Trace Memory by David Llewellyn
Reviewed by DJ Forrest
Published by BBC Books 2008
Michael Bellini worked on the docks with three other co-workers, Frank, Hassan and Wilf. It was November 1953. Waiting on the docks in the chill of the night for a delivery of a crate, the four men talked idly about the usual stuff folks do when passing the time. Watching from up high were two government men in bowler hats, Agents Cromwell and Valentine.
When the crate was craned off the boat and touched the ground, something inside it began to hum, to throb and exploding out in all directions the crate was blown apart, the four men were thrown off their feet the nearest killed but buried under one part of the crate lay Michael Bellini, one side of his face bearing the stencilled logo of....Torchwood!
The story of Michael Bellini takes us back and forth through time, where he and a visitation of men in bowler hats are seen by each member of the team, at various points in their life, but it’s Jack’s life that it touches the most, and it’s Jack who is rocked by the final visit from Michael in the D-4 Archives in the Hub, in present day Cardiff.
David Llewellyn’s story picks up on a lot of historical detail of Cardiff through the ages. Names of characters in the novel are the best way of thanking someone for the historical help they have given, by writing them into the story, look out for some familiar names linked to the acknowledgements at the back of the book.
As with all Torchwood novels, the details to the characters are not overly described because we know them so well, there’s no need to over complicate things. I found I could pick up on expressions knowing the characters reactions to a good many stresses during the story, including Owen’s need for the bathroom when moving from one particular spot could render him incapable of tying his own shoe laces let alone being able to pee.
I’d like to visit Cardiff again sometime if only to locate some of the areas in the story that I’m certain really do exist, or if they don’t, then I’m sure with the powerful imagination I possess, I’m sure I could conjure them around the locations that they should be situated in.
If you enjoyed the story about the Time Traveller’s Wife, then this is quite similar although Michael doesn’t age. The events are happening to him in such a way that he doesn’t grow younger or older. As he catapults through time, it feels as if only a matter of hours or minutes have passed, which in a sense is similar to that of the ‘Traveller’ in the Time Traveller’s Wife novel from what I remember of it. Although memory in that novel meant that the traveller forgot certain moments in time, Michael remembered every event but wished for the end to come so that he could rest, so that the men in bowler hats with the sunken black eyes would stop hounding him, for inside of Michael was something that they wanted back.
©BBC Torchwood 2006