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Book Review

Book Cover

Something in the Water (Hardback)


Author: Trevor Baxendale
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07437 0
Available 06 March 2008

Not everything that goes bump in the night is a myth as the valiant members of Torchwood are about to find out. An increase in rift activity has the team bemused until they start to hear stories of Water Hag’s, supposedly mythical creatures that live in bogs and pull unwary men to their deaths. But what has this to do with Saskia Harden, an outwardly attractive young woman who keeps being pulled drowned, but not dead, from pools and lakes around Cardiff…?

Something in the Water is a new original Torchwood novel from BBC Books. It's written by Trevor Baxendale, who had previously written for Doctor Who, including the Big Finish series of audio books. I mention this as I’m slowly ploughing through all of them in sequence and only listened to The Dark Flame last week. Spooky eh? Well as spooky as my life gets.

There is a problem at the heart of this book, and it’s not in the writing which is fine for a genre novel. Baxendale has certainly constructed it like one of the TV show episodes, so from that point of view he has certainly caught the flavour of the series. It’s not even in the portrayal of the main characters, which would be hard to muck up as they are given to the author on a plate. No, the problem lies in the lack of original ideas.

I can just imagine the pitch for the book...

"There’s this alien, you see, but the clever and scary part is not the alien itself, although we’ll give that claw-like hands so it can rip into flesh, but the way it reproduces. You see the alien implants its seed in a human and when its fully gestated the young burst out of the poor hapless human, bares its little shiny teeth and the runs away, leaving an exploded corpse, cool eh?"

Why the commissioning editor didn’t just ask for it to be set on a space faring mining ship is beyond me as that one sounds like a killer idea.

Normally, authors are restricted with what they can do with the main character so an author’s main hope of shining through is via his own original characters. With these Baxendale gets it half right. Dr Strong, the unfortunate object of Saskia’s affection, comes out as the best character, even though he is most probably in it the least. Saskia, herself is never properly developed away from a one dimensional panto-villain, which is a real shame as it was his best option to shine as a writer.

The book does have some plus points. Firstly, unlike some other authors, Baxendale has concentrated on telling a story without getting sidetracked into graphic descriptions of the various characters sex lives. There is, of course, some mention, but not to the point of portraying Jack as the sex obsessed, self doubting, blubberer. I have no problem with the characters having a sex life, but guys it’s getting as repetitive as Captain Kirk roaming the galaxy teaching aliens about ‘this thing called love’.

Secondly, Baxendale appears to have a good ear for dialogue as his portrayal of Jack and the gang is spot on, even down to some of the nuances of their speech that is often missing in books.

So a competently written book whose strengths lay in the portrayal of the main characters, but which falls down due to its lack of original ideas.


Charles Packer

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