Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sapphire & Steel (novelisation)

Peter J. Hammond
Star Books

When a rip appears in the fabric of Time, the stability of the entire Universe is threatened. Two strange 'experts' appear out of nowhere and take control of the situation. No one knows who they are. A beautiful, remote woman and a terse, efficient man - real, yet with an air of unreality about them. Coolly combating the negative forces of Time out-of-control, endowed with incredible powers beyond human comprehension, they are unnerving but fascinating. They are SAPPHIRE AND STEEL.

I've been hunting down a copy of this novelisation of the first Sapphire and Steel assignment for years; I know I could have easily bought it from eBay but where's the fun in that.

This is one of only two Sapphire and Steel books that were published.  The other was an 'annual' (more on that one soon) whilst this is simply the first story redone as text.

Peter J. Hammond
In those pre video recorder days when missing a TV show meant that you didn't get to see it, the novelisation was a very popular way of catching or reliving a TV show.  Indeed, the BBC provided novelisations of almost every Doctor Who storyline via Target Books often written by the original scriptwriters. Although commissioned for a different channel and issued by a different publisher this practise is this books ace in the hole as Hammond, as series creator and principal scriptwriter (he wrote every assignment except the fifth which he co-wrote), is perfectly placed to ensure that the characters as presented here are absolutely accurate.  Indeed there is a passage early in the book that describes the pair (from the perspective of the 12 year old boy, Rob) and you can see exactly how these descriptions were carried over into the series.

'Rob stared at them.  The woman was the most beautiful person that he had ever seen.  She had long, fair hair and she was wearing a dress that seemed to shimmer and shift and flow upon her slim figure.  She turned to close the door and, to Rob, it seemed as if there was an aura of blueness about her presence, there in the hallway.  In later years, whenever he remembered her, which was often, his first thought was always the colour blue.
The man had moved to the foot of the first flight of stairs and was looking up at the landing above. He, too, had fair hair. But, as the woman expressed blueness, so the man suggested the colour grey.  His smart suit, shirt and tie were somehow neutral. His whole appearance and manner seemed cold, almost metallic.'

The pair investigate the disappearance of two adults from a house full of clocks where Time and it's entities are breaking through.  They are odd, intense, aloof, professional and enigmatic. Little is explained and nothing is given away.

I've always thought this first assignment had the weakest of endings and it isn't much improved in print.  The rest of the book though is nicely written and maintains just the right side of strange.  Like Rob we are left confused and pulled along by forces we do not understand although truthfully I think it's a lot more fun for us.

As far as I know this was Hammond's only novel and that's a real shame as I'd have loved to have read more. 

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