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Book Review

Book Cover

Trace Memory (Hardback)


Author: David Llewellyn
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07438 7
Available 06 March 2008

Tiger Bay, Cardiff, 1953. A mysterious crate is brought into the docks on a Scandinavian cargo ship. Its destination: the Torchwood institute. As the crate is offloaded by a group of local dockers, it explodes, killing all but one of them, a young Butetown lad called Michael Bellini. Fifty-five years later, a radioactive source somewhere inside the Hub leads Torchwood to discover the same Michael Bellini, still young and dressed in his 1950s clothes, cowering in the vaults. They soon realise that each has encountered Michael before - as a child in Osaka, as a junior doctor, as a young police constable, as a new recruit to Torchwood One. But it's Jack who remembers him best of all...

Trace Memory is the latest book set in the Torchwood universe. The author, David Llewellyn, really gets under the skin of the main characters, which is not an easy task. He manages to capture the voice and subtleties of each character, almost effortlessly, which really helps to sell this novel as a believable tale.

Now, this could be partly down to the fact that the main characters take a back seat for the majority of this book - it's really a story that's centred on Jack and the time travelling Michael - or it could be that Llewellyn is a damn fine writer. I'm going to go with the later.

We also get to see the main characters, over the course of the book, at various points in their lives. All of them have met Michael before, as he jumps through time, but none of them seemed to remember it until seeing him again in the Hub. But it's Jack's connection to him that's the strongest, and also the most painful to revisit.

Llewellyn does a fantastic job of taking a complicated idea, that of time travelling backwards in time in large jumps, and making it appear much more simple to grasp than it actually is. His handling of the tricky romantic scenes was also well handled. It's all too easy for sections like this to come across as cheesy or unintentionally funny, but Llewellyn does a great job of injecting just the right amount of awkwardness into a difficult experience (for Michael).

If there's one criticism it's the predictability of the Torchwood format. It's not Llewellyn's fault, but I've started to unconsciously try and spot the homosexual angle in Torchwood way before it's revealed. Russell T Davis has to be congratulated for introducing same sex relationships into a national TV series without making a song and dance about it - it's just a naturally beautiful moment where two people feel something for each other - but a lot of the writers tend to try and over use this so that almost every episode of the TV series has some homoerotic content. After a while, like Bond always jumping into bed with every girl he meets, it becomes predictable and slightly comical.

Torchwood fans will be impressed at how well Llewellyn weaves this intricate tale. The guy should be writing for the TV series.


Darren Rea

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