BEING HUMAN: Novels - The Road, Chasers and Bad Blood / Review

The BBC are obviously keen to get the Being Human franchise moving at top speed with an announcement of a third series, a move to Cardiff, and the release of these three paperback tie-ins within so many weeks of the start of the second series.

What I like about the first three novels is that they actually form a trilogy, with minor characters and story threads overlapping across the books and providing a welcome sense of continuity and style. A major umbrella theme is the introduction of Doctor McGough, the new hospital administrator who is sweeping through the building like a new broom and trying to change working practices. But McGough is also quite central to the ongoing story that culminates in Bad Blood, the last of the trilogy. If you're wondering when the books are set then they're definitely within the opening episodes of the second series because Nina has left George, there are mentions of Ivan and Daisy and a subtle hint of Professor Jaggat's presence.

Of the three books I would suggest that Simon Guerrier's The Road is currently in tune with the darker tone of the second series opening episodes, its story concerned with the tragic death of a teenage boy and the subsequent deaths of three other teenagers. The boy's mother Gemma, having died from cancer herself, returns as a ghost to deal with unfinished business. Or has the boy himself brought her back? Guerrier piles on the atmosphere, reminding me very much of Sapphire And Steel or the great Nigel Kneale in the way he describes our connections to places and landscapes and where times past are having a direct effect on contemporary events such as the building of a new road, and he creates quite a morally complex character with Gemma, carefully building up our sympathies for her only to twist them darkly out of shape towards the end of the book. An engrossing mystery written in a brittle prose that conjures up the swirling emotions of loss and revenge eating away at broken human lives that test the enduring spirits of our three 'heroes.

Mark Michalowski decides to have a lot of fun in Chasers. In The Road we get brief mentions and outlines for two new characters, Gail and Kaz, lesbians looking for a sperm donor. Gail is given a short introduction in Guerrier's novel, working in ICU at the hospital and with her and Mitchell not exactly hitting it off. By the end of The Road, they decide that George would make a perfect choice as a father. After much ongoing hilarity regarding George and Mitchell's status as a 'couple', Michalowski's book takes us through George's dilemma with great humour and pathos. The big question is whether his condition as a werewolf is hereditary and will be passed on in his genes to the child. There's a fantastic scene that really catches the essence of the series itself when George turns on Mitchell and explains why he wants to be a father, what it means to him as a supernatural creature attempting to be human.

Meanwhile, Mitchell befriends Leo Willis, a patient at the hospital, dying of cancer. The relationship between the two explores some rather dark territory and isn't all that it seems. Threaded throughout the novel is a globe-trotting vampire diary which you assume is Mitchell's own history but Michalowski neatly twists this around at the end of the book. Leo's fate is a great counterpoint to the main plot about George and his impending fatherhood. This is a book about the human desire for immortality, namely that which we achieve through our genetic heritage and that which we seek selfishly by other means, fair or foul (and here through occult or supernatural means). It's warm, often hilariously funny and very moving.

Whilst the portrayal of Doctor McGough in all three books suggests a 'job's worth' consultant trying to achieve non-descript Health Department targets, James Goss reveals his involvement with the vampire fraternity in the third book, Bad Blood and develops Leo Willis' horrific legacy. The three housemates meet an old friend of Annie's, Denise, and she ropes them in to running a local Bingo session (this also picks up a character, Moonpaw, briefly introduced in Michalowski's book too) to raise money to improve the community's sports hall facilities. Goss has an intriguing playfulness in his book where he breaks up the chapters with a number of intermissions where we get to 'hear' an internal monologue from each of the main characters, often sharing multiple viewpoints about the narrative, random subject matter (the one about holidays is funny) and character development.

There's also a sadness beneath Denise's holiday rep bluster that is gradually and tantalisingly revealed to us and Goss also works in the threat from Annie's door, the men with sticks and ropes dropping their message into the text and ironically placing it outside of the narrative within the book end page dedication too. Creepy. And look out for your Bingo card so you can join in with a very special game of Bingo.

All three books capture the physical tics of Annie - hugging her knees or wrapping her cardie tightly round her - and George - forever pushing his glasses back up his nose or slipping into his falsetto of high emotion - and Mitchell - all feline grace, cat like grin and hungry denial. The three authors also play with a motley cast of subsidiary characters (such as Sarah the hospital receptionist, or Mossy the bowling obsessed porter, Gavin Foot the local newspaper reporter) that are scattered through the overall narrative and the well realised environs of Bristol that the three books share. Well worth your attention.

Being Human: The Road - Simon Guerrier (Published 4th February 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN 9780091914172)
Being Human: Chasers - Mark Michalowski (Published 4th February 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN 9781846078996)
Being Human: Bad Blood - James Goss (Published 4th February 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN 9781846079009)

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