''Backwards'' is the fourth and final ''
Red Dwarf A red dwarf is the smallest and coolest kind of star on the main sequence. Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way, at least in the neighborhood of the Sun, but because of their low luminosity, individual red dwarfs c ...
'' novel, directly succeeding
Grant Naylor Grant Naylor was the collective name used by writers Rob Grant Robert Grant is an English comedy Comedy (from the el, wikt:κωμῳδία, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction consisting of discourses or works intended to b ...
-written '' Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers'' and '' Better Than Life'', and existing in a separate continuity from ''
Last Human ''Last Human'' is the title of a 1995 science fiction comedy novel written by Doug Naylor. It is part of the ''Red Dwarf'' series of novels, based on the popular television show created by Naylor and his partner Rob Grant. Like the other novels, ...
'' written by
Doug Naylor Douglas Rodger Naylor (born 31 December 1955) is an English comedy writer, science fiction writer, director and television producer. Life and career Naylor was born in Manchester Manchester () is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater ...
. It is set in a fictional universe version of Earth where time moves backwards. The novel was written solely by
Rob Grant Robert Grant is an English comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the English language ...
and is his only solo Red Dwarf novel, Grant having previously stepped down from co-writing with Naylor for the television show after its Series VI final, '' Out of Time''. It contains plot elements from the episodes '' Backwards'', '' Dimension Jump'', and '' Gunmen of the Apocalypse''. An audiobook of ''Backwards'' was also produced, read by the author.

Plot summary

On the Backwards World

The Red Dwarf crew arrive on htraE (a version of Earth in a universe where time is running backwards) in order to rescue Lister, who has returned to life and the age of 25 (following his death at age 61 the end of the previous novel, Better Than Life) as a result of the crew depositing his body on the time-reversed Earth 36 years earlier. After failing to meet Lister at the arranged rendezvous,
Kryten Kryten is a fictional character in the British science fiction situation comedy ''Red Dwarf''. The name ''Kryten'' is a reference to the head butler in the J.M. Barrie play ''The Admirable Crichton''. Originally referred to as a Series III mecha ...
learns from the television that Lister and
Cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic Domestic may refer to: In the home * Anything relating to the human home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, group or famil ...
are associated with a murder that, due to the backwards flow of time, has not yet been committed. Lister soon arrives injured and in the custody of the police who, after a backwards fight which restores Lister to health, promptly unarrest him. Lister then takes off in backwards pursuit of one of the officers, explaining to the others that due to the nature of reverse time he is forced to follow the policeman (who if time were running forwards would be chasing him) until he is 'unspotted'. After a harrowing backwards car-chase (especially for Rimmer, who is unable to trust that no harm can befall him while time is running backwards) the policeman unsees them, and the crew retreat to the mountain area where they landed their ship, the Starbug. When they arrive, the crew examine Starbug to find most of the landing jets missing and the underside a mess of
rust Rust is an iron oxide, a usually reddish-brown oxide formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the catalytic presence of water or air moisture. Rust consists of hydrous ferric oxides, hydrous iron(III) oxides (Fe2O3·nH2O) and iron(III) oxi ...

and badly-repaired damage. Unable to understand how it happened, but realising that on the backwards Earth they will need the landing jets to perform a take-off, they begin searching for the missing jets. While searching Kryten discovers the body of a
hillbilly "Hillbilly" is a term (often derogatory A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, ...
, who has been killed with a pickaxe. He panics when the corpse begins returning to life and removes the pickaxe from the man's chest. Once the man leaves, Kryten replays the incident 'forwards' and realises he was responsible for killing the man, a serious breach of his programming not to harm humans. Overwhelmed by guilt, Kryten shuts himself down. Upon learning what's happened, Lister realises that this was the murder for which he was imprisoned and is overwhelmed at finally learning that he was not only innocent but Kryten was the one responsible for his lengthy prison sentence. Despite this, Lister forgives him and tries to get him working again. Having only found one landing jet and that in terrible condition, and with Lister busy repairing Kryten, the crew's attempt at a reverse landing fails and they are trapped on htraE, having missed their window. Kryten is eventually fixed and he informs them they will have to wait 10 years for another opportunity to leave. Ten years pass and while Kryten and Rimmer are physically unaffected, the reverse time of backwards Earth means Lister and The Cat are now 15. During the wait, The Cat becomes a virgin during a bizarre sexual encounter with a female
cousin Commonly, "cousin" refers to a "first cousin", a relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by circumstances of birth, they are sa ...

of the 'un-murdered' hillbilly, and the crew busy themselves reburying the landing jet they found and 'un-repairing' the damage to Starbug, which begins to become less rusted but more damaged as the reverse landing window approaches. When the time arrives, the crew begin the reverse landing, sending the underpowered ship scraping backwards over a nearby mountain, a process which repairs much of the damage as several landing jets leap from the forest and reattach themselves. With the craft still out of control, they are unstruck by a missile from the American 'Star Wars' defence system, which had misidentified Starbug as a threat. With the remainder of the damage repaired, the crew leave for their own universe to rendezvous with Red Dwarf, but find it to be missing without a trace.

The Search for Red Dwarf

Unknown to them,
Holly ''Ilex'' (), or holly, is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxon ...
, the Red Dwarf computer, has been reversing the process of his intelligence compression (performed in 'Better Than Life'), reducing his IQ to increase his operational lifespan. Unfortunately he takes the process too far, leaving him so stupid that he is unable to reverse the procedure or prevent Red Dwarf falling into the hands of the Agonoids, who force him to divulge information about the crew. Delighted to discover the one remaining human (Lister) is among them, the Agonoids begin to plan his demise, ripping Holly's components from the ship and jettisoning them before converting the Red Dwarf into a giant torture chamber. Discovering the remains of Holly, the Dwarf crew learn of the Agonoid threat, but with food and fuel supplies on Starbug severely low, and their power situation made even worse by the energy required to power up Holly's remains even for the brief time they spoke with him, they have no options available but to head for Red Dwarf regardless. At the same time, in a parallel universe, Ace Rimmer is preparing to test pilot a ship capable of crossing dimensions. The brave, heroic and charismatic Ace (a complete contrast to the neurotic Rimmer) arrives in the Red Dwarf timeline, materialising so close to Starbug as to severely damage both ships. Coming over to Starbug to help with repairs, Ace deduces it may be possible to rig up his ship to take the crew home. The Agonoids meanwhile are fighting for the right to torture and kill the last remaining human. Djuhn'Keep, the most intelligent Agonoid—having tricked and dismantled another for spare parts due to his own poor physical condition, only having been spared destruction so far due to his technical skills—succeeds in jettisoning the others into space, but notices to his chagrin that one, Pizzak'Rapp, is headed directly for Starbug. Pizzak'Rapp attempts to break into the ship, but Ace sacrifices himself to send the Agonoid into space. Meanwhile, Djuhn'Keep arrives on Starbug, just as the oxygen supply fails. Horrified at losing the opportunity to torture Lister, Djuhn swiftly repairs the Oxygeneration unit. Kryten bazookoids the freshly repaired hull, causing a breach which sucks the Agonoid into space. The crew then learn that Djuhn has infected the ship's NaviComp with a computer virus (the Armageddon virus), causing them to be locked on course towards a nearby planet. Kryten decides to deliberately contract the virus to create an antidote, cryptically telling the crew to 'watch his dreams' before becoming unresponsive. Entering Kryten's dream-state through a
machine, the crew find themselves in a replica of an old
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that id ...
, with the various characters representing Kryten's characteristics ('Wyatt Memory', 'Billy Belief', etc.), being threatened by ' the Apocalypse boys', representing the virus. Kryten's consciousness is represented by the town lawman, Sheriff Carton, but the recent death of Wyatt Memory has cost Kryten his memory of what he is meant to be doing, although the crew are able to remind him of enough crucial details to finish his work. In order to buy Kryten time, the crew (Rimmer, Lister and The Cat), adopt personas from a VR Western game, ''Streets of Larado'', and enter the game to assist him. With impeccable skills in fighting, knife-throwing and
shooting Shooting is the act or process of discharging a projectile from a ranged weapon (such as a gun, bow and arrow, bow, crossbow, slingshot, or blowgun, blowpipe). Even the acts of launching flamethrower, flame, artillery, dart (missile), darts, ha ...

provided by the VR machine, along with the knowledge that they can't be injured, they attempt to take on the Apocalypse boys to distract them from destroying the town or killing Sheriff Carton. However, the virus spreads to the VR machine the crew is connected to, sealing them into the artificial reality, removing their 'special skills' and allowing them to feel pain (Fortunately, Lister and Cat cannot be actually ''killed'', although Rimmer's light bee is still potentially vulnerable to the virus). The crew clash with the Apocalypse boys regardless, and are subject to terrible injuries; Lister is even decapitated at one point. However, Kryten has enough time to complete the antidote program just as the Apocalypse boys gun him down. With the Apocalypse boys vapourised, Lister and The Cat return to reality to find the virus has killed both Kryten and Rimmer, destroying their mechanical components beyond repair. Since the VR machine only simulated their injuries, they find themselves unharmed. With the virus gone, they are able to control the ship, but since it has been accelerating for several hours there is not sufficient fuel left to avoid hitting the planet. Cramming into Ace's one-man ship Wildfire, which he had programmed for another jump, they cross dimensions—their only other option being to go back to an uninhabited and gutted Red Dwarf in this universe—finding themselves in a timeline where Kryten and Rimmer are still alive, but their own counterparts died playing Better Than Life. As they dock with the alternate Red Dwarf, Lister reflects that while this isn't home, it might be close enough.


* The audiobook version does not include the segment based on ''Gunmen of the Apocalypse'' and instead features Rimmer and Kryten dying during the fight with Djuhn'Keep; Rimmer's light bee falls out of the ship when the hull breaches and Kryten is crushed by falling debris. After Lister and the Cat find the ship locked in its deadly course they immediately commandeer Wildfire. It also skips the short chapter about Cat, losing (or in this case gaining) his virginity. * The glimpse into Ace's reality also reveals how his Lister is more mature than the version in the show; without Rimmer present on Red Dwarf, Lister's new roommate, Lewis Pemberton, was a more mature individual who helped encourage Lister's own development, helping him reconcile with Kochanski and starting him on the classes that led to him becoming the engineer he is when Ace meets him.

See also

* Backwards (TV episode) {{Grant Naylor 1996 British novels British comedy novels British science fiction novels Red Dwarf