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.
73) James Goss — Torchwood: Department X [audiobook]
One of the audio-only tie-in novels, read by Kai Owen on 2 CDs, and set between series 2 and 3.
The last of Cardiff’s traditional department stores, GR Owen, has just gone into administration. A pair of very slick operators from the administrators have arrived to audit the company’s assets, and it’s clear that they’re interested in more than just the usual stock and staff assets. They’re not the only ones, because two of the staff present to be interviewed happen to be Ianto and Gwen, working undercover on a project of Jack’s. Nobody has seen the Department of Curiosities since 1905, and Jack wants to know why. Pity the store tries to kill him every time he sets foot in it…
A well-constructed story with a very Torchwood feel to it, and some logical extrapolations of the Torchwood universe. It’s very funny in places, not least because it openly references the similarities between GR Owen and Grace Brothers in Are you Being Served — I particularly enjoyed the scene where Jack has some fun teasing Ianto about working in menswear.
Very enjoyable, although I think not quite as good as Ghost Train, also written by James Goss and read by Kai Owen. I was mildly irritated in this one by Kai Owen’s habit of leaving a Significant Pause so that you know he’s finished speaking dialogue and moved to the dialogue tag. He didn’t do this in Ghost Train, because it was first person and thus didn’t really have dialogue tags. It’s a distracting irritation from an otherwise good reader.
72) Steve Lyons — Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams
Sixth of the tie-in novels for New Who, and the last to feature the Ninth Doctor (and thus also pre-immortality Jack). Nine, Rose and Jack find that their latest stop is a world where fiction is outlawed, and those who indulge in it are regarded as having a dangerous drug addiction that must be treated, by force if necessary. Naturally, the Tardis crew end up interfering. But it gradually becomes clear that on this world dreams really are dangerous, and the Doctor’s usual tactics may be more harmful than helpful.
Good writing, nifty concept, a solid plot, and some excellent secondary characters, with a nice twist at the end. And the monster isn’t overly familiar from tv episodes before or since, which is a problem I’ve occasionally had with coming to the books relatively late.
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.
44) Gary Russell — Torchwood: The Twilight Streets
Sixth of the Torchwood tie-in novels, set late in second season and with a lot of canon references. And my most favourite of all the canon references is the return of Idris Hopper, the Mayor’s secretary from the Doctor Who episode Boom Town. :-)
There is a small block of streets in Cardiff, built by a Victorian businessman as model housing for his workforce. And never occupied for more than a few weeks at a time. Things happen to the people who try to live in Tretarri. Jack doesn’t know why, because Jack can’t get in. He gets a three day migraine every time he tries. But now the Council is renovating the block, with full-on gentrification and street parties to show off the results. Not just on the rate-payers’ money, either — private sponsorship is paying for the celebrations. But the block becomes more than a minor mystery for Jack’s off-duty hours when it becomes apparent that Bilis Manger is behind the plans for change. And Bilis is still using visions of the future to prod the team into action.
It seems simple enough. Another round of stop Bilis Manger and save the world. But the old man’s relationship with Good and Evil is rather more complex than that…
Really enjoyed this one. It’s got an interesting plot, some excellent character development, and entertaining interactions between the various characters. All the regular characters get some page space, and there’s some good stuff on the Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys and Tosh-Owen relationships. Also a delightful little scene in which Ianto tells Torchwood’s Little Miss Sensitive (yes, he calls Gwen that) some home truths about what it’s really like to be bisexual. :-> There’s a lot of stuff referring back to canon, but most of it is tied into the story in such a way that it enhances the story for those who’ve seen the episodes without excluding those who haven’t. It also includes a good in-universe explanation for why the Tardis crew didn’t encounter Torchwood during the events of Boom Town (the external reason, of course, being that Torchwood the series was still a twinkle in RTD’s eye at the time). The reason for the AU future’s potential existence got a bit woolly in places, but the story in that timeline is really well done, if possibly over-angsty for some fans. Which is why I liked it, of course. :-)
Oh, and a word of praise for cover artist Lee Binding, who has done a lovely job in depicting some key elements of the story.
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.