Just as I'd pretty much decided to cut my losses and give up the new series books along comes Wetworld by Mark Michalowski challenging me to revise my assumptions. It's about as old school (as in Virgin-Books-a-like) as its possible to be within the confines of the new series, throwing around mentions of adjudicators and world-building the details of the first expansion of humans into space*, even the obligatory kidult is sixteen years old, sensible, independent and could just as easily have been twenty. It is set on the planet Sunday, a swampy world inhabited by what turn out to be suprisingly intelligent otters (though the book is a little inconsistent in its treatment of their intelligence) and a small bunch of colonists all of whom are muddling along more or less happily when a meteor strike brings a strange tentacled monster to the world, followed shortly by the Doctor and Martha. So far so generic Doctor Who, in fact classic series fans will be picturing the Power of Kroll at this point. Be reassured though we are spared anything remotely approximating the swampies from that story, not to mention the attempts of the 1970s BBC special effects department to produce a giant squid.
While the book avoids many of the irritations of its stable-mates, length, if nothing else, prevents it having the level of detail I associate with the old new adventures (though on the plus side since many of them were a good 100 pages longer than their plot or prose could carry, this isn't necessarily a bad thing) and it is forced to be fairly to the point with little time to spare for description or added depth. On the plus sides it has a coherent plot, with interesting ideas and a monster with a sensible agenda and a interesting modus operandum. There was one character who I feared was about to turn into the kind of irritating bureaucrat Dr Who is so often fond of, closed-minded and inclined to respond to crises by locking the Doctor up, but fortunately despite the fact it looked like the story was heading this way he never did get round to arresting the Doctor, or impeding him with unecessary red tape. It's a good Martha book too, she gets to be resourceful and independent without it appearing forced but, on the downside, it also introduces a proto-companion, Ty Benson, who appears to steal some moments that should more appropriately gone to the Martha. This is made more obvious by Martha's clear jealously.
So, all in all, a bit of a mixed bag. Wetworld has flaws, but it is much closer to the kind of Dr Who book I'm interested in reading than almost anything else the new series books have produced. It's good, but not good enough, I don't think, to dissuade me from buying these books more circumspectly in future based on author pedigree and recommendations.
*by this I mean it's set on a colony planet during the first wave. The Virgin New Adventures fleshed out this milieau in a number of books. Wetworld doesn't add anything much to the previous world-building but is clearly singing from the same hymn sheet.