Book review: Andy Lane — Slow Decay (Torchwood)

This is one of the trio of tie-in novels released for the first season of Torchwood, and is set early in that season, after Gwen’s settled in but before Cyberwoman. Tie-in novels can disappoint, but this is a solid story that’s well-written and that fits the Torchwood universe well; a dark tale about the things that come through the Rift and their misuse by the locals. It’s actually better than the first couple of tv episodes, because the sex and violence is used to good effect in the story, rather than feeling as if it’s tossed in just to see how far the show can go in a post-watershed slot.

There are two interweaving plots here. The main plot concerns an outbreak of killings involving cannibalism, and their link to a very dubious weight-loss clinic. The team’s hunt for the solution is given added urgency when Gwen realises that Rhys has taken one of the clinic’s pills. The minor plot concerns Tosh’s research into a series of alien devices.

There’s good exposition and world-building, and I think this book will work for someone who hasn’t yet seen the show. The characterisation’s not that deep, but it’s not bad for an early tie-in where even an author who’s a fan or involved with the show’s production wouldn’t have had much to go on, and it’s accurate. With one exception there’s not much reference to specific events in the tv series, and even the exception is blended in nicely as something that will be simply a character quirk to people who haven’t seen the relevant episode.

The book focuses strongly on the relationship between Gwen and Rhys (and does so very nicely), but generally doesn’t neglect the rest of the team. There are some decent bits for particular characters: Tosh gets a decent word count, even if she spends it being girl geek as usual; there’s a good storyline for Owen where circumstances force him to interact with an attractive woman as a person, rather than just a shag. On the other hand, Ianto’s barely mentioned; but when you do see him he’s spending a lot of time lurking in the remote archives and discouraging other team members from wandering into them, which is appropriate for this point in his storyline, and he gets some good interaction with Tosh.

Physically, it’s a hardcover with a perfect-bound book block, which is what you’d expect at this price point for a hardback. It’s solidly constructed with no loose pages, and there’s a good cover design which links in with the other two books in the set. Designer Lee Binding’s done a nice job with stock art here.

Slow Decay is a good read for both the plot and the characterisation, and I expect I’ll be re-reading it soon. Well worth the money.

at Powell’s


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