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Torchwood: Into The Silence

Because more Torchwood can only ever be good.

Given how much I hated two of the last three TW books, I'm really pleased by how good this latest batch is. "Into The Silence" is well written and engaging, and just like "The House That Jack Built" it boasts a good support cast. In place of the hugely engaging Alexander in the last book, here we have Cutler, a twisted and tangled mess of a man with a history with Torchwood One. He's joined by a host of bit part characters, most of whom get fairly horribly murdered before we get to know them well, although we know them well enough. I was genuinely sorry when Ben died, and Adrienne as well. Our three remaining members of TW3 are well represented here too, with some good dialogue. I especially liked them remembering Tosh and Owen. Whether or not there'll be time in season three to cover such little details is something we've yet to see - and sometimes it seems like we'll be waiting forever - so it's nice to see these bits in the books. The gang missing Tosh's computer expertise, but also missing her as a person. Joking about how she preferred the computer to any of her human colleagues. It's all nice detail, and makes me miss Tosh all the more too. I liked Tosh. She was my second favourite TW character, and she's really going to leave a hole in the show, even though the poor woman rarely got to do all that much. Actually, I suppose if I count Myfanwy she's my third favourite character, but ssh, don't tell her that. And speaking of which, where is Myfanwy? She had a walk-on (well, flap-on, then) in "The House That Jack Built", but nothing here. You'd think she'd at least put in an appearance to freak out Cutler. Usually her timing is impeccable that way.

I'm rambling, aren't I. Just for a change. The plot, then. There's a monster, and it's killing people in Cardiff. Again, just for a change. This time, though, it's just killing singers - contestants in the Welsh Amateur Operatics Contest. I've no idea if there is such a thing, but there should be. It would make the story that bit more fun. It comes from the "Silent Planet" (no, not the CS Lewis one!), a world where there is nothing but emptiness and soundlessness, and it wants to be able to end this by taking music home with it. Thereby pissing off all of its silence-loving fellow Silent Planetans, presumably. This monster business is where my only main problem with the book comes in. I think the story is trying to be a horror, but sadly it's not really very horrifying. Yes, the deaths are awful, but unless you're a singer of splendiferous ability, you've got no need to be gasping when you turn each page. Certainly I don't have any need to feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck - no monster is going to be wanting to keep my vocal chords as a souvenir. The other way it fails as a horror (for me at least) is in the descriptions of the murders. Each character is struck dumb by a sense of darkness and loneliness emanating from the creature, because it comes from a world of solitude. On the Silent Planet, each entity exists separately from all others. They never speak, touch, or interact with each other. The segments when people have close encounters with the creature are full of the sort of imagery that suggest they're supposed to be unsettling because of this solitude. I think we're supposed to be horrified by the idea of never meeting other people face to face, and never talking to them. It actually sounds quite nice, though. Somebody else who thinks so is Ryan, a little autistic kid who's written in a way that's about as subtle as a sledgehammer, although autism is rarely dealt with in film and literature in anything other than broad strokes, so I'm not going to complain too much about that. Ryan provides the book with its massively signposted conclusion, stopping the monster from killing by granting it the music and companionship it seeks, whilst it gives him the silence and solitude that he's after. They blend into one whole, and go skipping and bouncing (this may be an exaggeration) back off to the Silent Planet together. Not sure how that works, actually. Ryan wants solitude, the monster doesn't. So what are they going to do? Time share? It seems like a neat conclusion to the tale, but if you stop to think about it for even a couple of seconds, it's not neat at all. Give them five minutes and they're going to be a shiny new entity with schizophrenia. Half of the new creature still wants contact and noise, and the other half still wants solitude and silence. It's not going to work! But that's their problem. And even if the ending doesn't make a lot of sense, it was fun getting there, which is what counts. Well, mostly.

The book's other ending comes in the form of Jack's handling of the Cutler affair. The scene of him giving his ally Retcon is pretty much as heavily signposted as Ryan and the monster's eventual get-together, but this one isn't happy for anybody. Cutler gets one of the few good things in his life ripped straight out of his mind, and Jack gets to feel horrible about it. He even has one of his brief encounters with alcohol as a result. Setting up a dead man (the suicidal husband of one of the victims) to take the blame for the murders is neat, if heartless. It's brilliantly Torchwood, anyway. Stealing Cutler's memories both of his encounter with TW3 and of TW1 several years ago is just cruel, though. I suppose I can see it happening, so I don't think it's out of character; I just don't like it. At least in part, though, that's just because I've come to like Cutler so much, so I suppose that's one very big point in the book's favour, isn't it.

Another good one, then. :) Next up, "Bay Of The Dead", by Mark Morris. Now, his "Deep Blue" is imho the finest Doctor Who book ever written, so I'm approaching this one with a little trepidation. I don't want to expect too much of it! Still, I'll see how it goes soon enough.

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