I have finally listened to 2010’s release of Simon Guerrier’s Graceless and was rather impressed with it (and annoyed I hadn’t grabbed a copy earlier). They may not be real people, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care what happens to them. Given these are not new I may be more generous with the spoilers.
Following on from the events of the Key2Time Trilogy, how will two young women with extraordinary powers cope with the universe? And just why is Amy now called Abby?
Let’s find out…
Part One: The Sphere
It’s great here. You can get anything!
The lead narrator for The Sphere is Abby (Ciara Janson) – she was called Amy but has changed her name (in fact to avoid clashing with the then TV assistant Miss Pond). The nominal good girl of the sisters, she travels to a vast Las Vegas like gambling complex in space (something occurring a few times in stories) looking for her sister Zara (Laura Doddington). This gives an immediate tick – the Sphere acts as a Faraday Cage and means they can’t teleport out. Also, something is draining Zara’s power and Abby starts feeling ill.
Keen to be more adult (and these stories come with a warning), sex is on the agenda and Zara lives with Marek (Fraser James) who makes a pass at Abby. Mental power to the fore, Abby diverts attention back to Zara. After a short while it is clear Abby and Zara are trapped unless they gather funds for trip to the surface. This means Abby comes to the notice of the authorities (why have super powers if you can’t cheat at roulette) and there is a scene where she is beaten with harsh audio accompaniment when captured. Grim but powerful.
[pullquote]Abby joins the bad guys[/pullquote]
Abby joins the bad guys and, keen to prove she can be as bad as Zara, also seduces Marek. Affected by the Sphere it is not long before she loses all judgement and causes the destruction of the entire complex and the deaths of tens of thousands. Simon Guerrier’s writing is powerful here; we are meant to like Abby yet she has committed an act of enormous evil. Difficult stuff. In the midst of all this, and powers restored, the girls teleport off to their next adventure.
Part Two: The Fog
There’s no such thing as witches
This time Zara is the lead voice, and Abby is failing to deal with the aftermath of her actions, and the guilt she now feels. Still, at least the beer in 1912 Compton is taking their mind of things. Of course, there is the mysterious fog (of the title), and the vanishings to take into consideration!
The fog acts as a barrier to teleportation and the plot is taken up with David Warner’s Daniel who is trying first to sentence the girls as witches, then exonerate them from charge they are to blame for the disappearances, then makes his enormous library available to find the cause of the fog. It takes several minutes to read the whole lot – an impressive feat treated with gentle amusement.
When the reality of what is happening is revealed it is very powerful and dealt with gracefully (despite the title) by those involved, though Abby and Zara are nonplussed to hear they will soon die. This and exploding spaceships heralding the return of Marek bring a very pleasing tale to a conclusion.
Part Three: The End
The Grace don’t know everything. We have to do what’s right!
So it’s The End and even knowing there are two more boxsets, doesn’t draw me back from the tension. Marek is after Zara as she is carrying his child (something I didn’t mention for The Sphere) and has done a deal with Kreekpolt (Michael Keating) for time technology in exchange for Abby and Zara. He uses this to get his child and leaves them to Kreekpolt’s mercies. A complex character with motives but some debatable behaviours.
Kreekpolt despite his dark dealings has only noble motives — he wants his daughter saved and believes they can help. Despite stretching their powers to the limits they fail so determine the only option is to hope residues of The Grace persist on the world of their creation.
The ending is bitter-sweet but does reset the characters (slightly) and puts them back with Marek (in a polygamous relationship) and baby Joy. Roll on the next boxset.
Unlike TV Torchwood that went adult with lots of swearing and sex, Graceless works by having adult problems and situations in a world with few clear lines between good and bad. The chemistry between Ciara and Laura is impressive and comes over as genuine. Marek is also a complex individual with clear motives and questionable decision-making. Simon also gets over his characters superpowers with simple plot devices and appeals to their humanity. They may not be real but they are very human in a lot of ways. All three stories are strong, and each tells us something about the supposedly opposing characters that makes the listener think twice. The series might be Graceless, the storytelling anything but.
I like this and thoroughly enjoy the relationship between Abby and Zara. It is definitely different from the main range it escaped from and well worth a listen. I am midway through series 2 and enjoying that as well; review later this week.