The novel “Another Life” by Peter Anghelides was published for the first time in 2007.
The weather in Cardiff is terrible but this can’t stop Torchwood’s operations. Out of the ordinary crimes must be resolved so Captain Jack Harkness leads his team in the hunt for a criminal even in difficult conditions. Normally Torchwood doesn’t deal with a serial killer but there are situations that require its intervention, especially when the alleged perpetrator dies and the murders keep on occurring.
Owen Harper is devoting much time to the virtual world of “Second Reality”. With Toshiko Sato’s technical help he manages to create an alter-ego online adequate to his needs. The virtual meeting with his ex-girlfriend seems only another moment in his personal life but ends up intersecting with his professional life also concerning Torchwood’s activities.
“Another Life” is part of a series of novels connected to the TV show “Torchwood“, a “Doctor Who” spinoff. The size are the same as the”Doctor Who” books starting from the Eleventh Doctor but the font is smaller so they’re longer despite having the same number of pages. Given their contents, “Torchwood” novels are aimed at an adult audience, just like the television episodes.
Like it happened for the parent show, shortly after the debut of the spinoff “Torchwood” the BBC started publishing novels with more adventures of its protagonists. “Another Life” is one of the first ones and is set at the beginning of the first television season, in the period following Gwen Cooper joining Captain Jack Harkness’ team.
In the initial part, the fact that Gwen Cooper is still adapting to her new job is an important narrative element. When an investigation of her new team takes the Torchwood agents in contact with the police, Gwen is in the awkward position of having to talk to her former colleagues without being able to tell anyone of them what’s really going on.
Gwen is a period of adjustment in all senses because she has to face alien threats at any time of day or night. All of this creates problems even in her private life with Rhys Williams, who at the beginning of the TV show is her fiancé, who is initially unaware of those secrets.
Gwen’s attempts to maintain a somewhat normal life despite her involvement in Torchwood is a theme developed in the course of the TV show but also in “Another Life”. Gwen is one of the best characterized protagonists in the novel along with Captain Jack Harkness, who as usual is flirting with anyone, starting with Ianto Jones in a teaser of the future developments between them.
Jack is heading an investigation into a series of particularly brutal murders with a suspect who works at the Blaidd Dwrg nuclear power plant. It’s a delicate situation that becomes more complex with each clue discovered by his team. Honestly, it’s easy to see what kind of threat Torchwood has to face because Peter Anghelides is more committed to providing details about the characters than to creating a plot with a minimum of originality.
The plot also includes Owen Harper’s attempts to become familiar with the virtual world of “Second Reality”, clearly inspired by “Second Life”. When the novel was published, virtual reality was still a subject at the limits of science fiction and “Second Life” was in a strong development phase. It’s no coincidence that Owen has to realy on Toshiko Sato’s help to develop his virtual alter-ego.
The theme of virtual reality ages very quickly, especially in a science fiction novel, and in “Another Life” frankly I found it uninteresting. Luckily, after its initial development that distracts from the investigation story, Owen Harper’s story in “Second Reality” connects with the main plot of the novel.
In the end, “Another Life” is a novel far more character-oriented than plot-oriented as the plot sometimes seems a secondary element that exists only for the purpose of developing in particular the relationships among the protagonists. On the other hand, it’s precisely for this reason that it can be interesting to accompany the TV show for “Torchwood” fans, especially the ones who liked the original team.