Well, I encountered the same problem on my laptop just now, but I overcame it. It just sort of worked when I tried running the novel in compatibility mode for Windows XP (Service Pack 3) just for the hell of it and going through the same routine as every other time. There were no repeat disc checks this time after inputting the serial number and letting the novel record the key. The game starts correctly afterwards. Revert the compatibility mode (to Windows 7 in my case) and the game still works.
Still no clue why I am the only one who seems to have had this problem.