The novel “Trace Memory” by David Llewellyn was published for the first time in 2008.
In 1953, the explosion of a box sent to Torchwood Cardiff before it reached its destination kills the people who were handling it except a boy named Michael Bellini. 55 years after an alarm is tringgered in the hub and when Captain Jack Harkness and the members of his team in service search for its cause and find out Michael Bellini’s presence. The boy is confused and doesn’t know what happened to him after the 1953 events.
To find out if a temporal anomaly carried Michael Bellini through time, the boy is questioned to get at least some useful information to begin the investigation. Soon the situation becomes stranger because the Captain and his team members realize they’ve met Michael in the past and Jack knows him better than anyone else. Who are the mysterious men in bowler hats who seem to be chasing him and what do they want from him?
“Trace Memory” is part of a series of novels connected to the TV show “Torchwood“, a “Doctor Who” spinoff. The size is the same as “Doctor Who” books starting from the Eleventh Doctor. In the first books the font was smaller while in the following one the font is the same size as in “Doctor Who” books.
The story of “Trace Memory” begins with an accident that has unforeseen ripples that extend over time. The mystery of the cause of the explosion of a box sent to Torchwood and the consequences on Michael Bellini’s life is used mainly to tell how the boy’s life ended up crossing that of Captain Jack Harkness and his team.
Michael Bellini’s appearance over half a century after the accident is a way to begin introducing the various aspects of the mystery but the story is in Torchwood style, focused on the characters. The drama particularly involves Captain Jack Harkness, who knows not only that he has already met the boy in the past but had an important part in his story.
The novel consists of parts set in various years that show the point of view of Michael Bellini but also of the Torchwood Cardiff team’s members. There’s above all the confusion and the alienation of a boy who was thrown into a nightmare that he doesn’t understand and in my opinion that’s the best part of “Trace Memory”.
The reader someway participates at least initially in Michael Bellini’s confusion and sympathizes with his dramatic situation. Captain Jack Harkness also sympathizes with his situation not only because he’s directly involved in it but also because he knows too well what it means to be at the mercy of external forces.
Through Michael Bellini’s past meetings with the Torchwood team members, David Llewellyn tells episodes of their lives, sometimes before they joined Torchwood, a way to offer some insight into the show’s protagonists. However, in this novel they’re in many ways supporting characters and only Captain Jack Harkness is a protagonist along with Michael Bellini.
The pace is quite variable since there are many conversations but also moments of action that can be quite intense. In particular, there are dramatic moments involving the men in bowler hats that initially are a part of the mystery at the heart of the story.
During the novel an explanation of the various aspects of the mystery is offered, which include the men in bowler hats and the object that triggered Michael Bellini’s time travel. However, the most important element is given by the consequences of all of that on the boy’s life because the explanations are used to develop his story.
In my opinion, “Trace Memory” is a novel well-built in its various elements. The events in various years form a kind of jigsaw puzzle that is slowly completed to provide a big picture of Michael Bellini’s story and his relationship with Torchwood team. The boy’s sense of alienation is a part of the emotional side of the novel that adds depth to it.
In my opinion, in “Trace Memory” David Llewellyn managed to make good use of the limited length of the Torchwood novels series to create a dramatic story of excellent quality so I recommend reading it to all the show’s fans.