78) Jacqueline Rayner — Doctor Who: The Stone Rose
Seventh of the tie-in novels to go with New Who, and the first featuring the Tenth Doctor. Mickey finds a Roman-era statue of Rose in the British Museum, so Ten and Rose go on a trip to make sure she’s around to act as the model. But the first thing that happens when they arrive is getting mixed up in a missing persons case. A wealthy man is searching for his son, who was last seen going for a appointment to put the finishing touches on a statue of him.
It’s not hard for the reader to guess how the sculptor is achieving his astonishing output of exquisitely detailed statues, but that’s not the point of the story. The real meat of the story is in the Doctor’s quest to find the source of the sculptor’s powers — and, of course, rescue a few people along the way. There are some good plot twists, and nice handling of time travel paradoxes in this story. Raynor does a good job of bringing ancient Rome to life in this book.
One of my favourites of the new series tie-ins so far, and the second of Raynor’s which I’ve enjoyed. I’ll have to look out for more of hers.
63) Gareth Roberts — Doctor Who: Only Human
Fifth of the New Who novels, with Nine, Rose, and Captain Jack. A Neanderthal turns up in 21st century Bromley, and the Tardis crew turn up to investigate why someone is using a particularly primitive, and stupid, method of time travel in the area. It transpires that there’s no way to take Das the Neanderthal home without killing him, so Jack gets detailed to teach him how to survive in present-day Bromley, while the Doctor and Rose go back 28,000 years to find the source of the problem. What they find is a historical research project by a group of humans from Rose’s future, and some very nasty things hiding in the project’s storeroom…
It’s an engaging enough story with some good one-off characters, although the Big Bad feels a bit cardboard to me. One of the best bits for me was the sequence of paired diary entries from Das and Jack, showing their very different perspectives on 21st century humans and each other. Often very funny, and occasionally poignant, and while I don’t think they’d have supported a full story in themselves, I would have been glad to see more of them.
48) Justin Richards — Doctor Who: The Deviant Strain
Fourth of the new series tie-in novels. This one has Rose and Captain Jack as the companions, in a story set in a remote Soviet naval base abandoned after the end of the Cold War. The nuclear submarines were simply abandoned to rot as the cheapest method of dealing with them, as were the people from the village that had been there since before the base was built. The last real link with an unheeding government is the research institute which still receives limited funding and supplies. At least until something very odd is spotted by a satellite, and a Russian Special Forces team is sent to investigate.
The Tardis crew show up as well, because Jack has unthinkingly answered an emergency beacon’s signal. While there is some suspicion from the Russian group, this is because Nine’s psychic paper ID has declared him to be from a rival agency, and Jack is considered to be the sort of Intelligence agent who wouldn’t know a real fight if he saw it. The two groups manage to work together reasonably well in spite of the tensions, investigating a series of mysterious deaths that show all the hallmarks of a mythical monster.
Enjoyed this one a lot, and not just because it has Captain Jack (who does not get to be on the cover). There’s a good science fantasy mystery here, with the Special Forces team being more than just foils to show off how clever the Doctor is.
40) Jacqueline Rayner – Doctor Who: Winner Takes All
Third in the New Who novel line. Now this was a definite improvement over the previous title in the series. It’s a revisit of the Last Starfighter scenario, but with some nasty twists, and not just the one you find in Ender’s Game. Rose and Nine drop in to the Powell Estate to visit Jackie, and find that there’s a new video game being promoted by people in porcupine costumes, using scratchcards given away with any purchase at local stores, no matter how small. Mickey is one of the people who’s won a console, and as he explains, the console has only one game, but it’s still good value, because it’s so realistic, and complex enough to be a little different every time you play. Of course the Doctor can’t resist showing off and beating Mickey’s score, doing so thoroughly that he becomes number one on the aliens’ list of useful humans to acquire.
The plot’s interesting and the characterisations for Nine and Rose are good. But where the story really shines for me is in one of the one-off characters. Robert is a young teenager, complete with young teenage boy anxieties and fantasies, and his interior monologue is wince-inducingly realistic. He’s someone a lot of fans will be able to identify with.
Enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. This one I’ll probably re-read.
31) Stephen Cole — Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside
Second of the tie-ins published for the new series. Adequate but nothing special adventure for Nine and Rose, which I’d have probably enjoyed rather more had I read it on initial publication rather than after the monsters of the week had appeared several more times on tv. The Doctor and Rose are arrested and separated within a few minutes of landing on an alien planet — which turns out to be part of a solar system devoted to a privatised prison system, where landing without authorisation is itself a crime carrying a heavy sentence. Rose is shipped to a borstal, the Doctor is incarcerated in a scientific labour camp for aliens. They proceed to try and escape and find each other, but along the way realise that they have more problems than mere escape to deal with.
It’s a Who tie-in novel, with nothing much to either recommend or disrecommend it. The moralising about the prison system is heavy-handed even by Whoniverse standards, although not enough to put me off reading it. Not one I’m inclined to give permanent shelfspace.
16) Justin Richards — Doctor Who: The Clockwise Man
The first of the tie-in novels issued for New Who, and as such featuring Nine (Chris Eccleston) and Rose, who have landed in 1920s London and promptly get tangled up with not one but two deposed heirs to a throne. One is a young boy with haemophilia; the other appears to be the prince of some small east European country. And there are assassins on the loose — assassins who are accompanied by the sound of clockwork. Add in a woman who always goes masked and who recognises the sonic screwdriver as inappropriate technology, and the Doctor and Rose have quite a task on their hands in sorting out friend from foe.
It would be unfair to criticise this novel for giving me a slight sense of deja vu, because it was published during the first series of the Who revival, long before the tv episodes which revisit some of the same ground. (I can think of at least three at the time of writing this review, though naming them would be too spoilerish.) This is a competently written tie-in with some interesting themes and a nice sf mystery, and while I don’t get a solid sense of a specific regeneration’s personality, this is clearly the Doctor and his world. An enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours.