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Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner
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If you're in your forties, this book will probably feel a lot to you like the plot of The Last Starfighter. Desperate to gain an upper hand on the Mantodeans, the Quevvils, who look like giant porcupines have distributed a video game, promising humans vacations and fabulous prizes if they play it. In this case, the old adage applies, if it looks to good to be true then it is. The Quevils are looking for a human smart and skilled enough to enter the Mantodeans area and deliver a disrupter. What these players don't realise is that the game is real and each time they die in the game, a real human dies. When the Doctor and Rose pop by to visit Jackie, Mickey challenges the Doctor to a game and being much smarter than the average human, the Doctor gets further in the game than anyone has before, thus drawing that attention of the Quevvils. The excited Quevvils capture Rose and the Doctor caught up in their quest to finally win the war, not realising that this time they've caught their undoing.

Rayner did a really good job of nailing the characters perfectly. Every page I read, I could visualize the ninth Doctor, Rose, Jackie and Mickey perfectly. I do however wish I have been given a better sense in the timeline of where this story takes place. My best guess is that it happens sometime between World War Three and Boomtown, simply based on the Doctor's relationship with Mickey. For the Doctor's plan to be successful, he absolutely has to count on Mickey not only doing his bit but being intelligent enough to pull it off and yet it's clear that he doesn't have any respect for him yet.

At this point, Mickey and Rose have clearly ended their semi romantic relationship but that doesn't mean that Mickey is above being jealous. This is something Rose is acutely aware of - so much so then when she has to choose whose bonds to release first, Rose unties Mickey before the Doctor, sensing that had she approached the Doctor first that it would upset Mickey. This is far more progress than Rose ever made in the show in terms of Mickey because there never really seemed to be a time when she ever considered his feelings, particularly if the Doctor was involved. It was nice to see for a change, even if it was out of character for Rose.

I found it ridiculous that given the Doctor's abhorrence of guns that he would play Death to The Mantodeans in the first place. The Doctor comments that there's a big difference between guns in a game and guns in real life but I don't believe for one moment that the ninth Doctor would have made this distinction, even if it meant showing Mickey up. More than any other Doctor, the ninth is the PTSD Doctor and I believe that he would have been too haunted by the war and the destruction of Gallifrey to see this as a harmless game. He does however go off on the stupidity of humans for believing that they could get something for nothing, which is characteristic of the ninth Doctor.

Winner Takes All provides one of the few examples in which Doctor placed in a situatioin where he didn't have many options. Yes, he manged to work his way around the Quevvils but not without having to control Rose as a player in the game for a time. He is adamant that no one would should be treated like this and felt strongly that this would change the nature of his relationship with Rose. In these moments, the softer side of the Doctor is revealed and as a reader, I got a real sense of the Doctor's pain. When he threatened the Quevvils if any harm came to Rose, it showed the darkness that lives inside of him if pushed too far.

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  FangsfortheFantasy | Dec 28, 2015 |
Rose and the Doctor return to earth and find that a new scratch game lets people win gaming consoles, where they are tasked with taking over an alien world, and other people are winning trips from which they don't return - but how are the two connected? Really good installment in a sometimes shaky series. The Doctor is fairly true to himself, Rose is less annoying than usual, and Mickey Smith gets a chance to shine, which is nice. The stakes are extremely high and the repercussions for all characters are serious, which makes for a very engaging story, obviously, but we are still in the proper Whoniverse since the "baddies" are aliens who look like giant porcupines and praying mantises and our main characters make it out a bit battered and bruised, but alive and in high spirits. The audiobook reader takes a little getting used to as she plays one of the characters in the TV series (Rose's mum), but she does a really good job once you forget who she "is." ( )
  -Eva- | Jul 31, 2015 |
Doctor Who is one of my favorite TV Shows (mainly since the 2005 reboot), but you have to wait so long between series to get some new shows. Luckily there is also a series of (children's/young adult) books that each read like an episode. I have quite a collection, so sometimes when I need my fix, I have an episode in book form.
In this edition, with the ninth Doctor (Eccleston) and Rose, we follow Rose and the Doctor back to earth after Rose's mom has no time to talk on the phone with Rose (so unlike her). They soon hear about a sort of lottery with scratch cards people get after buying something in town. They can win a holiday or a game console. The game is a mixture of puzzles and a first person shooter where the main character needs to break into an alien stronghold and kill aliens. However, Rose and the Doctor soon figure out that the contest is a lot more real than everybody thinks, and they need to race to save the poor innocent humans caught up in the plot.
The book was a fun Doctor Who episode, not connected to any big story line. If you need your Doctor Who fix, this is another good book to read. Four out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Jan 26, 2014 |

The Doctor and Rose are back in London, but there's something strange going on. People are winning consoles for a new video game and other are getting scratch-off tickets giving them a free holiday...only they aren't coming back. Instead, they are transported to another world to become living avatars in a game created by aliens to infiltrate an enemy stronghold. This people are controlled by unsuspecting humans playing the game through the consoles back on Earth.

The basic plot idea of a video game turning out to be real isn't new, but the execution is still really enjoyable. Rose is especially good in this book, being very resourceful in a pinch, but also reacting in a very natural way to adversity and challenges. The Doctor shows his more human side with a boy named Robert who was kidnapped, but also shows his more alien side when he doesn't react with sympathy or concern when Rose's mom is hospitalized. There's also an especially poignant moment when Rose is put into the game and the Doctor is forced to control her. When he starts making modifications to the controls to increase Rose's efficiency in the game, he gets really upset, realizing that this entire scenario of controlling other people is wrong, that what he is doing to Rose is wrong...and yet he has no choice because without a controller, the aliens will kill her and everyone else in the game.

3.5 stars because the part with Mickey recruiting other folks to help the Doctor free people from this game was rather shaky, more a matter of plot convenience rather than being convincing. Also, there isn't a moment at the end of story when Rose and the Doctor talk about or acknowledge in any way the moral implications of the Doctor taking control of Rose...even though it was part of the video game and done to save her life and the lives of others. I thought that should have been touched upon. But despite these problems, I still really enjoyed the book. ( )
  Starsister12 | Dec 11, 2013 |
Ok read. ( )
  infjsarah | Aug 22, 2013 |
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"I thought I'd better call home," said Rose, wandering into the TARDIS's huge, vaulted control room and waving her phone at the Doctor.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0563486279, Hardcover)

Rose and the Doctor return to present-day Earth to visit Rose's mum, and become intrigued by the latest craze -- the video game, Death to Mantodeans. Is it as harmless as it seems? And why are so many local people going on holiday and never returning? Meanwhile, on another world, an alien war is raging. The Quevvils need to find a new means of attacking the ruthless Mantodeans. Searching the galaxy for cunning, warlike but gullible allies, they find the ideal soldiers - on Earth. Will Rose be able to save her family and friends from the alien threat? And can the Doctor play the game to the end - and win?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:48 -0400)

Arriving back on present-day Earth, Rose and the Doctor become intrigued by the latest craze - the video game Death to Mantodeans. Is it as harmless as it seems? And why are so many local people going on holiday and never returning?

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