Russell Tovey’s George Sands is an odd choice of coverboy for Mark Michalowski’s Chasers, the second in a new series of spin-off novels based on the BBC Three hit, Being Human. An odd choice for an odd plot: still reeling after the events of the series one finale in which werewolf George killed big bad vampire Herrick, and with girlfriend Nina missing in action, George befriends a lesbian couple who, through a series of increasingly farcical events, coax him into donating his wolfy seed so that they can have a child.
It’s an odd plot that allows Michalowski to play out some of George’s anxieties regarding his ‘condition’ without gumming up the works, as it were, by having him discuss babies with Nina. George wonders, for example, whether or not lycanthropy is hereditary.
George is an odd choice because the story of his baby blues is very much the b-plot here. More interesting is Mitchell’s run in with Leo, an aging goth who turns up on the cancer ward at the hospital where Mitchell and George work. As these things go, everything is not as it seems, as Leo wriggles his way into Mitchell’s life, cosies up to Annie, and even spends the night over at the flat shared by the supernatural chums.
There’s an interesting twist in the tale that sheds some light on the excerpts from Mitchell’s diary that turn up throughout the book. It’s a twist that owes a lot to a particular episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, however, Michalowski’s deft handling of Leo’s character – treading the fine line between comedy and tragedy all the way through the book – allows him to play out an interesting exchange between Mitchell and Leo in the final chapter.
Michalowski’s gift is in capturing the voices of Toby Whithouse’s characters and the quirks of the actors who play them. His George, in particular, is spot on, referencing Russell Tovey’s tendency towards playing up his clipped pronunciation as George becomes ever more frustrated, with air quotes flying all about the place, even if the author’s incessant description of George as ‘chunky’ is perhaps a little harsh.
His Annie, too, is as broadly comic as she is on the show, but the prose medium allows Michalowski to play out Annie’s eccentricities. There’s one scene in particular, with Annie on a rare night out, where she’s a bumbling ditz with tendencies towards OCD rather than your standard spook-and-run spectre.
Leo aside, Michalowski’s own characters suffer from being thin parodies. Kaz, George’s lesbian friend, is particularly grating, which is the point, to a certain extent, but the joke quickly wears thin, as the kind of faddy New Age earth mother particular, it would seem, to the South of England. Her girlfriend is a different type of simpering, a two dimensional doting darling who puts up with Kaz’s faddiness despite their, seemingly, having nothing in common.
The book ends with a number of new characters wandering around the extended universe, not all of them having their plots tied up. A new vampire gang, for instance, is introduced towards the middle of the book, serving no real narrative purpose, but hinting at an over-arcing plot that will play out later in the series.
Spin-off media is a particular niche that is easily done wrong. Michalowski, however, captures the essence of Being Human, playing out plots that fit within the context of the show but wouldn’t play out nearly as well within a 60 minute episode of television.
For fans of Mitchell, George and Annie, this one comes highly recommended.