Do you like death? Violent, gory death of the kind that causes even a hardened horror film fan to twinge slightly at the graphically explicit descriptions of cadavers and the method by which they might have arrived in that state? If so, you'll love Longest Day.
If not, well, read it anyway, because it's a pretty good book. The TARDIS lands on a nearly deserted space station just in time for Sam to see an alcoholic bundle an unfortunate into a teleporter, which takes her down to the surface of Hirath.
Hirath is a patchwork of different zones, environments which are rapidly decaying due to freak time effects. When the Doctor gets down there, it's interesting to see the way the time effects affects his companions / other people and yet he remains mostly unaffected.
This is surely the story in which Sam finally grows up. Isolated from the Doctor for the bulk of the story, she has to endure some serious trials, which not only put her through mental and physical anguish, but also force her to confront and deal with some of the beliefs the Doctor has instilled in her. (A sequence where two allies purposefully throw an injured enemy soldier to the mercy of the 'invading' aliens is of particular note.)
As for the aliens (Kusks) themselves, they're physically intriguing, exuding a strange goop here and there due to some aspect of their evolution on a planet poisoned by the leftovers of a war between two other races. As such, they are few, fearing extinction. Regrettably, they're a bit one dimensional and follow this formula:
Oppressed survivors of alien race + powerful technology = conquer to 'preserve ourselves.'
The motivations of the individual Kusks are not especially clear, although there does appear to be some sort of power struggle going on between the leader and the technician. Despite this, it never really comes to a head. Their problem with each other sort of fizzles out when the s**t hits the fan (exploding planet, galaxy wide destruction, dealing with the Doctor etc.)
One other item of note is that the Time Trees from Genocide make a reappearance, growing on the surface of Hirath in their hundreds. (So now we know where the Tractites got one from.)
It's a shame that it wasn't possible to have this as a TV story, as some of the time effects would have been rather snazzy if that were the case. However, in book form, it's perhaps not as effective as a visual medium could have made it.
Did I mention the gore?
Review by Tom Hey