When Bernice Summerfield first met Jason Kane, she failed
to spot his many fine qualities and assets. Over the course
of many subsequent adventures, including marriage and divorce,
she continued not to see them. When Bernice first met 2Jason,
he was disguised as a critic of the work of Jason Kane. She
saw through his false moustache and literary pretensions,
and had him and his other clones expelled into space, there
to make their own fortunes. One Jason Kane was, she felt,
rather more than enough. Now something is astir in the universe,
a plot that threatens all the Jason Kanes and everything they
hold dear. Before long, there might not be any Jasons left
Finish seems to be cultivating a new sub-genre: a book that
expands upon a previously published short story from the same
range. The Doctor Who: Short Trips anthology The
Centenarian used as its springboard the Grainger
family depicted in Joseph Lidster's story "She Won't Be Home"
from a previous short-story collection, The
History of Christmas. Later, the same series'
Signature developed ideas from Simon Guerrier's
"An Overture Too Early", originally published in the anthology
The Muses. In the case of Time Signature, the
short story in question was reprinted at the beginning of
the book for the sake of clarity. Similarly, this book explores
the fate of some of the duplicate Jasons from Philip Purser-Hallard's
brilliantly amusing "Sex Secrets of the Robot Replicants",
originally published in the Bernice Summerfield anthology
Life Worth Living. As with Time Signature,
the short story is reprinted at the front of this novel.
Doctor Who/Bernice Summerfield readers may experience
a sense of déjà vu during approximately half of this book.
This is because alternate chapters flash back to Jason's first
encounter with Benny in the New Adventures novel Death
and Diplomacy. The author has substantially re-edited
these passages since their initial publication, changing the
tense to first-person singular, removing all overt references
to the Doctor, and generally polishing the text, though the
dialogue remains virtually intact. This repackaging of old
material does serve a vital purpose, though. Death and
Diplomacy was released in 1996 and has been out of print
for almost as long, so it's not exactly accessible to any
newcomers who might be wondering what Benny ever saw in this
Jason bloke in the first place. Thus The Two Jasons
is a timely reminder and/or a useful primer.
You may have noticed that Jason looks a bit different on the
front of Death and Diplomacy than he does on more recent
Bernice Summerfield covers. This is because Adrian
Salmon's illustrations for Big Finish reflect the likeness
of actor Stephen Fewell, who has dark, curly hair, whereas
Virgin Books' New Adventures tended to visualise the
character with straight, blond hair. Dave Stone obliquely
refers to this phenomenon, suggesting that it might be an
illusion caused by Jason's own self-image, the result of some
forgotten surgery or even an effect of his replicants' memories
having been tampered with. One of the duplicates ponders that:
"It's like a new picture has been stripped in over the old
one, or like a different actor is playing the part of me and
no one's talking about it." Quite!
While I'm quoting, allow me to present the final two sentences
of this novel's blurb, as they appear on the back cover: Now
somthing [sic] is astir in the universe, a plot that
threatens Benny and all she holds dear. If she stands any
chance at all, she needs all the Jason Kanes she can get...
I've rewritten that bit for the synopsis that appears on the
top of this review - and not just to correct the spelling.
The blurb as is implies that Bernice meets the multiple Jasons
again, which is misleading. In fact, Benny does not appear
in the "present" segments of The Two Jasons, only in
the flashbacks and (kind of) in a flash-forward to several
years in the future.
This flash-forward forms the epilogue to the novel, which
appears to be setting something up to be continued. (Without
wishing to give too much away, it also provides a handy get-out
clause in case any other depictions of "future Benny" - such
as Paul Cornell's "The Shape of the Hole", from the anthology
Life of Surprises - end up being invalidated
by subsequent stories.)
seems uncertain how to end his book. After the epilogue comes
an Author's Note, and then a Two Ronnies-style sketch.
No, really! And you thought the title was a spin on The
Two Doctors, didn't you?
Prior to that point, however, this is one of Stone's most
readable works to date. In his Author's Note, he admits that
his earlier prose "tended to confuse the complex with the
complicated, the erudite with the overblown" but that he has
improved in recent years. I am inclined to agree. I wouldn't
usually describe this author's blend of verbose word play,
footnotes and Douglas Adams-esque humour* as a page-turning
experience, but that's exactly how I would describe this book.
The One Richard McGinlay
now I'm recycling my old material, just like Dave Stone. It
must be catching. I previously used many of those words in
my review of Parallel
Lives. Oh, and I used a footnote there, too.
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