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Audio Book Review


Exodus Code


Authors: John and Carole E Barrowman
Read by: Daniel Pirrie
RRP: £15.99, US $19.95 (CD), £17.19 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4713 0665 5
Available 11 October 2012

It starts with a series of unexplained events: earth tremors across the globe; women being driven insane by their heightened and scrambled senses. The world is starting to notice - the number one Twitter trend is #realfemmefatales - but governments and scientists are bewildered and silent. The world needs Torchwood, but there’s not much of Torchwood left. Captain Jack Harkness has tracked the problem to its source: a village in Peru, where he’s uncovered evidence of alien involvement. In Cardiff, Gwen Cooper has discovered something alien and somehow connected to Jack. If the world is to be restored, she has to warn him - but she’s quickly becoming a victim of the madness too...

Fans disappointed by John Barrowman’s lack of participation in the recent quartet of post-Miracle Torchwood audio books can take comfort in this release, which he co-authored with his sister, crime fiction columnist Carole E Barrowman. So that’s what was keeping him busy!

As you might expect with John Barrowman on board, the characterisation of Captain Jack is spot on. He is a fun-loving pleasure-seeker (unlike the writers of Miracle Day, the Barrowmans remember that Jack is omnisexual, not merely gay), but also a man haunted by personal demons. Gwen, who plays a secondary but important role, is also well depicted. She is struggling to come to terms with life after Torchwood, while facing everyday problems such as supermarket shopping with a sulky toddler in tow. The bond that exists between Jack and Gwen is a strong one - it is a love that goes beyond professional loyalty, friendship, family and sexuality.

Following the format of the last two “single story” seasons of the television show, Children of Earth and Miracle Day, Exodus Code presents us with a global disaster - this time involving mysteriously disturbed geology and mysteriously disturbed women. Once again, there is a focus on how the authorities and the popular media, including the press and Twitter, respond to the situation.

Also in common with Miracle Day, this is a sprawling, globetrotting tale featuring a plethora of characters. The first part of the book takes place in the Americas: Peru in the 1930s and the present day, and the USA for a few brief scenes involving Rex Matheson, who is now the Deputy Director of the CIA. I found the multiple timelines somewhat confusing to begin with, but I felt more at home during Part 2, which focuses on Gwen and her family as they try to get on with their lives in Wales.

These various elements come together during the final two parts of the novel. Indeed, sometimes the reader is way ahead of Jack, who has forgotten about his experiences in 1930s Peru. The narrative builds to an action-packed finale, which pays off handsomely on seeds sown during the earlier chapters... but, my word, it does take its time getting there. Like Miracle Day, Exodus Code has a tendency to tread water. Quite often, the characters engage in long and repetitive debates about what is happening to the world without advancing the plot much.

In its favour, the book does move the franchise forward, as much as licensed fiction is permitted to. The CIA is attempting to track down the Three Families, the people behind the Miracle; baby Anwen has grown into a typically tantrum-prone toddler; and Jack assembles a new team, including the oversexed international crew of a survey ship, The Ice Maiden, which has more than enough potential to reappear in future stories.

The unabridged audio book of Exodus Code runs to just over eight hours and is read by Daniel Pirrie, who has appeared in Downton Abbey and Waking the Dead, and played Joe Buchanan in the Doctor Who episode The God Complex. He tackles a range of accents with great skill, and does a decent impersonation of Captain Jack himself.

However, the rambling nature of this story probably lends itself better to the page than it does to audio.


Richard McGinlay

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