The Prisoner's Dilemma

by Jon Blum & Rupert Booth

Powys Media Prisoner series, 2005

"The Prisoner's Dilemma" by Jon Blum and Rupert Booth, is the first in Powys Media's new Prisoner series. (Lance Parkin's "The Other" follows later in the year and Robert Sheckley is lined up for a later book.) Jon, who kindly sent me a review copy, is well-known for his Dr Who work, notably several novels with Kate Orman. Rupert Booth may be a less familiar name, but he has done short stories for Big Finish and short films for the Dr Who DVDs.

It seems hugely ambitious to me to attempt a Prisoner tie-in book. This is a unique series, often surreal, and so much of the series' identity comes from the performance of the lead actor (Patrick McGoohan, who isn't involved with Powys Media's licence) and the visuals. How do you capture that in prose? Well, Blum and Booth have managed it. "The Prisoner's Dilemma" feels right, it feels like a child of the '60s, yet it feels modern as it addresses concerns (not unfamiliar to followers of Blum) like the Internet, 9/11 and reality TV.

"The Prisoner's Dilemma" is a sprawling epic, a story that feels like it would be several episodes long had it been on TV, yet there is a strong plot running through, recurring themes and a resolution that actually makes sense while maintaining that certain Prisoner-esque uncertainty.

It's hard to remember who is who in a novel when nobody has a name, only numbers! But the authors work hard to keep things clear (when they should be clear). The characterisation works well and number 6 himself mostly convinces. At times, the analogies, the themes, the jokes get too heavy-handed. Like with Blum and Orman's "Fallen Gods", the point of the story is made very clear and some readers may want more subtlety. (Simon Bucher-Jones' "Ghost Devices", oddly, touches
on some common themes, but presents them very differently.) But once the story got going, it carried me along with it.

I don't know whether Powys Media can create a novel series that will satisfy Prisoner fans and do something in its own right, but this is a good beginning.

Henry Potts, 1 Jun 05

Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.

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