The Braxiatel Collection. It's a museum, an art gallery, an
academic institute, a home for renowned archaeologists, runaway
art thieves, and galactic waifs and strays. It's been a private
playground and the battlefield in the fight against tyranny.
Now things are changing again. With the Collection's founder
missing, it's up to those left behind to make the place their
own. Amidst the chaos of visitors from the far future, dark
secrets, old friends and new enemies, Bernice must do whatever's
necessary to keep the doors open and her family safe. Yet
through it all, there's one truth she cannot escape. Braxiatel
is gone, and nature abhors a vacuum...
can almost imagine that synopsis reading thus: The Braxiatel
Collection. It's a port of call, a home away from home, for
diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs and wanderers... No,
wait, that's Babylon 5! As it happens, though, recent
developments in the world of Bernice Summerfield seem to have
been almost as thoroughly thought out as those of J. Michael
Straczynski's landmark TV series.
Nick Wallace is named as the editor of this anthology, I suspect
that a great deal of credit is also due to Philip Purser-Hallard.
He has written five linking interludes, entitled "Perspectives",
which focus upon the Quire - a clan of fascinatingly strange
visitors from humanity's distant future, who crop up throughout
this carefully controlled book - and he also co-wrote the
final tale, "Future Relations", with Wallace.
should also go to Range Editor Simon Guerrier for his efforts
to link Bernice's audio and prose adventures in a way that
is not off-putting to casual readers. I would still have appreciated
footnotes to confirm the placement of the audio dramas, but
it is easy enough to perceive that, for example, Wallace's
untitled introduction takes place between The
Crystal of Cantus (at the end of which Braxiatel
buggered off) and The
Tartarus Gate. The recent Summer
of Love CD evidently occurs some time soon
after Kate Orman's short story "Lock". The final two stories,
the aforementioned "Future Relations" and "Mother's Ruin",
by Dale Smith, deal with the consequences of Braxiatel's misguided
contingencies against future catastrophe in both Cantus
Panacea, complete with sneaky allusions to
the Time War.
this book also ties in with the wider realm of Doctor Who.
It looks like I was wrong when I theorised, in my review of
Changed, that the series was divorcing itself
from its Doctor Who roots. It doesn't really matter
if most of these references fly over the reader's head, but
both Dale Smith and Nick Walters, the latter in his story
"False Security", refer to planets they created in BBC Books
Who novels (Heritage
and Yquatine respectively). Watch out also for Smith and Purser-Hallard's
name checks of Freedonia (from the Doctor Who Annual 1975
Zebadee (TV Comic), Delta Magna (The Power of Kroll)
and Skaro (I don't need to explain that one, do I?). Lance
Parkin, being Lance Parkin, alludes to several familiar motifs
of future Who history in his story "Anightintheninthage",
while "False Security" sees the Collection's systems going
all Edge of Destruction, with melting clocks, scissor
attacks and the like.
of the stories focus upon regular and semi-regular characters
other than Bernice. David N. Smith's "The Tears of Laughter",
Sin Deniz's "Outside the Wall", James Swallow's "The Inconstant
Gallery", Simon A. Forward's "Grey's Anatomy" and Ian Mond's
"The Cost for a Collection" all explore and develop the relationship
between Bev Tarrant and Adrian Wall. "Key", by Jonathan Blum,
is a Peter story; Eddie Robson's "The Two-Level Effect" turns
the spotlight on Jason; and "Sleeptalking", by John Fletcher,
features the student Parasiel.
In fact, Professor Summerfield doesn't seem to appear all
that often. Perhaps when the series title was changed from
Professor Bernice Summerfield, such anthologies as
this should have been renamed The Braxiatel Collection
(or something similar), with the title Bernice Summerfield
being applied only to the "young Benny" books.
minor niggle aside, this is a very enjoyable anthology. Some
of the tales function better as part of the whole rather than
as stories in their own right. For example, "Grey's Anatomy"
sets things up for Purser-Hallard's "Perspectives: Forging
a Bond", while "Anightintheninthage" develops the mystery
of the Quire rather than drawing any conclusions.
in general they all read well - though Simon Bucher-Jones's
"The Painting on the Stair" is somewhat incomprehensible at
times. My favourite tales are the amusing "Key", as well as
"False Security", "Mother's Ruin" and "Future Relations",
the latter three of which build upon the mystery surrounding
Collected Works is definitely a collection that works.
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