Doctor Who: Winner Takes All
(Series One Novel)
Have you ever played a video game and thought to yourself ‘I wonder what this would be like if this was real?’ Many of us just content ourselves with pushing this thought to the side and continue to slay aliens, or race towards the checkered flag. It’s all a part of the suspension of disbelief, where you know that when playing a game or watching a video, things might not always what they seem. A cartoon mouse does have a clever brain and will use it to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting cat by creating master diabolical plans! This is all a part of how we as humans separate fiction from fantasy. Yet, in the book Doctor Who: Winner Takes All, Jacqueline Rayner puts that simple question to the test. What happen if that video game you where playing was real?
The story begins with Rose and the Ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston) travels back to London to visit with Rose’s mother Jackie. Upon their arrival the duo is faced with a rather strange situation, a marketing group (or so they say) have been testing a contest where you buy something from a local shop and you are awarded with a scratch card. If you win, you get one of two prizes, first a new video game console (apparently with the game Death to the Mantodeans) or an all expense paid holiday to an exotic resort.
As the novel continues an alien conspiracy is uncovered and we soon discover that the marketing Mascot is in actuality an alien and they are using the video games to control the vacationers into doing their dirty work. What is their dirty work you might ask? Waging a war on their home planet against the praying mantis people known as the (you guessed it) the Mantodeans! The human’s role is of the foot soldiers (or more of cannon fodder if you prefer).
The book itself was a pretty good read, clear descriptions, great new characters such as the introduction as Darren Pye as the bully. It was quite refreshing to have a person who showed that there are jerks in the world who are just jerks, wanting to make people’s lives horrible just because they can. This character was great, mainly because it was the type of guy that every time he came into play, I hated it, thinking to myself, “Just get rid of him, he’s a total jerk!” Kind of like Synjaya from American Idol, which made the character great. You are supposed to hate characters like that.
When it came down to the story itself I noticed quite a few things that I believed needed some improving, or more clarification. Being a manager of a video game retailer there is nothing that gamers really don’t know about the industry. It is huge and when a new game come’s out it is well known before time. One of the points that I felt a little distracting was the fact that this new machine was being given away, and could only play one game. Was it a “plug and play”, or a full console? Clairification is needed at this point.
The aliens who are performing this big master plot are described as a large Porcupine. I can understand some of the plot points that came into play with the use of this type of character, i.e. quill weapons, being appealing to the public, and their addiction to salt (great scene in the book). Yet, when I was imagining them, I couldn’t push away that they were all just living breathing Sonic the Hedgehogs! I believe that the addition of a different type of animal needed to be used here.
Finally I really didn’t know why the Quevvils (the giant porcupines) where waging this war against the Mantodeans? It did add some sense of drama not knowing for awhile, making it feel as if these creatures where just waging war just for the sake of it. Yet war goes deeper than that, and each war has a catalyst, what was it, or if it was waging for so long have a discussion about where it might of began.
Overall I enjoyed this book and being my first read in the Doctor Who book series I was pleasantly surprised. Knowing both the Doctor and Rose from the Television Series I felt that the author was brilliant at capturing the essence of all of the characters I was familiar with. Also the pace of the story and the action kept me turning the pages. Yet I feel that the areas that were not covered (the reason for the war) or did not have a clear direction did get in the way. To me Doctor Who is a mythology that has its roots in our world and when things don’t make sense when comparing them in our world then the suspension of disbelief can be strained.
I give this book 2 out of 5.
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