Border Princes

Author: Dan Abnett
Read by: Eve Myles
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN-13: 978 140567 708 0
ISBN-10: 1 40567 708 2
Available 02 April 2007

Something is terribly wrong in Cardiff; The Amok has landed and is driving everyone out of their minds. Captain Jack and the rest of the Torchwood team swing into action to avert another catastrophe, but things are never what they seem and an alarm that has lain silent for 108 years forewarns of possible harbingers of doom...

For those of you who either haven't had a chance to see it, due to its short number of shows - I'm not sure if it has been seen in the States - or have lived in a cave for the past two years, Torchwood is an offshoot of the recently revived Doctor Who series. Although the show sometimes alludes to its parent program so far the two have yet to cross over.

Set in the most excellent city of Cardiff, in Wales, Torchwood's remit is to investigate alien incursions. Torchwood, unlike Doctor Who, is aimed directly at an adult audience; therefore the language, sexuality and themes reflect this status.

Border Princes is the abridged audio drama from the original novel by Dan Abnett. Joseph Lidster has done a good job at turning a full-scale novel into a three and a half hour audio book.

Dan Abnett is no stranger to writing, having cut his professional teeth on 2000AD and Marvel comic titles. Abnett's name will especially be known to fans of the Warhammer 40,000 series for which he has produced several books. Given his background it comes as no surprise that the action sequences of the drama are especially well written, if a little unrelenting.

The story opens with Torchwood trying to track down the cause of a mass outbreak of psychosis in the good folks of Cardiff (did I mention what a really nice city it was, very clean with some of the most friendly folk you could ever wish to meet), the audience is thrown straight in the deep end and after half an hour of homicidal zombies and women trying to cough their livers out, I was totally exhausted. Thank goodness that Abnett also knows how to crank it down for the character set pieces.

I guess the only thing I didn't like about the book was the inclusion of James, a new addition to Torchwood. As the story has to fit into the continuity of the show, wherein James does not exist, you just know that he's either wearing a red Trek security shirt, or he's an impostor, but either way he has to go before the end. It's a case of trying to create tension from a foregone conclusion it just didn't feel satisfying.

Having a book read to you puts a lot of onus on the skill of the narrator, in the case of Border Princes, Eve Myles, who plays Torchwood's Gwen Cooper turns in a sterling performance. One of the things which is noticeable is that she resists the temptation of doing impersonations of her fellow cast, rather relying on subtle changes in tone and timbre to convey the personalities.

Whilst it is great to see Torchwood on audio CD, this may have limited appeal for those who already own the books, but collectors of audio books will find that this is a well read, involving story.

Charles Packer

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