11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Torchwood: Another Life (Hardcover)
This is the first book of three hardcovers with stand alone stories. They are beautiful - the artwork is impressive and when you place the books together, the spine is showing a group photo of the characters.
If you have never watched Torchwood, it might be a good idea to read this book first in order to find out if this series is your cup of tea. It gives all the information you need, including what Torchwood is, the characters and what kind of stories to expect. The author knows Torchwood very well and the characterizations are very accurate. The book takes place early in the series which is reflected in numerous ways. I think also people who never watched Torchwood can read this book without any problems.
I see Torchwood as something between Star Trek`s Section 31 and "the department" of Starfleet Intelligence, led by Admiral Nechayev in the main Star Trek book universe, that is dealing with missions that push what is legal, what is moral, what is acceptable to its limits and sometimes beyond. When does the end justify the means when it is about protecting Earth from alien threats? And when, there is the next question, namely what is still justifiable under such circumstances? Torchwood is not an illegal organization and although what it is about is a secret, they are called to investigate suspicious murders or other events that are unusual. Their task is to find answers, stop threats and at the same time, keeping alien presences secret and collect alien technology they find. The Prime Minister knows all about Torchwood but how much further that knowledge goes, is unknown.
Torchwood is a spin-off of Doctor Who, a British SF series, and that this story takes place in Britain is also obvious when reading this book. "Another Life" is a story with an overall pattern that is typical for Torchwood: An evil alien is taking over humans, using them and killing them in the process. The story is dark, gritty, includes a certain amount of gore and violence. Lots of rain is falling, which is typical, too. Torchwood was created with an adult audience in mind and therefore, additional to horror elements, some sexual ones can be found as well in this book as it is the case in the TV series.
This doesn`t sound attractive but also this book shows that there is more behind Torchwood. A series first of all comes alive with its characters and some of them reflect the overall mood of the series well: They are good people but with flaws, flaws that make them interesting. Torchwood deals with questions that involve a lot of shades of grey and needs a certain type of people to deal with it.
"Another Life" is revealing what was at the beginning of the series even a secret to most other members of this group, that the leader Jack Harkness is an immortal who can`t die. What happened had been shown in the modern Doctor Who series but is not known to anyone in the Torchwood series, probably not even the Prime Minister. Jack is very charismatic, a natural leader. The book shows his two sides very well: He is dedicated, caring, in many ways a real hero but he can be frighteningly ruthless when he thinks it is necessary. I agree with what other fans have said as well, him being immortal robbed him a bit of his humanity at times.
This book is a good example showing that we viewers or, in this case, readers might not like what he does or did but when he asked here what other alternative there is, I didn`t have an answer either. Newcomer Gwen Cooper provided the same human conscience for him in this book as it was shown mainly in early Torchwood. The climax is not really surprising but I found it a gripping, touching read. By letting Jack sacrifice himself in order to stop the alien and save Owen, another member of the team, Gwen had to struggle with her conscience. This scene showed me why I am a fan of this series although I agree that there is definitely room for improvement.
One of these needed improvements is about another grey character who plays a main part in this book, Owen Harper. When I first saw him on TV, my reaction was "What a creep!". But I also wondered from early on, maybe a series like Torchwood needs such a character as well. "Another Life" shows "Owen the creep" very well but makes a good effort to look closer at him, analysing what makes him the character he is. I don`t think he is likeable in the book but he is definitely interesting and in spite of his flaws, I couldn`t help caring for what happens to him.
"Another World" makes good use of Toshiko Sato, the computer expert of the group. I learned more about her character in this book than I did on TV so far. Somewhere in the book, her attitude towards computers was described as being a composer. And then there is Ianto Jones, the kind of assistant and caretaker. He is a troubled character with a secret that is revealed later in the series. People who know what I am talking about can read between the lines when reading the book.
I think people who like watching Torchwood will also like this book. But if you never have watched it, I understand very well why Torchwood is a controversial series that is not for everybody.