Blake's 7 Project Avalon

Written by:
Trevor Hoyle
First Published: 1979
Page Count: 191
Availability: Try Amazon

It's easy - and great fun - to knock Trevor Hoyle's three tie-in novelisations of the series. He's Jeffrey Archer writing under a pseudonym. Terrance Dicks commissioned him to make himself look better. Yet any such carping perhaps relies more on what readers wanted his books to be, rather than what they are. These are not adult, 90,000 word texts - they're TV spin-offs written under time constraints.

Hoyle does actually add some detail to the characters, expressing the fatigue of Travis, for example. Though as the novels were written before before the programmes were made, then is Travis's three rings and mutoids becoming androids author ingenuity or just preplanned transcriptions? One notable dialogue addition is more of Vila and Avon's "machine" argument from Duel, which is extended to show a more childish side to Avon and a nastier one from Gan than seen on screen: "'Go back to counting your fingers,' Avon told the big man unkindly, 'you're bound to get the sum right eventually.' Gan unfolded his arms rather ominously. 'Your rotten teeth would be better practise.'" And Project Avalon is interesting in that it has Cally in Jenna's place, whereas the TV equivalent would have Sally Kynvette haggling for a larger role. Also a nice touch are two descriptions of the teleportations from the point of view of the teleportee.

Project Avalon won't win the Booker Prize ("Like a fungus, grey and cellular and spongelike [...] the grey, cellular fungus had attached itself to his neck"/"Not a sound escaped from the sealed sound-proofed room.") yet that's not the intention anyway. Covering the episodes Seek-Locate-Destroy/Duel and Project Avalon/Deliverance/Orac, Hoyle divides the book into two sections, made up of six and seven chapters respectively. With approximately 24,570 and 27,887 words each (I'm not going to work out the exact word count, I'm not that much of an anorak) then the "episodes" are, by necessity, concise. In some cases, this actually tightens up the slight plots and removes padding - in "Duel", for example, there is no scene where Giroc almost causes Blake's death. Deliverance, meanwhile, is told in a single chapter of 2,637 words (yes, that one is exact). This perfectly highlights how much of Deliverance seen on screen was extraneous padding. However, the next chapter sees Hoyle shoot himself in the foot by reproducing the recap exposition from Orac. Okay if it's a TV show reminding viewers of seven days previously... but the same book, the prior chapter?

Ultimately, this is actually quite reasonable for a TV tie-in, and Hoyle is a serious SF author outside of these novelisations. Yet as to be expected for such a venture, it fails to capture the true magic of the series and its brevity makes for only a so-so read...