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Book Review

Book Cover

Almost Perfect (Hardback)


Author: James Goss
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07573 5
Available 02 October 2008

What price perfection? Emma is 30, single and frankly desperate. She woke up this morning with nothing to look forward to but another evening of unsuccessful speed-dating. But now she has a new weapon in her quest for Mr Right. And it’s made her almost perfect. Gwen Cooper woke up this morning expecting the unexpected. As usual. She went to work and found a skeleton at a table for two and a colleague in a surprisingly glamorous dress. Perfect. Ianto Jones woke up this morning with no memory of last night. He went to work, where he caused amusement, suspicion and a little bit of jealousy. Because Ianto Jones woke up this morning in the body of a woman. And he’s looking just about perfect. And Jack Harkness has always had his doubts about perfection...

Torchwood: Almost Perfect is the debut novel by James Goss who works at BBC Wales producing all things Doctor Who. H has also adapted Douglas Adam’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency for the stage, which in 2006 won the Best Adaptation in the 28th Los Angelis Weekly theatre awards. Furthermore, he has been the producer on Who web animations Scream of the Shalka - as well as replacing missing episodes with animation for The Invasion.

Most tie-in novels are usually ho-hum deals compared to mainstream science fiction; certainly they have their constraints, which remove much of the tension from the plot. Fan service is usually the order of the day. So long as the author gets the characters voices, and a few of their mannerism right, that’s usually enough, to hang on a fairly pedestrian narrative, to be considered a success.

Just when you think another novel will pass the reviewers jaded vision along comes James Goss with a strikingly good story, which is well plotted, well written and to be honest a delight to read.

The chapters tend to be short, with chapter headings which, for once, add to the humour of the book. The humour is more likely to have you smiling rather than laughing out loud, and this is no bad thing. Goss obviously knows his characters and the warmth he feels for them is self evident. Even Ianto’s transformation into a female gives rise to the type of concerned humour that you would find amongst friends - so rings true.

The book seems more focused and deeper than a lot of the previous novels, this may be due to the fact that, with the demise of Owen and Tosh, Goss hasn’t had to endlessly pad the story, or swing wildly back and forth to accommodate so many characters. When they were killed off in the series I had strong reservations about how it would work with only three members, but if Goss’s book is anything to go by, and this is no slight on the two departed actors, it might even be better. With fewer characters we get more time to spend not only with the members of Torchwood but also with their current nemesis.

It wouldn’t be a Torchwood book without references to everyone’s sex lives and where others have found this an opportunity for pointless salaciousness, Goss treats it with the humour it deserves, being as playful with this aspect as with many others in his novel.

Now I know what your thinking: He hasn’t said much about the plot. And in truth this is deliberate. It’s one of those novels where you think you know what is going on until it changes and changes again. To say much about the plot would be to ruin the experience of reading what is by far the best Torchwood book so far. Can we have another Mr Goss?


Charles Packer

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