Peter Anghelides — Another Life
First of the Torchwood tie-in novels, and set a few weeks after the start of the series, i.e. after the second episode and before the fourth.
The book opens with a second-person role-playing game scenario — except this game’s not in the computer, and when the “you” loses a life and hopes for better luck next time, it’s a real body that dies. Of course, it takes Torchwood a little longer to work out why their serial killer has just cheerfully committed suicide…
In a second story strand, Owen’s been spending a lot of time in a more conventional multi-player game, though he’s taking advantage of Torchwood technology, and Toshiko’s technical skills, to ramp up the online experience a little. When he runs into an old girlfriend in the game and discovers that she’s living in Cardiff, he sees it as both a personal and professional opportunity — he wants to prove his theory that the game is a good initial screening tool for potential Torchwood recruits, and Megan’s just the sort of person who would make a good recruit for Torchwood.
While Jack, Gwen and Tosh are tracking down who their serial killer was working with and what he’s done with a set of stolen nuclear fuel rods, Owen and Megan stumble across part of the solution quite by chance. And all the while the rain pours down on Cardiff, as the Rift’s latest problem plays havoc with the local weather system…
The mirrored plotlines make it obvious early in the book what’s going on (intentionally so). But the real puzzle is who’s doing it, and what their motive is. Anghelides carefully weaves the different strands together so that the reader can see the pieces falling into place, as what seem like separate stories start to interlock. By the end, what seemed like pieces of characterisation and scene-setting turn out to be crucial to Torchwood winning the day.
This is a nicely constructed novel, with an interesting story and good characterisations. There’s a good spread of scenes across most of the characters, and even Ianto gets some nice characterisation vignettes, even though the book’s set at a point in the series timeline when he was mainly a background character. Notably, that includes a fair bit of the flirty banter between Jack and Ianto that was in the tv episodes at this point in the timeline.
I liked this book a lot, and think a fair number of my friends would too. While it’s a tie-in, Anghelides does a good job of working the universe set-up into the first few scenes, and I think the book should also work well for someone who hadn’t seen the show, although obviously you’d get more out of it if you’re already familiar with the characters.
It’s also available as an audiobook read by John Barrowman, which I haven’t heard.