Red Dwarf is the funniest science fiction book I have ever read, featuring a cast of unforgettable characters. First there is Lister; he celebrated his 25th birthday by taking part in a Monopoly-based pub crawl on earth and somehow ended up stuck on Mimas, one of Saturn's moons. He desperately wants to return to earth but cannot raise the funds; tiring of living inside a storage locker and stealing taxis to earn money, he decides to sign up for service with the Space Corps and jump ship as soon as he is back on his home planet. First Technician Alfred J. Rimmer is a truly remarkable and hilarious personality. Rimmer is basically in charge of keeping the vending machines operating on the ship Red Dwarf, and Lister finds himself working under and bunking with this incredibly strange and rather pitiful underachiever. Rimmer is the proverbial born loser, failing at virtually everything he does. He desperately wants to pass the astronavigation exam and become an officer, and he works incredibly hard at preparing for the test despite the fact he has already failed it 11 times (actually, two of those times he got an X for unclassified, such as the time he wrote "I am a fish" 500 times on each answer sheet after panicking and convincing himself he did not actually exist). Rimmer's preparation consists of establishing incredibly exact, inclusive schedules for studying; the problem with this approach is that his constant revisions of the schedule take up all of his preparation time, and he usually ends up cramming three months' of study into a few hours just before the exam begins. Lister annoys Rimmer to no end. As fate would have it, an explosion ends up killing everyone on board Red Dwarf. Lister, having been put in stasis for smuggling a cat on board, is reawakened by the ship's computer Holly three million years later when the radiation levels have returned to safe levels. Holly also resurrects the quite dead Rimmer as a hologram, and the fact that he has died does nothing to help Rimmer's attitude. Lister and Rimmer are soon joined by a highly evolved yet fastidious, incredibly vain feline descendant of the cat Lister originally smuggled on board. This incredibly strange crew attempts to return to earth, and their efforts are as funny as they are ill-fated.
Lister is a simple man just trying to get by in life, wishing for nothing more than a basic, happy family existence such as that of George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life. Rimmer's inferiority complex and stubbornness are unmatched.. His failings and pessimism are comically ridiculous yet somehow plausible, and one can't help pitying a man who fails in life, in death, and even in his own fantasies. I have not seen the Red Dwarf series, so I cannot compare this book to its television counterpart. I can declare this book hilarious; anyone with a sense of humor (even those who hate science fiction) will, I believe, enjoy this book immensely. If you read this book apart from its sequel, though, you will be disappointed by the ending because it is not really an ending at all--I would recommend buying the sequel Better Than Life along with Red Dwarf because you will surely want to follow the comical travails of Lister and Rimmer as far and as long as you can. Only the late Douglas Adams has ever produced such wickedly funny science fiction as Red Dwarf.