Review: Torchwood: Exodus Code

by John and Carole E. Barrowman

BBC Books, out 13 September

Jack can’t remember key events from his past and Gwen Cooper is going mad. Who can the world turn to when all hell begins to let loose?

After Miracle Day, any new Torchwood series would need to be on a suitably grand scale, and any future producers could do worse than use John and Carole E. Barrowman’s novel as a starting point. Structurally, it would need some modification – a linear telling would suit a screen version, whereas the jumping backwards and forwards in the book works well – but it ticks all the Torchwood boxes

We’re presented with a threat that specifically targets Wales, which then becomes global in scope; a storyline that allows the relationship between Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper to be at its centre, yet not be defined solely by that; a sexual element to events – and for once, it’s not just there gratuitously; and the odd reference back to Doctor Who (this time, a Tom Baker story).

As you’d expect from John Barrowman, the characterisation of Jack Harkness is spot on, and the brother and sister writing team have also got Gwen, Rhys and Andy Davidson right. Some of the other characters introduced in Miracle Day make an appearance, although, possibly deliberately, there’s no pick-up on the aftereffects of the closing scene of the most recent series.

Bearing in mind what’s going on, you might expect an appearance by Martha Smith (or Jones) or UNIT, but that’s not to be. There’s also not the flashbacks to the original Torchwood team that we’ve come to expect from the recent Torchwood tales (apart from a rather similar set of reminiscences from Jack and Gwen at different times) – but these are things you notice once you’ve finished, rather than as the fast-paced tale unfolds.

Verdict: Setting apart the rather rushed ending, this is a well-told continuation of the Torchwood mythos. More please.  7/10

Paul Simpson



Click here to order Torchwood: Exodus Code from


21 thoughts on “Review: Torchwood: Exodus Code

  1. I wanted to buy that one as I love John Barrowman and I like his sister’s writing. But I will not. I have no interest in a story with so much Gwen and no Ianto in it. I was so hoping for a story before COE to get back the old team dynamics….Disappointed…

    Posted by patou gravitule (@HW308_gravitule) | September 9, 2012, 11:32 am
    • Word. Carole Barrowman hinted that there would be “a few pre-COE surprises” on twitter, so I had my hopes up that that would include some appearances by the old team, particularly since THAT is the Torchwood everyone misses. I’m really tired of having everything be so Gwen-centric. She’s one of the least interesting fictional characters I’ve ever encountered.

      Also.. I wish they would just let Torchwod die, as much as it makes me sad to say it. Miracle Day was so, so bad and basically killed the fandom. I don’t like the direction Torchwood is heading, so I really hope there’s not enough series (or, god forbid, a movie). I’d rather just watch the three good series and ignore the rest.

      Sigh. I miss proper Torchwood.

      Posted by Chris | September 9, 2012, 3:28 pm
      • Yeah, Carole did say that on twitter. I for one, have NO interest in this story as Gwen and Jack are the only main characters left. I find Gwen to be an insufferable spoiled child and Jack is not enough of draw himself to keep me in the dwindling Torchwood fandom. I watch out for what the books are about in the sole purpose of hoping they’ll bring back the TW that I loved as it seems more likely in book than on screen. Alas, it’s not to be. I wish them luck with the book, but I will not be buying it.

        Posted by Lori | September 9, 2012, 5:39 pm
  2. Cannot say I am that interested in anything since COE -i just do not find the remaining charactors interesting enough to make me want to continue either in books or film-this sounds a bit like it following in the new global scenario which lacked the individuality of its origins in Cardiff with its more charismatic team dynamics,So i guess its a no sale for me as well

    Posted by nan00se | September 9, 2012, 7:58 pm
  3. This seems to me to be to be rooted in the new global setting which lacked the individuality of the Cardiff based series with it wonderful charismatic team..Sorry but those that are left of the original team just do not hold my attention-so i guess it is a no sale for me too

    Posted by nan00se | September 9, 2012, 8:02 pm
  4. Well I’m a rare torchwood fan who was never a captain Jack fan and like some I do not care at all for Gwen. So to have a series with just them and coinciding books…

    My money and time are better spent elsewhere. I “got over” torchwood and focus my fan energy on other shows now. So I really don’t think this book is for me.

    Posted by jackie | September 10, 2012, 7:34 pm
  5. You know, I voted to never read Shades of Grey BUT if I would be in, let’s say, HW Smiths at an airport with only these two books to choose, I would grab Shades of Grey without thinking twice.

    Relationship between Jack and Gwen HUGE turn off. To me Gwen is the only character from the old Torchwood I would have never ever missed at all and I only like her in some scenes with Rhys. Gwen-what’s-her-qualification-again-Cooper bossing around former time agent, born 3000 years in the future and has been around the block for a few 100 years Jack is nothing but a big joke.

    “…which then becomes global.” MAJOR turn off. Torchwood was at it’s best when it was small, with the Rift over South Wales and Cardiff being the town where it hits and Torchwood, a small team of nobodies/heros defending the rest of the world from there. CoE and Miracle Day where so full of plot holes simply because the wanted to become global, the became a bad joke among Sci-Fi fans. An alien in London wants 10% of all kids on Earth and everybody from the USA to China is in the boat. Tell you what, in a realistic scenario everybody from Russia to America would have had their nukes flying towards Thames House within minutes.

    Anyway, like others said before, what most of the fans miss and want is more of the old Torchwood, in Cardiff, in the Hub, with Tosh, Owen and Ianto at Jack’s side. As long as TPTB and the actors still involved refuse to realize that, because I’m sure they know, I’ll stick to fanfiction. There I get what I want for free.

    Posted by AimèeTheClassicTorchwoodFan | September 14, 2012, 1:17 pm
  6. PS: And can somebody tell me why the “borrowed” the logo/cover from Charmed? 😉

    Posted by AimèeTheClassicTorchwoodFan | September 14, 2012, 1:21 pm
    • They haven’t. Charmed used it for a specific reason – but you will have to read the book to find out why it’s so appropriate for this book…

      Posted by PS | September 14, 2012, 1:53 pm
      • I know. It’s the Trinity Knot, a Celtic symbol. With Charmed it was three sisters and all that, so it made sense. As far as I know Torchwood has only 2 characters left, and if the introduce a new one in the book and make Torchwood a three agent thing, I’m not interested. I’ve seen enough interesting characters getting sacrificed on the altar of drama by Russel T.Davies. And if they try to link Torchwood to Christian mythology again (Jack as Jesus figure in Miracle Day anyone?) then that would be the next really big turn off for me. Well, anyway, I will not read the book, so I guess I’ll die stupid one day. 🙂

        Posted by AimèeTheClassicTorchwoodFan | September 14, 2012, 2:20 pm
        • Nope, not anything to do with that. If you really want to know, email me at the website email address ( but I won’t spoil it for people who are going to read the book

          Posted by PS | September 14, 2012, 3:03 pm
          • That’s very kind, but I know somebody who has bought the book, because she’s a major JB fan and I guess she’ll give me her own review once she finished it. Thanks anyway.

            Posted by Aimèetheclassictorchwoodfan | September 17, 2012, 12:16 pm
  7. Jack, Gwen and the global threat – that’s classical not-working scenario. Gwen is too unstable as the character, and too weak to be one of the protagonists. Linking Jack to her weakens him as well.
    I wish those who write Torchwood books could take a hint already that such scheme doesn’t work, and either write about pre-CoE history or don’t write (about Torchwood) at all, because it’s like electroshoking long deseased body – sad, cruel and ineffective.
    The only hope for Torchwood fandom now lies in other characters, but definitely not Gwen Cooper.

    Posted by Jeis (@Jeis007) | September 15, 2012, 3:33 pm
  8. Going by the review, the book really shouldn’t be using the word Torchwood in the title.
    Torchwood is synonymous with Jack, Ianto, Tosh, Owen, Janet, Myfanwy, the Hub, Cardiff, the SUV, Blowfish, Stun Guns, the Rift, the Tourist Office, Jacks coat, coffee, etc, etc and fans love the show for these reasons.
    Torchwood ended after Exit Wounds, and the Gwen factor in the book makes me feel like we are being given the ”bird” again…

    Posted by Cathy Norman | September 21, 2012, 4:21 am
  9. A very nice and fair review. I’ve bought “Exodus Code” (despite also having a review copy!) and have read and re-read it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it more second time round. It’s fast-paced and nicely constructed, and would make the perfect fifth series of Torchwood on screen. As it has approval from Russell, the BBC and Starz, it’s firmly canon, and I hope John and Carole will write more Torchwood books together.

    Posted by Beverley | September 22, 2012, 3:24 pm
  10. Nicely written concise review but sadly I prefer complexity to fast paced.There are some points I could make linked to the concept of “madness” but this involves spoilers i have read on other sites so I shall just say that as a plot device it does not work for me within my understanding of both neurology and psychiatry unless they have screwed with the constructs.So add two strikes to the additional strikes of big/global and leads that no longer engage me like they use to and I am going to give it a miss.But even at my most desperate i wil not turn to Shades of Grey when there is so much superb fan faiction availible if i want some of that old Torchwood feeling.

    Posted by nan00se | October 5, 2012, 11:03 pm
    • I’m afraid that you can’t say it doesn’t work unless you read it in context. It’s entirely a choice whether you read something, but you can’t comment on its effectiveness without having read it.

      Posted by PS | October 6, 2012, 8:24 am
      • Paul I have tried to keep this spoiler free which makes it difficult to go into my reasoning in full. I have spoken to someone who has read the book because I was curious to see how they were using the condition which triggers the madness.I was aware it of through my work and I find that the more knowledge I have in relation to a particular issue the more skeptical I tend to be when reading something on those issues even within the sci fi genre. To be honest as soon as the word madness(in relation to global) was mentioned I had reservations as to whether this was a book that I would be able to engage with.
        If I am wrong in my prejudgements that that will come to light when spoiler free discussions start to filter through on the internet but until then I will stand by my current reasoning.
        I do awknowledge that my interest in Torchwood has diminished since the last series and the only reason i follow Torchwood forums and discussions is in the vague hope that we might get news that Torchwood will return in a format that i can engage with.Sadly this book do nothing to encourage me to believe that Torchwood is worth continuing with.

        Posted by nan00se | October 6, 2012, 9:58 am
        • Totally agree with Paul here. It’s rather ridiculous to say that something doesn’t work for you when you haven’t even made the effort to buy (or borrow) the book and actually read it. I was fortunate enough to review “Exodus Code” too, having been sent a pre-publication copy (although that didn’t stop me buying another copy). As far as I am concerned, this book is a very good way of continuing the Torchwood saga. I enjoyed the storyline and can easily see it being lifted form page to screen. It has approval from Russell T Davies and from BBCWorldwide, so clearly they share John and Carole Barrowman’s vision.

          Posted by Beverley | October 10, 2012, 9:48 am
  11. This news story may be of interest to those who’ve commented here:

    Posted by PS | October 29, 2012, 7:54 am

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