Between 1989 and 1996, four Tie-In Novels for Red Dwarf, but in a different continuity (which split into two continuities itself after the show's creators ended their collaborative partnership).The first novel provides substantially the same opening as the TV series, but with more detail. David Lister's birthday party begins in Brighton, and apparently ends on Titan. At any rate, that's where he wakes up, with a wicked hangover and a single Wellington. He steals a hopping taxi in order to try to make enough money for a ticket home. His first customer is Arnold Judas Rimmer, a low-ranking crewman on board the ship Red Dwarf. After some hijinks involving Rimmer's visit to a robo-brothel, Lister signs on with the Red Dwarf in the mistaken belief that this will get him to Earth faster. When he learns that the ship is on a multi-year mission to the outer solar system, at the end of which he will be an old man (over 25, by Lister's calculation), Lister comes up with a scheme to spend the voyage in stasis, and keep his youth. He purchases a cat at the next landfall, and ensures that he is found to own it, upon which he it put in stasis as a penalty for bringing an unauthorized life-form on board. Shortly afterwards, the crew is killed by a radiation leak, and Holly, the ship's computer, takes it into deep space. Three million years later, the radiation has fallen to survivable levels, and Lister is let out of stasis, to find that his only companions are Holly, Arnold Rimmer's holographic ghost, and the last living descendant of his pet cat, although they soon find a crashed ship inhabited by the mechanoid Kryten, who killed the crew and destroyed the ship by giving the computer components a good wash.Novels:
Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by "Grant Naylor" (1989)
Better Than Life by "Grant Naylor" (1990)
Last Human by Doug Naylor (1995)
Backwards by Rob Grant (1996)
The novels provide examples of:
Adaptation Distillation: The novels turn an episodic TV series into a sprawling adventure. Each of them takes particular episodes from the series and incorporates their plots into one long narrative, integrated with original material. The first novel is much more heavily based on episodes of the series than its sequels, and also has a much more meandering plot.
Adaptation Expansion: For the episodes that are incorporated into the novels' plots, they go deeply in-depth and add a lot of detail that wasn't or couldn't be realised on screen. The novels' depiction of the AR Game "Better Than Life", as compared to its more lighthearted TV depiction, is a good example.
Also within the novels themselves. Grant and Naylor jointly wrote the first two books, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life. They then separately wrote books called Backwards and Last Human, each of which is a direct alternate-continuity sequel to BTL.
Ret Canon: As of Series IV, Lister's backstory with Kochanski is Ret Conned to one closer to in Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers than series 1 and 2.
In one case, an episode was adapted from a section of a novel rather than the other way around: the episode "White Hole" is based on the "Garbage World" section of the novel Better Than Life.
A universe where time runs backwards appears in Better Than Life and Backwards.
Almost all the events of Last Human take place in an alternate universe wherein their version of Lister is a homicidal sociopath.
Backwards and Last Human diverge from each other from the end of Better Than Life.
Backwards had Ace's universe and an alternate universe to that where another version of Ace crossed dimensions too close and was burnt to a crisp.
Ascended Extra: Talkie Toaster, a beloved but extremely minor part of the TV series, becomes a major character in Better Than Life, and despite being a talking toaster actually manages to save the day a couple of times. It Makes Sense in Context.
Minor characters from The End, such as Petersen and George McIntyre are fleshed out and given backstories and motivations.
The Atoner: Lister makes a deal with the Earth to make up for the millenia of abuse by humanity.
Batman Gambit: Lister intentionally brings Frankenstein aboard Red Dwarf in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers after finding her on planet leave, in order to get himself a sentencing in a stasis pod and thereby skipping the 4 year journey back to Earth. Bringing unquarantined animals aboard the mining vessel happens to be the least serious crime resulting in a stasis sentence, which Lister had been betting on.
Unlike the TV series, the novel goes to great lengths to point out that Frankenstein was not, in fact, an unquarantined animal at all. Lister had very carefully made sure she had all her shots and had been properly quarantined before he purchased her, but never presented the paperwork because he wanted to be put in stasis.
This works because of the Retcon nature of Lister's motives for being on Red Dwarf; in the TV series, he's genuinely working there to save up money for buying a property on Fiji, whilst in the book he's only using Red Dwarf as a way to finally get back to Earth after a birthday bender saw him somehow wind up on Mimas. As Red Dwarf only approaches Earth every couple of years, going to stasis was the best way to get to Earth without having to wait for it doing work he hated.
Bittersweet Ending: Each of the novels has one. Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers ends with the crew being stuck in a virtual reality simulation of their fantasies, which gives them all everything they ever wanted, but will eventually kill two of them by starvation. The book Better Than Life ends with Lister's death and resurrection on backwards earth along with Kochanski, but unable to leave until the others return for him, not to mention that Holly has less than a minute to live should he be switched back on. Rimmer, Kryten, Holly and Ace Rimmer are all killed during Backwards (and since Kryten's cure for the Apocalypse virus doesn't remedy Starbug's problem in time to avoid losing the ship, Kryten and Rimmer's sacrifice was a bit wasteful). Lister and the Cat use Ace's ship to jump dimensions to an alternate Red Dwarf where they had died in Better Than Life, but Kryten, Rimmer and Holly are all okay. Last Human probably gets the best possible scenario of the series. Rimmer, of all people, performs twoheroic sacrifices in order for the crew and the "volunteers" for the terraforming project to survive and Lister has been rendered sterile by his Evil Counterpart. Yet, after the planet travels through the Omni Zone and the survivors return to the surface, it is implied that the Luck virus can reverse Lister's sterility and that Lister and Kochanski can begin to rebuild the human race.
Black Comedy Rape; Rimmer lost his virginity to Yvonne McGruder, the ship's boxing champion, who may have been suffering from a concussion as she kept calling Rimmer Norman. In a slightly less squickyRetcon from the televised series, McGruder was truly interested in him, but because their respective coworkers had teased them over the awkwardness of their initial encounter, they both waited for the other to make the first move in reestablishing contact, something neither did.
Call to Agriculture: Lister on Garbage World. Waiting three and a half decades for his crewmates, he needed something to do.
Canon Discontinuity: After the Grant/Naylor writing partnership broke up in 1993, both writers penned a new Red Dwarf novel: Doug Naylor wrote Last Human in 1995, and Rob Grant wrote Backwards in 1996. Each one ignores the other and is written as following the second book Better Than Life.
Chekhov's Gun: The Oblivion Virus from Last Human. Initially used as a way to knock out the power to the penal colony where Lister's alternate self is imprisoned, Kryten later intends to use it to defeat The Rage, a gestalt entity made up of the rage of innocent prisoners experimented upon to terraform planets. In the end, it's Rimmer who makes use of the virus.
The Game in the first book. Introduced in the fourth chapter and then seemingly forgotten, until Lister discovers that he and his crewmates are in the Game near the end.
On that same note, the "wild rumour" that A-Shift leader Petrovitch was a drug dealer that Rimmer had been spreading when establishing Rimmer's spite for the character. Petrovitch was the reason that the Game was on the ship.
The super-intelligent Holly revealing all sorts of fantastic new scientific theories and facts to a thoroughly uniniterested Talkie Toaster in Better Than Life seems like little more than a joke, but becomes vitally important to the plot later on when Holly is offline and can't be turned back on, and Red Dwarf is heading straight for a black hole. Lucky that the Toaster is still around and was forced to go through Holly's lecture on how to survive a black hole!
Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: The Agonoids in Backwards have increasingly elaborate deaths planned for Lister. Justified in that they haven't killed anyone (barring each other) in thousands of years and don't know when they might get to kill again.
Darker and Edgier: For the better in some ways. It retains the absurdist humour, but devotes much of a chapter to Lister having a spectacular mental breakdown in which Drowning My Sorrows is not played for comedy in the least. Rimmer's massive self-image problems and crippling neuroses aren't played for laughs quite so much either, and he's made slightly more rounded as a result.
Better Than Life and its effects are notably far more morbid than in the show: it's made quite clear that the game is cripplingly addictive thanks to it tapping directly into the user's subconscious. Most players die a short time after beginning a session, as their bodies simply waste away in the real world due to malnutrition.
Backwards compared to Last Human.
Deconstruction: The novels deconstruct the premise of a number of their episodes and show how harrowing they could be.
Upon discovering he's three million years away from home and totally alone, Lister has a mental breakdown and drinks himself into oblivion until Holly activates Rimmer to keep him company.
Rimmer clones himself and the relationship eventually breaks down, just like on the TV version. This time we're treated to Rimmer's thought process regarding why hanging out with yourself generally won't work in the long run, although whether it's Rimmer's personality flaws or the concept itself that doomed the experiment is left open.
Better Than Life itself is significantly different as it doesn't actually give the player whatever they wish for like the version in the TV show; rather, it gives the user their deepest subconscious desires. As a result, Lister's reality in particular is based far more on his hidden desires and sentimentalities than the generically extravagant wishes he makes in the TV version of BTL. However, it is mentioned that earlier versions of the game did work as it did in the show, but it wasn't nearly as addictive because people could tell they were in a virtual world as everything came so easily so the immersion was lost.
Deep-Immersion Gaming: "Better Than Life" is even more immersive in the novels than in the TV series, to the point that the game erases any memory of the player beginning to play and conjures semi-realistic explanations for why they suddenly have everything they ever wanted. As a result, players tend to die of starvation in short order unless somebody is caring for them in reality. The game is treated like a street drug and banned accordingly, with analogous "game heads" and "game dealers".
Everything Trying to Kill You: In Better Than Life, when Lister crashes on a planet which turns out to be Earth, the planet itself seems to be out to get him.
Fantastic Drug: Bliss, from the first novel. A brown powder substance notable for causing addiction just by looking at it (which made drug busts notoriously difficult), and for its effects. It causes the user to believe they are God, all seeing, all knowing, infinite in power and the creator of all things. Kind of laughable as you couldn't even tie your own shoelaces while high on Bliss. Its high lasted a few minutes, followed by decades of suicidal depression, the only relief from which could be bought with another hit.
Fail O Sucky Name: The Agonoids in Backwards have been given intentionally insulting names by their human creators. Examples include M'Aiden Ty One (Made In Taiwan), D'Juhn Keep (Junk Heap), Pizzak Rapp (Piece Of Crap) and Chi Panastee (Cheap And Nasty).
Foreshadowing: In Better Than Life, upon learning that Lister is the creator of the universe, Talkie Toaster asks Uber!Holly "If the creator of the universe doesn't like toast, then what's it all about? Why is life so pointless?". Uber!Holly responds with "Nonsense. Life makes perfect sense. It only seems nonsensical to us because we're travelling through it in the wrong direction." This foreshadows the ending of the novel where Lister, after having died, is revived by being buried on an Earth where time runs backwards.
Gag Penis: In the first novel, the characters are unknowingly in the game Better Than Life. In Rimmer's fantasy he is incredibly wealthy, and continuously buys new bodies to inhabit, allowing him to live as a human once again. Upon acquiring his latest model, he comments that the penis "still isn't big enough". His butler informs him that any larger and he'll have severe problems with balance.
Gender Flip: Captain Hollister is a woman in the novels, although her role (and even most of her dialogue) remain identical to that of the male Captain Hollister in the TV version.
In a particularly Mind Screw version of this trope, Holly's Gender Flip from the TV series doesn't take place in the novels, even though the male Holly takes on a few of the female Holly's story lines from the TV show (such as the IQ upgrade). Gets especially weird if you're listening to the audio book, hearing Chris Barrie's pretty decent impression of Norman Lovett saying lines you're used to hearing from Hattie Hayridge...
Genre Savvy: The human creators of the Agonoids created them to be unable to reproduce or replicate spare bodyparts. If an Agonoid loses an organ, he has to take one from another by force. This is both good and bad, as while it reduces the number of Agonoids, it also means that by natural selection the most ruthless of a race already known for being incredibly ruthless survive.
Heroic Sacrifice / Dying Moment of Awesome: Rimmer of all people gets two of them at the end of Last Human. The first is rescuing his crewmates and his son from Lister's other self, who shoots out his light bee. The second is using the Oblivion virus to destroy The Rage.
Obsessed Are the Listmakers: The first novel described Arnold Rimmer doing this repeatedly when he tried to take the officers' exams: he would meticulously create his study plan in such great detail that he ended up spending most of his time on it, then had to revise it for the time left, with the same effects until he had no time left for the actual studying.
This is expanded from a quick gag in the tvshow (the flashback in episode 3 "Balance of Power") and gets a Call Back in The Beginning.
Parental Incest: Averted in the show, played straight in one of the books. Lister attempts to get off with Kochanski's second incarnation knowing full well she's his mother (via IVF and a Stable Time Loop; he's his own father!). In one of the books, it's suggested he actually does.
Mind you, it's possible and indeed quite likely that the spoilered part is either only canon in the TV version or flat-out Canon Discontinuity.
Self-Inflicted Hell: The Cyberia prison colony in Last Human is essentially the polar opposite of Better Than Life. Prisoners are forced to serve their terms in their own personal hell. Lister ends up living in a dump of an apartment where his neighbours play drum solos and James Last and everywhere he sees a Kochanski lookalike wrapped around a beefy sailor type.
Sequel Hook: Backwards ends on one. Whether Rob Grant gets around to writing it is another story.
Tragic Dream: Lister's aim of getting Kochanski back, particularly when Rimmer discovers the photo frame in the Garbage World part.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Played straight in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers: when the Dwarfers have linked themselves into the Game, Rimmer's subconscious constructs a fantasy wherein his father (retrieved via time travel technology that Rimmer's company had developed) was his personal limo driver who was "so proud" of his son. He is introduced in the book after Rimmer has been informed that his entire life is just a fantasy; he is suitably embarrassed.
Inverted in Last Human; Rimmer has to face the extreme disappointment of a son who had been told extravagant lies about his father's heroism by his mother. He eventually redeems himself in his son's eyes, resulting in him finally letting go of all of his neuroses.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, the crew spend a great deal of time repairing the Nova 5 and mining thorium to fuel its duality jump drive, in order to return to Earth. After the crew escape the Game in Better Than Life, no one even mentions the fact that they have a ship capable of interstellar travel in the docking bay - even when Red Dwarf faces obliteration by an oncoming planet.
Except it's still in two halves, The part where the Skutters repair it are part of the fantasy of the Game.
There is a scene where Holly, whose IQ has been boosted to over twelve thousand, deduces that Lister is the creator of the universe. This is never mentioned again.note There might be a reference to this in the TV episode Back To Reality, where when Andy, the "real world" game technician, claims that Lister's destiny is to jump-start the second Big Bang, meaning that "Lister — the ultimate atheist — turns out, in fact, to be God." It's never brought up in the novel beyond that one scene, though.
In Last Human, several vials of the Luck virus are involved towards the end...and one vial of broccoli, which Kochanski picks up because it feels important (while under the effects of the Luck virus). This vial is never mentioned again, unless it means to imply that the crew and new human race are stuck living on the vegetable forever.
Wretched Hive: Mimas. It's implied that the place is such a shithole that Lister spends any money he makes on sangria.