The Road is the first of the Being Human novels, published in paperback by BBC books. Why they didn’t follow the hardbook examples of the Doctor Who and Torchwood novels is a mystery. The book feels rather short, at 252 pages. I’m not sure if this is a requirement of BBC books or a decision on the author’s part, but I’m hoping that this isn’t a standard.
Written by Simon Guerrier, it is a multi-faceted story that focuses, mainly, on Annie and the arrival of another ghost, Gemma. Gemma seems to have quite considerable mood swings and a terrible dark side that only comes to the fore when we realise what she had actually done when she was alive.
Worming her way into the lives of Annie, Mitchell and George, Gemma becomes a divisive element in the house, managing to manipulate those around her with ease. Throw in the arrival of a new hospital administrator who is intent on cutting costs, improving services and fostering an atmosphere of mistrust, a reporter intent on finding out why a handful of connected deaths have become unconnected, and the need to prevent a road being built through a house linked to Gemma’s past and you’ve got a very good, but too short, story.
With Gemma’s arrival, the three friends are given a mystery to solve that becomes linked to the hospital and the plans to build the aforementioned road. It soon becomes quite apparent that things can’t be taken at face value, as we discover the truth behind Gemma leading to a denouement that brings together sins of the past in a touching way.
Guerrier’s story is set in early in Series 2 (it’s mentioned that Annie can’t even keep a job in the pub, she’s also invisible to strangers and the vampires are still up in the air over the loss of their leader), yet, it often left me frustrated with descriptions of the characters and their relationships that I am already aware of. I’m guessing that this, as the first of a series, is to allow people who are not familiar with the television series to pick up the book and not feel left out. However, this doesn’t help when you consider that the people who are likely to buy these books are people who are fans.
There’s the odd typographical error that jarred the pace of the story as you find yourself sometimes having to read a sentence more than once to decipher the meaning. Obviously, this isn’t Guerrier’s fault (I hope) and more down to the publisher! Despite these (very) minor frustrations, the story is well paced, with many threads that come together in the final act, including an ending that leads into the second book.
The characters are quite true to their on-screen counterparts and you can imagine the various scenes actually taking place on screen. Of particular note are the scenes where George inadvertently attends a group for gay parents, the interaction between George and Mitchell that leads his colleagues to think there’s something going on, and the bombastic, overbearing portrayal of Dr McGough (who I imagined as Brian Blessed.)
Annie’s fear of the doors is explored and her burgeoning relationship of necessity with Gemma is well constructed, with the latter feeding off the energy of the former and creating rifts and divides between the housemates, the nature of which becomes apparent late in the story.
Overall, it’s a good book, tells an interesting story and is a fantastic start to what will, hopefully, be an ongoing series. I like the idea of the books leading into each other and hope that this is a recurring theme.
It would be nice to see each trio of books form loose seasons of their own, referring back to the parent series. Fingers crossed that they continue to build on the strengths of The Road.
Being Human: The Road is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.