it felt like there was SO MUCH to fit in (Backwards AND Dimension Jump AND Gunmen, plus snippets of others) but I could read about my idiot boys just having a nap and I'd still have a load of fun, so I'm still happy either way, and I really enjoyed it. I especially liked the flashbacks to Rimmer's childhood, but that's because I'm predictable as hell.

Special mention to the line "You flab-titted slag" from Lister, which I am going to steal and use in my everyday life.
Profile Image for James Ward.
49 reviews3 followers
November 1, 2020
Great book if you're already a Red Dwarf fan. Not sure how much it would appeal otherwise, as it's largely a mix of stories from the series, albeit the 'backwards' world dominates for quite a while and leads logically into the other stories. It helped that I was familiar with the characters, especially as I haven't read the other books in the series and this was, I think, number 3. Possibly it's best - if you have no previous knowledge of the series/characters - to read the other books first.

It was fun - and made me want to watch the TV series again!
5 reviews
June 19, 2019
I was a bit skeptical about this book. Backwards has always been one of my least favourite episodes of Red Dwarf but I thoroughly enjoyed "better than life" so thought, what the smeg.

The shenanigans the Red Dwarf crew find themselves in throughout this book are hilarious; I loved the appearance of Ace Rimmer, the deranged aganoids and a larger focus on Lister. There was a bit too much slapstick comedy in places at times but I can let that slide. Overall, a pretty good follow on.
30 reviews
October 9, 2020
Ok, the style does feel different but does include some of the best bits from the TV series, Gunman of the Apocalypse and Ace Rimmer.

Unfortunately there are some unnecessary more rude bits which could been toned down (becoming a virgin bit was cringy) and at least one death which seemed pointless.

In general very good but preference for me is the first two books especially now it's getting all multi verse and Rick and Morty on us.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
December 16, 2017
Another enjoyable adventure with the boys from the Dwarf. It's interesting to see the difference in writing styles between Doug Naylor and Rob Grant, who wrote the first two books together before writing a their own sequel each. It's a little sad that there aren't any books to read, but at least there is more of the TV show being made.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews

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