The novel “The Men Who Sold The World” by Guy Adams was published for the first time in 2011.
A cargo of alien weapons labeled “Torchwood” is supposed to be transported while keeping a low profile for the operation to remain absolutely secret. Instead, some CIA agents seem more interested in alien weapons than in their duty.
The CIA assigns Agent Rex Matheson to the case, but he’s provided only with the information that is strictly necessary to accomplish his mission. As if this weren’t enough, every time he’s on the track of his former colleagues it seems that an unexpected new obstacle prevents him from finding them.
“The Men Who Sold The World” 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 reception for the season known as “Miracle Day” was overall rather lukewarm. One of the criticisms concerned its American style, a breaking point with its past and with its parent show “Doctor Who”. The criticisms also concerned the American characters, and in that case, there was also the problem that they were seen as replacements for the ones of Captain Jack Harkness’ team. Despite this, the BBC ordered some “Miracle Day” novels that make up prequels for that season.
“The Men Who Sold The World” features CIA agent Rex Harrison, who is assigned a complicated case because he has to find rogue agents but without having all the information. At the center of the case, there’s actually a cargo of alien weapons, and that’s the link with Torchwood, although Captain Jack Harkness’s team appears only briefly to discuss the characteristics of those built by the Ytraxorians, among the stolen ones.
Rex Harrison’s mission makes up almost the whole plot, making it basically a spy story that, except for some parts, turned out to be quite conventional. The limited length of the books in this series and the need to still connect it to Torchwood perhaps hindered Guy Adams, with the consequence that the novel seemed to me weak overall. In these cases, an author isn’t expected to reinvent the wheel, but plots that include conspiracies must be well developed in order not to fall into clichés.
The plot also suffers from a growing tendency to be repetitive. Rex Harrison is repeatedly faced with obstacles created by the mysterious Wynter, who is probably the best character in the novel. Guy Adams seems to focus a lot of effort on him, but is still limited by some clichés. Unfortunately, the characters end up being a problem in the sense that Wynter is the only one who has a true characterization. You must have Rex Harrison in mind from the television episodes in which he appeared, but if you didn’t appreciate him there’s a serious risk that you won’t care much about what he does in “The Men Who Sold The World”.
Overall, “The Men Who Sold The World” left me mostly perplexed. It’s an attempt to recount Rex Harrison’s work for the CIA before his appearance on “Miracle Day” but the desire to connect the story to Torchwood causes some constraints that in my opinion harmed the story and perhaps even the characters. Some may like it anyway, but I would only recommend it to anyone who wants the complete collection of Torchwood novels and Rex Harrison fans.