(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide on June 19, 2001.)
In a word: Errrrrr...
In several words, Topping tries to pull off a serious stunt, here, taking the "aliens in the boardroom" plot, which is almost more of a sub-genre than a cliche of Doctor Who by now, and strip it down to its bare minimum, counting on sheer style to keep us from noticing how little plot there is. It almost succeeds, too...clears the canyon, but perhaps skins its knees and scuffs its jacket here and there.
The book can more or less be divided into "things that worked" and "things that didn't." Things That Worked: Turlough's escape from his torturers; Paynter and Barrington's "squaddie eye view" of UNIT; the characterization of the Brigadier; characters' general reactions to odd, small moments, like Johnny Chess's guest appearance, or the UFO; the discussion at the end of what humanity will be remembered for; and, in general, the style of the book.
Things That Didn't: Turlough's torture (why do writers in the books always feel the need to torture the Doctor and his companions?); the plot, which is almost non-existent and has a deus ex machina ending that comes right out of Topping's arse; the cliched "first they fight, then they kiss" scenes between Paynter and Tegan; the American dialogue en masse; the six or seven mentions of the Waro when they're not in the sodding book; Control, who I just don't get... is this some in-joke Topping has going with someone?... and the first two pages of dialogue, which are so purple as to choke one.
On the whole, the book is very good unless you start to think about what's actually happening in it; then you rapidly realize that the plot can be summarized in about two sentences. :)
Next up, The Quantum Archangel, which I'm about five pages into and already dreading... haven't really enjoyed Hinton's first three books, and this looks to be no exception.