Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reviews File 1: Black Water reviewed by DJ Forrest

File 1: Black Water

Writer Steven Savile 
The Official Magazine Yearbook
Published by Titan Books
ISBN 9781845769369
First Edition August 2008
Reviewed by DJ Forrest

‘When a mysterious ship approaches Cardiff Bay, yet appears not to exist at all, the team are called to investigate...’

The story features the full team, Ianto, Owen, Toshiko, Jack and Gwen.  It’s midnight; Toshiko is collecting a water sample in a phial, boats are bobbing on the slick black water, secured by their moorings.  There’s a sea mist coming in and it’s difficult for the team to see anything out on the water, but something is coming.  They had picked up a strange distress call a few hours earlier, a garbled message about an oil tanker named The Dread, on fire and heading towards Cardiff Bay, but standing on the jetty, there’s no sign of the ship, ablaze or otherwise.

The Dread had burned itself out of existence five miles off the headland 111 years ago, so it was strange to hear a distress signal coming over the radio from it.  There had to be something to explain it.  Coastguards scrambled their Atlantic 404 Sniffer that could detect any traces of an oil spillage, given that if an oil tanker was ablaze, there was likely to be some spillage, and around the mouth of the bay they detected 111,000 tons of crude oil, but no ships, especially oil tankers, ablaze or otherwise for 120 miles.  So what was going on?

The story is pretty short and wrapped up in 6 pages.  But they’re very intense pages and give the reader a sense of intrigue, especially when the vessel is located and Jack, Owen and Gwen go onboard to investigate.  As usual the technical side of things are left to Toshiko and you really get a sense of what she’s doing, breaking down the sample to find out what it really is, and you can build a picture of it in your head, as well as Toshiko running the tests and tapping away on her computer, scanning data swimming up the screen, reflecting on her glasses.

There are an awful lot of technical terms within this story and the writer, Steven Savile has once again done his homework, research being an all important tool as a writer.  Toshiko’s technical role within Torchwood requires there to be some technical knowledge from the writer and this gives it without a doubt.  Her laborious work from analysing the water sample to her final conclusion are definitely worth paying attention to, even if you have to read it several times for it to sink in, which I did for ‘Hidden’, - technobabble takes a bit of sinking in – trust me!

But as always the story is fantastic.  The artwork within it features Toshiko and Ianto with a moonlit sea and Toshiko’s workstation.  It almost feels too that there’s a message about the value of oil and how much we’d miss it if it no longer existed.

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