I have been a big fan of Doctor Who since David Tennant took over in the role of the Time Lord, and this is my first experience of reading a book featuring the time travelling character. I must say, if nothing else, Jacqueline Rayner has managed to capture the mood and the personality of the Doctor perfectly, especially with the dialogue sections.
This story essentially could feature at any point during Tennant's role as the Doctor. He takes with him no companion, and lands on his own, by the side of a swimming pool at a centre for elite sports training. Upon meeting a number of the athletes there and realising that they have been covering up a number of suspicious deaths, the Doctor soon has to contend with an invasion of a group of Sontarans, an alien race bred to fight!
This is a short story, with only 112 pages telling the story. I felt this was more than enough time to develop a few characters and give us some typical Doctor Who action. Rayner sets the Doctor and the humans up as guinea pigs for the Sontarans, who use the facilities at the centre to make them compete in their own Olympics style games, but with death going to the loser in each event. It is here that Rayner explores the Doctor's character and also examines the reasons for the Sontarans' presence on Earth.
The subplot features a shapeshifter, and while the outcome of this is quite predictable, it is intriguing to see how things are worked out, and how the Doctor arrives at his conclusions. Saving the day is his speciality, and Rayner manages to make it completely believable, showing that others can have character and help defeat the Sontarans if only they use their brains and work together as a team.
I didn't feel the book had any particular messages as such, just merely a decent tale featuring the Doctor. The majority of the appeal here is that she has nailed the cheekiness of Tennant's Doctor spot on, with the occasional joke in the face of danger, and the odd digression in conversation. You really get a feel for him in the tale. The human characters of Karl, Sid, Emma and Holly are also well developed, particularly Emma, and as their characters develop, you start thinking a bit more about the subplot and the reason for the Sontarans' presence.
There's nothing particularly fancy or clever about the story. It doesn't really have the chance to delve into complicated plot twists or anything, but then the basic premise of the plot and the location, mean that further elaboration would have been a bit lengthy, dull and drawn out. As it stands, the length of the story is just about right, and it's a decent story. The Sontaran Games is currently available as part of the Quick Reads series from amazon.co.uk for £1.99, which is a fair price for a decent story.