The novel “Almost Perfect” by James Goss was published for the first time in 2008.
Emma Webster is a young woman who can’t find the right man, even by trying speed dating. One evening, while she’s jogging, she sees on the beach a woman in a state of unconsciousness who has in her hands a strange device. When Emma takes it, it starts talking to her telepathically promising to improve her life.
Ianto Jones wakes up and discovers that he has turned into a woman but can’t remember how it happened. Captain Jack Harkness gives Ianto an anti-retcon pill to try to stimulate his memory and shed light on his transformation. In the meantime, together with Gwen Cooper, he starts investigating a ferry incident with its passengers not remembering anything that happened. As if this weren’t enough, Gwen is called by a former colleague of the Police who tells her about the finding of a skeleton in strange circumstances.
“Almost Perfect” 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.
“Torchwood” is a TV show famous among other things for its particularly dark tones and its heartbreaking stories but “Almost Perfect” is almost completely opposite. For once the humorous side, which is usually only occasionally present, is the norm while the dramatic side becomes only occasional. It exploits the classic premise of the alien device to create bizarre consequences, albeit within a story in which people die.
In this novel, an alien device is found by a girl in the hands of an unconscious woman. Emma is looking for a boyfriend but she’s the kind of woman who has some confusion in her mind so her love choices tend to be negative. Everything could change thanks to the alien device but her situation seems to remain complicated.
Meanwhile, Ianto Jones wakes up with a memory hole and a really feminine body. The fact that Captain Jack Harkness suspects some trick and Ianto manages to convince him of his identity by kissing him makes the tone of “Almost Perfect” quite clear. 😉 The story of Ianto, who understandably has some problems to adapt to being a woman, is at the center of the novel and is told in very funny tones.
In fact, all the novel tends to be over the top. The chapters don’t have numbers but titles, generally weird, reminding me in some ways of some examples of the New Wave science fiction movement but with light-hearted tones. Even the characters tend to be over the top and not just Ianto so some protagonists’ behaviors that in other stories are rather extreme in this case are the norm.
In such a situation only Jack Harkness ends up being almost normal because he can be over the top as much as he wants, in fact in some ways the more he’s over the top the better he appears. 😀 The relationship between him and Ianto is an important part of “Almost Perfect” because it’s set in a moment when the relationship between the two of them has already begun and for Jack the fact that Ianto is a man or a woman matters little.
In my opinion “Almost Perfect” has only partially succeeded. The attempt to write a Torchwood story with comedy tones is interesting and there are many funny moments but some of the protagonists are a bit off, at least in certain parts of the novel, and not just Ianto with his sex change.
The result is a novel that sometimes gives the impression of being a parody of the normal Torchwood stories. That’s not in itself negative but I understand that there are fans of the show that may find it too weird. For this reason, I recommend “Almost Perfect” to Torchwood fans interested in reading something really different from normal.