Tongue Tied
Red Dwarf- Last Human (Doug Naylor).jpg

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, it does not take place within the television series continuity, but instead adapts situations presented on the series to occur within an alternative universe.

The novel focuses on Dave Lister and his fellow crewmates as they attempt to return to their home universe through the myriad of parallel universes that exist, becoming distracted by the search for a lost viral strain promising immortality. It also introduces Kristine Kochanski as a main character. It follows the novel Better Than Life, written by both Naylor and Grant as the writing partnership Grant Naylor.

It contains elements of the episodes Psirens, Demons and Angels, DNA, Quarantine, Emohawk: Polymorph II, Legion, Camille, Gunmen of the Apocalypse and elements that seem similar to those that would later be used in Ouroboros. The character of Kristine Kochanski, as elaborated in this book, is similar to the parallel universe character introduced in the television series in Ouroboros.

Plot introduction

Like the other Red Dwarf novels, Last Human is split into sections. The first section, "Cyberia", is only two chapters long. The other two sections, "Time Fork" and "The Rage", each take up about half of the rest of the book.

Plot summary


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Six million years after the first human is born on the plains of Africa, Dave Lister - the last surviving human in the universe - wakes in a transport ship taking him to prison colony Cyberia, the worst place in the universe, having been found guilty of serious crimes against the GELF state and sentenced to the worst imprisonment imaginable, having been hindered by his inability to comprehend the over-complicated legal system of the GELF - and his choice of clothing, including a tie depicting a naked woman in birthing stirrups. After his welcome by the foul and grotesque Snugiraffe, the prison commandant, he is implanted and introduced into the cyber network of Cyberia where, he will be forced to live out his life in a hellish dream world of his own creation. Naturally he spends a great deal of time considering where it all went wrong...

Time Fork

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Dave Lister awakes out of Deep Sleep on the transport ship Starbug, disoriented and confused. Believing himself to be called Retsil Evad, he soon realises that he is no longer in a backwards reality. The mechanoid Kryten welcomes him back; he has been in stasis for twenty years and, not unnaturally, is suffering a spot of amnesia. Lister is appalled at the lobby, uncouth 'space bum' he is revealed to be - one who drinks vandal sauce for breakfast, drinks, smokes and cannot play guitar to save his life. As Kryten goes to make him a synaptic enhancer to improve his memory, his superior officer, a beautiful red-haired woman, enters the cabin wearing only a dressing gown - and much to his surprise, promptly proceeds to remove it, standing stark naked in front of him to show him her appendectomy scar. Even more to his surprise, she then proceeds to have sex with him - completely unaware that he is amnesiac and has no idea that she is his girlfriend, Kristine Kochanski. Following this, he is introduced to the rest of the crew - the hyper-elegant, superficial Cat and the hologram (now ‘hardlight’ and tangible), Arnold Rimmer, whose unbelievably unpleasant personality is, unfortunately, the trigger that revives Lister's memories.

On their way through the 'Omni-Zone' - the pathway between the seven parallel realities - back to their home ship Red Dwarf, the crew are surprised to come across a derelict space craft that is the exact duplicate of Starbug, with no sign of the crew. Exploring the deserted, derelict parallel Starbug, the Cat is most distressed to discover his own severed head. Rimmer, naturally, is keen to make a quick exit, but reluctantly follows the orders of Kochanski - his superior officer as well - to remain on guard whilst the others fetch the lamps.

Exploring the ship, the other alternate crew members are soon accounted for - the Cat's body (sans head), Rimmer's smashed light bee, Kryten's destroyed and mutilated body, and finally, Kochanski, barely alive in a deep stasis pod. Despite their best efforts, the alternative Kochanski succumbs to her terrible injuries, but not before she - and Lister's Kochanski - make him promise to find his alternative self, who is the only member of the crew not accounted for. Lister, examining the alternate Lister's belongings, is uncomfortable with the idea of finding his other self, but relents when he discovers a photo of the alternate Lister (who is obscured) and Kochanski frollicking in foam.

Thus decided, the Starbug crew begin their search at Blerios 15, a nearby occupied asteroid where, they are dragged down to the surface by the GELF security system and ordered to disembark. Under arrest for infiltrating GELF space, they are herded through the nearby port, and are extremely surprised to witness the daily copulation ritual performed by the mostly sterile population. Taken to the local leader, they are ordered to pay a fine for their crime; either 200 barrels of oil, five bars of something called Gatoo, or four millilitres of sperm.

Much to the locals' surprise, the Starbug crew - particularly Lister and the Cat - have sperm in abundance (claiming it comes from their 'secret store'), and after paying the fine, they prove immensely popular with local merchants. Whilst exploring the markets, the crew come across a GELF smuggler who recognises Lister - and is terrified of him. Cornering the GELF, the crew persuade him to reveal that the alternative Lister, betrayed by the GELF, has been sent to the Forum of Justice to answer for his crimes. To bargain his release, they must see the Regulator of the Forum of Justice.

Kryten, being the crewmember most likely to be shown lenience by the Regulator due to being a mechanoid, arranges an audience with him, where he learns of the alternative Lister's crimes - including the destruction of an entire asteroid and numerous acts of looting and plundering, and numerous murders, including that of the Regulator himself. Which is somewhat unusual, as the Regulator is still very much alive. However, the GELF justice system acts preemptively, on the word of psychics and fortune-tellers, and the innocent are arrested and punished for future crimes before they ever have a chance to occur. Kryten, now convinced of the alternate Lister's innocence, begins to formulate an escape plan...

In what appears to be a flashback (but is in fact a flash-forward), Lister awakes in his own private hell - which turns out to be a palatial Spanish villa by the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, he has no time to enjoy it; a mistake has been made, and he is trapped in the private hell of Capote, a hologram who detests Spanish architecture and luxurious champagne. Once the mistake has been rectified, he finds himself in own hell, complete with a pleasant letter hoping he detests his stay in Cyberia.

In order to spring the alternative Lister, the Starbug crew attempts negotiations with a tribe of Kinitawowis, a nomadic GELF clan, to purchase droids and the Oblivion Virus, an electricity-killing computer virus, for their plan. Unfortunately, sperm is not treasured amongst the Kinitawowis, and thus has no value - as Lister learns to his cost when he attempts to buy rogue, broken-down androids with sperm. Naturally, the Kinitawowi leader is greatly offended, and in order to compensate for the insult, Lister must marry his daughter - his extremely hairy, unpleasant-on-the-eyes daughter. Lister is naturally reluctant, but for the good of the crew, goes along - but draws the line when his new bride begins to consummate the marriage.

Thus prepared, the break-out from Cyberia begins. As Kochanski, Kryten and Rimmer upload the Oblivion Virus into Cyberia's network, Lister parachutes into Cyberia with the rogue droids to effect the rescue. Unfortunately, an unforeseen effect of the Oblivion Virus killing the network is the loss of artificial gravity - and part of Cyberia, which Lister is currently diving into, is a massive lake full of pink fluid. The liquid floats up to meet Lister and, trapped, in the substance, he drowns.

A few moments later, Lister finds himself being resuscitated by himself. Although back to life, Lister's problems continue when the antidote disk to the Oblivion Virus is booted up - thus turning the power, and the gravity, back on. Both Listers plummet, watching many of the inmates fall to their deaths, hoping that enough of the liquid will have filled the lake before they drop.

Fortunately, the two Listers survive - but the Starbug Lister has suffered a sprained leg, thus forcing himself to rely on his more violent, ruthless, unstable alternate self, who is desperate to locate a box containing his belongings. Questioning whether the whole venture was not misguided, Lister is forced to knock his alternate self unconscious and bind him when the alternative Lister attempts a suicidal attack on the guards. Now securely bound Lister, trying to find out what really happened on the alternative Starbug, opens the box containing alternative Lister's belongings - discovering the alternative Kryten's severed arm, with a piece of paper containing a series of co-ordinates to an unknown location. The alternate Lister was responsible for butchering his crewmates (It is later revealed this Lister was adopted by another set of parents and it was Rimmer, not Lister, in the photo with Kochanski). Alternate Lister leaps into the fire, burning his bonds (and his hands), advancing on the good Lister as Starbug arrives to rescue them...

Unfortunately, when Starbug leaves, it is the unstable, violent alternative Lister who is on board, mistaken for the good Lister. As Kochanski nurses him back to health, regretting the foolish mission to rescue the 'evil' Lister, whom they are convinced is dead, the alternative Lister decides that he's going to get a taste of Kochanski later, when he's feeling stronger. The co-ordinates, on the other hand, point to the lost location of the Mayflower, a spaceship conducting a terraforming mission on another world several centuries ago - and it contains the genome of all known life forms' DNA or "G.O.D." - access to which could allow the subject to rewrite their own D.N.A and make themselves literally a god. 'Lister' suggests they acquire the genome for themselves - and after a long pause, Kryten agrees...

The Rage

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An Earth long ago, in a universe far away. The Earth World President, John Milhous Nixon has learned that thermonuclear tests conducted too close to the surface of the sun have fatally weakened the star's structure, thus causing an eventual decay that will see the entire solar system die in four hundred thousand years, which will be very bad for the economy, and Nixon's re-election prospects. The only hope is to move the human race to another world in another Galaxy; and to that end, a genome has been created that will rewrite DNA and thus turn an inhospitable, barren world into a world where the human race can live. A mission has been organised by Dr. Michael Longman (and his clones, Dr. Longman and Dr. Longman), including numerous GELFs to assist in the process and soldier Michael McGruder, a heroic star soldier who has accepted this mission in the hopes that he may be able to find and contact his father, the long-lost hero of an ill-fated mining ship, revived to be that ship's hologram... Arnold J. Rimmer.

The real Lister, meanwhile, is trapped in Cyberia, charged with orchestrating the break-out (it is made clear that it was in fact he, and not the alternate Lister, who was the subject of the "Cyberia" section and the flash-forward in "Time Fork"). Having survived his alternate self's assault and attempted murder, he is now trapped in a soul-destroying hell of his own creation, where all the places and people remind him not only of the worst places in his life, but of everything he's lost, stolen by his alternative self - his girlfriend, his ship, his life. After five months of this hell, trapped in a grungy dystopian city surrounded by prostitutes that look like Kochanski, soul-sapping advertisements about his parentless upbringing, and - perhaps worst of all - encyclopedia salesmen, he is brought out of Cyberia and given an offer; to be part of an experimental terraforming and recolonisation program.

The system the GELFs live in is unstable, being dragged into the Omni-Zone, and all planets are being crushed and destroyed by the awesome forces present. To that end, the GELFs have been trying to terraform a world capable of passing through the Omni-Zone unscathed, and have been using gestalt entities - beings made up of the individual bodies and minds of the inmates of Cyberia. The first gestalt (created from the criminals of the GELF state) having proved malicious and evil, the second gestalt has comprised the innocent, sentenced to Cyberia under false pretences and coerced into the program. The inmates of Cyberia are all innocent (the authorities not knowing that the evil Lister was guilty of murdering his crew, having imprisoned him on other false charges)  - and now they want Lister to be part of a recolonisation program. Keen for an opportunity to escape from Cyberia - and the authorities - Lister agrees.

As part of the deal, Lister is entitled to spend his last night with a symbi-morph, a GELF prostitute capable of reading his mind and transforming itself into the object of Lister's desire. Unfortunately, all of the 'broken' symbi-morphs are out, and the only one who remains is Reketrebn, an 'unbroken' symbi-morph who intends to save itself for its boyfriend. Forced to participate by giving Lister one of its five 'hooks', which connects it with his innermost desires, it nevertheless resists by becoming first a sofa, and then a giant mound of yak dung.

Assuring Reketrebn that he is not interested in anything sexual (despite it morphing into Kochanski wearing only a G-string), Lister gains the friendship and trust of the symbi-morph. Despite the fact that it is bound to its master, Reketrebn relents to Lister's pleas and momentarily becomes Kryten who reveals the reason for Lister's distrust of his alternative self - he sensed that it was not Lister under the foam in the photograph he found earlier, but Rimmer, who was the alternative Kochanski's lover. Computing everything he has (subconsciously) learnt about symbi-morphs, he determines the plan of escape - he asks Reketrebn to take his form, thus allowing it to learn the pain he is in.

On his way to another system in The Mayflower , Michael McGruder busies himself by supervising the GELFS - but unfortunately, as he is investigating how the GELFs and simulants have been reactivated, a team of shape-shifters manage to get the drop on him, and lock him in a cell. As the GELFs mutiny, butchering their human masters, McGruder is powerless to intervene, and the ship is pulled into the Omni-Zone during the mutiny. As he becomes a slave to the GELFs, he bitterly and shamefully compares himself to his father, determining that he is not even a tenth of the man Arnold Rimmer was.

Having convinced Rebektrebn to ally itself with him, Lister makes his escape, managing to use Rebektrebn’s shape-shifting abilities to confuse and destroy the guards. Fighting their way out, they manage to make their way onto a ship they assume to be a transporter. Unfortunately for them, it’s not – it’s actually the ship for the gestalt volunteer crew. The ship Lister was supposed to be on. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s on auto-pilot to a set location.

Meanwhile, Starbug is en route to the last known location of the Mayflower, the crew in stasis for the long journey. Kryten awakes early, in order to prepare the crew, and notices several disconcerting differences in Lister’s medical records. They’ve got the wrong Lister. And to make matters worse, in his checking of the alternate Starbug’s crew records, a cursory examination of the alternative Lister’s file reveals that, following a traumatic and abusive upbringing at the hands of his manic-depressive foster mother (as opposed to the kinder, but poorer, foster parents of the proper Lister) had developed into a ruthless, sociopathic criminal.

As Kryten makes this discovery, he is surprised by the alternate Lister, who has also awoken early from stasis. Getting the jump on Kryten, the alternate Lister is interrupted by a signal from an attacking ship; the Kinitawowis have caught up with Starbug, and they want what belongs to them. Kryten is only too happy to give them what they want, and the alternative Lister is unpleasantly surprised to realise that this means him.

Kryten’s happy musings on the pleasantness of justice actually being achieved are quickly interrupted, however, by the realisation that Starbug is critically damaged, on fire, and crashing towards a planet surface comprised entirely of molten lava. Awaking the crew in typical calm, pleasant fashion with the reassuring news that they’re in the middle of a fiery plummet to almost certain death, the advice that morning tea is skipped is enthusiastically adopted. Despite their best efforts, Starbug crashes into the lava – before they are broiled to death, however, they crash into the cool ocean underneath the lava surface. They can’t get back out, but at least Kryten now has time to finish the ironing.

As supplies run low, Starbug eventually comes across another ship – The Mayflower. Apparently deserted. As Kryten and Kochanski come across a room full of designer viruses, searching slowly for the terraforming virus that will enable them to escape, the Cat and Rimmer encounter a jacket belonging to a marine named McGruder – the same last name as a girl Rimmer had once had an affair with, until a misunderstanding prompted both by his innate insecurity and a head injury she’d received resulted in it ending. They also locate a transmogrifier – and they realise what it is when Cat’s fiddling turns Rimmer into a chicken. Four hours later, when Rimmer has been transmogrified into three hundred versions of pretty much every animal known to humanity, they manage to restore him to humanity – giving Kryten an idea.

Meanwhile, the ship bearing Lister and Reketrebn crash-lands on the GELF terraforming world – a barren, hostile world dominated by a massive, violent, constant tornado. Separating from the other volunteers, Lister and Reketrebn make camp (where a misunderstanding involving Lister’s libido sees Reketrebn momentarily become Kochanski); by morning, the ship has been irreparably destroyed, and many of the volunteers are dead – not, however, from conditions on the planet. It’s almost as if most have killed each other. A bigger surprise awaits Lister, however; captured by a group of survivors, Lister finds himself face-to-face with another human being – a human who knows him. It is Michael McGruder, who is still looking for the greatest soldier ever – Arnold J. Rimmer. Lister is utterly speechless.

Back on the Mayflower, Kryten and Kochanski, in their study of the many viruses, come across both negative viral strains and positive ones (which, unlike viruses such as flu and rabies, are beneficial to their hosts). In particular, they find the Luck virus, which bestows the infected person with a brief dose of good fortune – which enables Kochanski to pick out not only the terraforming virus, but more of the Luck virus, and – for reasons unknown – a virus that develops faster-growing broccoli. In the time remaining before the lava is dissolved, the Starbug crew search for useful salvage – and Kryten returns to the transmogrification chamber – and moments later, a naked human being exits.

Meanwhile, Lister and McGruder are getting to know each other, an Lister discovers that, having survived and given birth before the Red Dwarf was lost, McGruder’s mother – Rimmer’s long-lost brief girlfriend – had taken the opportunity to tell her son that, far from getting pregnant from a half-concussed fling, his father was a glorious space adventurer and hero. As it’s unlikely they’ll ever come across each other again, Lister decides to play along with the façade. And besides which, they have the problem of the Rage – the dominant gestalt on the planet – to contend with. Made up of the falsely accused and unfairly imprisoned, the Rage is the ultimate expression of the anger of millions of innocent people at the injustice of their condition – and it’s infectious, filling all who come into contact with it with pure, murderous rage. The only way to survive is to form the Circle of Sacer Facere – which will result in the certain death of one of the members in order to save the life of everyone else. When the Rage hits, Lister is filled with its righteous, pure venom – and desires it more than anything. By the time it has passed, one of the GELF is dead. And the Rage will return soon.

Kryten and the rest of the Starbug crew, meanwhile, must content with Kryten’s new human state. He doesn’t settle in easily; he’s bewildered by his unpredictable and unreliable human body, with its lack of special features, and his penis, which both looks horrible and gets extremely excited when viewing electrical equipment. Although he’s a human on the outside, he still thinks like a mechanoid, and a fight with Cat that marks his introduction to the concept of complete and total physical agony only strengthens his doubt.

Soon, however, they have other things to worry about. Kochanski, happening upon the stasis pods, discovered that they are all occupied – by Dr. Michael Longman. The Starbug crew have located Longman and his clones, and when they open up the pods they see for the first time what the Longmans have done to themselves. Desperate to survive, they have repeatedly transmogrified themselves until their DNA simply gave up, locking them into twisted, horrific combinations of various animals. And they’re hungry for new DNA.

Managing to escape, Kryten decides that he wants his android body back – he can’t cope as a human. Nervously, the crew return to the transmogrifying chamber, only to discover that the mechanoid template has been used – by one of the Longman clones. Kryten manages to trap two, but the third – in the shape of a leopard – corners Kochanski. Thankfully, the Luck virus helps, and an elastic band to the testicle manages to incapacitate the creature. Kryten retrieves his mechanoid form, and the Starbug crew flees the Mayflower to find and rescue Lister. Learning of Lister’s escape from Cyberia, the crew are lost on how to find him – until they use the Luck virus to discover the exact planet he is on. Unfortunately, the planet will enter the Omni-Zone any day – and it will take thirty three days to find them without any kind of hyperdrive – which Cat, in a burst of extremely good luck, discovers the equation to.

On the terraform planet, a desultory, hopeless meal around the campfire is interrupted by the sudden, completely unexpected arrival of Starbug. Lister and Kochanski are reunited – and McGruder is introduced to his father, Rimmer. McGruder faints. When Rimmer learns of McGruder’s identity, he faints as well. Unfortunately, this spells doom for Michael’s impression of his father; he will soon discover the truth and Rimmer, reluctantly but bravely, confesses to Michael that he is no hero, but is a chicken soup machine maintainer. Betrayed, Michael storms away.

Unfortunately, matters are getting worse. Sensing the arrival of Starbug, the Rage will return in an hour, and the ship has been completely disabled. Kryten decides to sacrifice himself for the good of everyone else by feeding himself the Oblivion Virus and infecting the Rage with it, thus killing it. His plans are hindered, however, by the inexplicable discovery of four dead, unaccounted-for bodies – and someone locking him into the storage hold.

Michael, bitterly considering the betrayal of the revelation of what a complete zero his father is, is attacked by the alternate Lister – who was never taken off the ship, having murdered his Kinitawowi guards before they could leave and hidden away from everyone. Rimmer, able to help his son, hesitates for too long and is cornered, only strengthening his son’s contempt for him. Locked in the storage hold with Kryten, the two hit upon an escape idea; sending Rimmer’s ‘light bee’ (the device controlling the projection of his image) down the oxy-generation unit to free him, thus enabling him to help Michael. The element of risk present causes Rimmer to first reject the plan entirely, only for Kryten to eventually guilt him into doing it.

Lister and Kochanski’s reunion is interrupted by the alternate Lister, who wants Starbug’s only escape pod. Kochanski’s refusal to accompany him only provokes the alternate Lister into shooting the proper Lister in the groin, thus turning him sterile. The luck virus temporarily extends Kochanski’s life – but it won’t last forever, and the alternate Lister is just about to finish her off when they are interrupted – by Rimmer, utterly terrified but nevertheless determined, attacking the alternative Lister with a jet-powered paint-stripper, thus earning his son’s gratitude and respect. Suddenly freed from the years of neurosis, self-loathing and doubt that have plagued him, he unleashes the hero within – and is beginning to enjoy himself when a lucky shot from the alternative Lister hits the light bee, fatally injuring him.

By now, however, the Rage is upon them – and the only way to stop it killing them all is the Circle of Sacer Facere. The alternative Lister, panicking, is dragged into the circle, but manages to grab the vial of the luck virus from Kochanski in order to ensure his survival. But when the Rage hits, he – like everyone else – wants it more than anything in the world. And since he has the luck virus, the alternate Lister will receive anything he wants. His ‘wish’ is granted, and he receives the full force of the Rage, which kills him.

The ordeal is not yet over, however; the planet will enter the Omni-Zone any minute now, and the Rage, in a final act of spite, is blocking the entrances to the caves that will allow those still alive on the planet to further survive the journey through the Omni-Zone. Rimmer, however, is not quite dead – and in a final act of heroism, demands that Kryten infect him with the Oblivion Virus; once done, he charges towards the Rage, allowing it to infect him; and as soon as it does, the virus is transferred to the Rage, killing it and allowing the victims of that injustice to gain peace. As the planet is pulled into the Omni-Zone, Lister, Kochanski and the others take shelter in the caves, surviving for three weeks as tremendous forces tear across the planet. When it ends, they are in a new, unknown universe.

They emerge to find a pleasant, hospitable world growing, waiting for them. As Kryten, Cat, McGruder and Reketrebn search for Rimmer’s light bee, as to give it the antidote for the virus, Lister and Kochanski stare over the world, the now-sterile Lister commenting sadly on how beautiful a place it would be to raise a family, to restart the human race – a dream now impossible thanks to his alternate self. But Kochanski, however, still has a vial of the Luck virus – and if it works, they’re going to celebrate immediately by making the first of their many future children together. By a stroke of luck, it does – and Lister and Kochanski get to work.


  • Following publication of Last Human, Rob Grant also wrote a solo Red Dwarf novel, entitled Backwards. Although it also follows on from the previous novel Better Than Life, Backwards does not refer to any of the events of Last Human, and in fact includes notable differences (such as the fact that Kochanski does not appear as a character). As a result, both novels are generally considered to occur in alternative realities to each other.
  • While the continuity of the books is more consistent than that of the series, it is not flawless. In the first novel, Arnold Rimmer is introduced as a First Technician, rather than a Second Technician as in the series; but in this novel, he tells his son, Michael McGruder, that he was a Second Technician (or Third Technician in some releases of the novel) aboard Red Dwarf.
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