Star Cops Novelisations:
Chris Boucher has had many novels professionally published, including Doctor Who novels like Corpse Marker and Last Man Running. However, Star Cops not exactly being the most popular series in the world, no company was prepared to risk publishing his novels of the series for fear that there'd be no-one to buy them. Enter Judith Proctor, who worked with Chris to semi-professionally publish his first Star Cops novel, and then, due to that book's popularity, his second. Full details below.
An Instinct For Murder
An Instinct For Murder is a very appealing novel, spanning 62,200 words over 13 chapters.
It's sometimes hard to imagine if the book would be so popular with someone that hadn't actually seen the series. Certainly, the music, acting, direction and all over flavour of the show involuntarily spring to mind when reading the appropriate text, enhancing the experience. Yet there are plenty of additional scenes (and changes to some of the events therein) and these too are quite exciting.
The novel basically follows the same structure as the first episode, also the same title as the book. The climax is slightly weaker than on screen - the machinations used to place Nathan into his new post less satisfying, and the identity of the murderer being more obvious - but you can see how what worked on television wouldn't work in print, and had to be changed. There are also unresolved references (in between chapters, called "Crime Scenes") that allude to later Boucher scripts, which get dealt with in the second novel. Had this work been published to a mass market as intended, this could have left casual readers feeling short-changed. As a widespread publication didn't happen, this arguably doesn't matter. There is some sex (Nathan gets stiffies, and wonders if the Traffic Controller has one) and some bad language. This combines at one point, the author describing the act by using the f-word, which can seem a little distasteful. However, the word's application by characters in speech does give a welcome realistic feel to the proceedings. This is more the Star Cops that they couldn't show you on screen.
Also nice is confirmation that Nathan tried, at least partly, for the Star Cops job to avoid responsibilities with Lee. The Traffic Controller is more bigoted than on screen, using an almost constant stream of racist jibes at Theroux. Would the paper Theroux really think they were friends if he acted like that? Only bad side of this is David snapping with an unlikely "honky motherf***er". Yet this side of the character does add some detail in print to the Controller, and does make him notably less likeable, which is good.
Any other complaints? Not at all, this is a fine book. Though it does propagate the myth that Schizophrenia is a split personality disorder. It seems Chris still hasn't learnt since Doctor Who's The Face of Evil. Generally, though, I would thoroughly recommend you get this. If you haven't seen the series, it does capture the mood of it. And if you have seen the series, it shows it all in a fresh light, with many elements that are alien to the episode.
Little Green Men and Other Stories
The wonderfully titled Little Green Men and Other Stories is very nice to look at, being, like the first novel, A4 in size, with a glossy front cover. This front cover is a very appealing, colourful work by Pete Wallbank, and is described by Judith as being possibly "the best-looking fanzine I've ever produced" The interior illustations by Kevin Davies are also an improvement over the first novel's amateurish artwork by a variety of contributors.
However, it's what in the print that really counts, and it must be said, while still entertaining, this second instalment is considerably less essential than the first.
The main problem is the number of stories packed into a single book. This novel is just 17,600 words longer than the first's solo story outing, yet contains the novelisations of four Boucher scripts. The fact that the first of these - Conversations With The Dead (30 pages, approx. 22,800 words) contains the most emotional resonance means it gets short shrift in the written word.
The next two fare quite poorly, too, with Michael Chandri's motivation more developed in Intelligent Listening For Beginners, but still coming in at 27 pages (approx. 20,520 words). So too, the Nathan/Kenzy relationship could have made for a satisfying read, but at just 24 pages (approx. a mere 18,240 words) Trivial Games and Paranoid Pursuits falls short. Don't get me wrong, these stories are far more than mere "he said, she said" in between the scripted lines, but their brevity, and inability to show anything we didn't really see on screen, make them less of a catch.
The big prize in this book, then, goes to Little Green Men and Other Martians. Because, while it still comes in at 24 pages, it does contain some interesting diversions from what went on screen. I'm not referring to Anna Shoun's absence (replaced by Irish Dana Cogill, as Anna, thank God, was not Chris's copyright) but to the Kenzy/Theroux swapover. You may remember that Erick Ray Evans was absent from the last episode, due to measles. While it was reported that most of his lines went to Kenzy, if this one is an accurate account of Boucher's original plot then it appears Nathan got some of those lines, too. Like the moment where Nathan encourages Devis to threaten a confession out of two suspects in a Moonrover. Here it's Theroux doing the encouraging, only to be hauled up by Nathan for going too far. All the Daniel Larwood scenes are now Theroux's, meaning we don't get Kenzy's version of the Nutcracker Suite in Larwood's cabin (though she does get to boot his crown jewels later in the story). For this alone, I would have given the book an above-average four stars, as it is an interesting look at how the episode should have ran on screen. Another addition, seemingly on a whim, is the replacement of Krivenko in the last two stories with a new character fulfilling the same function, the Chinese Jiang Li Ho. This is presumably because the series' fixations with the cold war are now dated, and so allow a greater American hostility. (Ho enters the same story as Nathan investigating the Ronald Reagan). Ho is nicknamed "Wangley" for some unknown reason by Devis. What could this mean? He wangles stuff out of people? It was lost on me when I wrote this review. Since then answers to these questions and more can be found in the Chris Boucher Interview.
Generally, if you like Star Cops then you'll want to own this. It's an original novel written by the creator and writer of the series and there aren't that many of those about. It's 79,800 words long and 105 pages thick. I won't kid you and say it's a must-buy, but it is still a worthwhile read...