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- 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:
- Aborted Arc: 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.
- 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.
- Alternate Continuity: The novels.
- 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.
- Alternate Universe:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 two heroic 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 squicky Retcon 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.
- Canon Dis Continuity: 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.
- Darker and Edgier: The novel continuity, 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- Mind Screw: Backwards.
- Tragic Dream: Lister's aim of getting Kochanski back, particularly when Rimmer discovers the photo frame in the Garbage World part.
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