The novel “Slow Decay” by Andy Lane was published for the first time in 2007.
An investigation about an energy spike takes the Torchwood team at a nightclub where a brawl ended with the death of some boys. An alien device that has a strong influence on human emotions seems to have made the hostility between boys groups more intense. Gwen Cooper takes the device home to try to intensify the emotions existing between her and Rhys, lately a bit too weak but the results are not what she wanted.
While Captain Jack Harkness’ team tries to figure out who could kill a Weevil literally eating its face, Gwen and Rhys are trying to make their relationship work. Rhys discovers a new weight loss treatment and decids to try it hoping to be more attractive to Gwen after losing weight.
“Slow Decay” 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.
This novel set at the beginning of the first “Torchwood” television season concerns in particular Gwen Cooper’s difficulties in adapting to her new job. From this point of view, it’s a deeper exploration of what was shown in the TV episodes telling cases investigated by Captain Jack Harkness’s team that intersect with Gwen and Rhys’ private life.
From the beginning of “Slow Decay” you can see the typical style of the stories about Torchwood team with a case that apparently ends quickly but has subsequent consequences. An alien device that intensifies the emotions is quickly found so the case seems solved even if there were some deths but Gwen thinks that it might be useful to rekindle her relationship with Rhys.
As in the TV show, Gwen is the most normal person in Torchwood team and her relationship with Rhys is an important part of the plot. Becoming part of Torchwood meant for Gwen to work harder and her love life suffered. She can’t resist the temptation to solve the problem by using an alien device that intensifies the emotions but things don’t go as she hoped.
The use of alien technologies only partially understood is another theme present in “Torchwood”, also when the organization appears in “Doctor Who”. In these cases, their use almost certainly backfires even when an alien device is used during the organization’s operations, despite that its members may be tempted to use these devices for personal purposes too.
Gwen Cooper’s actions end up creating tension between her and Rhys and he decides to try to improve their relationship losing weight to look more attractive. An employee of the company where he works has recently lost a lot of weight thanks to a new treatment and Rhys decided to try it as well.
Both Gwen and Rhys seek to make their relationship work despite their difficulties but they both try to eliminate the problems’ symptoms with external aid. You have to keep in mind that “Slow Decay” is set in the period when Rhys doesn’t know the nature of Gwen’s new job and thinks she’s moved to some police special force. The secret about Torchwood activity was the real cause of problems between them.
With the development of Gwen and Rhys’ story the other members of Torchwood team often end up being secondary characters in “Slow Decay” and this might leave many fan dissatisfied. On several occasions Captain Jack Harkness just has a few lines here and there with a few isolated jokes that don’t do justice to the character.
The investigation into the brutal murder of a Weevil seems marginal but in the course of the novel becomes more and more important and in some ways the most intense with its horror connotations that in some cases are explicitly splatter. It’s the most predictable part of the plot but allows Owen to be relevant in at least part of the story. It’s not the first case of a “Torchwood” story in which a narrative element is used mainly to develop some characters’ story.
In my opinion “Slow Decay” has the merit of taking advantage of the typical “Torchwood” narrative elements. The choice to focus on Gwen and Rhys penalized the other protagonists of the TV show but overall this seems to me a good novel. If for you the stories focused on Gwen are not an issue I recommend reading it.