I don't envy Peter Anghelides much, Kursaal, his debut Doctor Who novel had the misfortune of following Lawrence Miles' Alien Bodies which is quite possibly one of the greatest and critically acclaimed novels to date. Therefore it was always going to struggle given the fans now high expectation of the range. That said Anghelides manages to give us a fairly decent offering, which is still enjoyable, just nowhere near Alien Bodies league.
Kursaal is a leisure world, or will be once it's built. The trouble is developments are being hindered by eco-terrorists (HALF) and the re-emergence of a long dead wolf like race, the Jax. The Doctor and Sam arrive for a break, 5 years too early and end up separated and embroiled in the struggle between the opposing parties.
The beginning of Kursaal is great, really really great. Sadly it drops off around halfway through and you feel that Anghelides is just going through the motions. There are no surprises, you know what happens before it happens and it makes the book seem clichéd, even though Doctor Who hadn't dealt with werewolves previously. The ending isn't as satisfying as it should be and I finished the book feeling slightly let down.
The characters are what really lets Kursaal down though. The story is interesting enough, but the characters just don't cut it. Sam is relied on for the last third of the novel and she just isn't a strong enough character to carry the novel.
Kursaal had big boots to follow, and it fails to deliver when compared directly to it's predecessor. If you look at it from a stand alone point of view then it is a perfectly enjoyable, but utterly forgettable Doctor Who novel.
After reading this book, I felt that this book was divided into two parts. The first part was laying the foundations for the second part of the book. The first part was mainly characterization, while the second was a roller coaster ride. I didn't like the fact that characters I started to like died violently, and the body count was high. The doctor's character came across as OK, but I was expecting more depth. Sam was perfectly portrayed. The second part of the book was very well written, and kept my interest right to the last page. Hence the 4 crown score.
Fairly enjoyable romp that somehow manages to maintain a dark and dangerous mood alongside the usual frivolous antics of this Doctor. Security chief Kadijk almost steals the show and Sam isn't quite as annoying as usual. The Jax are an interesting stab at putting a new slant on the old werewolf legend. I'm still waiting for a truly outstanding Eighth Doctor tale in this range and Kursaal isn't it but it's better than much of the competition to date.
This story had some interesting and original ideas which unfortunately were not put across in an interesting or original way. A werewolf-type tale could have been made really great and the potential is there but the story is just too dull and rambling for too long, and nothing really stands out, not the characters, not the planet, not the action, what little there is. The concept of the Jax being mostly a virus is very interesting but is not explored or explained properly, and neither are it's origins. Otherwise, the story is a little thrilling and entertaining at times, but often dull and tedious also. Still worth a read for something a little different