25 November 2013

Review: Collected Works edited by Nick Wallace

Hardcover, 283 pages
Published 2006

Acquired January 2013
Read November 2013

Bernice Summerfield VIII: Collected Works
edited by Nick Wallace

I've said it before (I think), but in any case, I'll say it again: the best Bernice Summerfield stories are the short-story anthologies. They're works of art, they are, taking shorts by various writers about various characters and managing to blend them into a coherent whole. Collected Works spans the events of the audio dramas in Bernice Summerfield's seventh season, picking up after the events of Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Crystal of Cantus, and ending around the time of The Oracle of Delphi. (See the timeline for more details.)

This book does everything I like about the Bernice anthologies, giving a strong, character-based focused to Benny and the other residents of the Braxiatel Collection, the fallout from The Crystal of Cantus proving a strong hook to hang a lot of stories from. I especially liked the renewed focus on Bev Tarrant (who has really benefited as a character in general from the prose anthologies) and, surprisingly, Parasiel. (Bev especially does well in "The Cost for a Collection" by Ian Mond.) As a result, it's hard to single out any particular favorites; it'd be like claiming chapter 4 was the standout bit of a novel.

That said, there are some strong ones: Wallace's frame story and "Work in Progress" provide a great start, the latter especially haunting in light of what I know is to come in the series' future. Simon A. Forward's "Grey's Anatomy" brings back Mordecan from Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Bone of Contention and  Doctor Who: The Sandman, who I like, and it was an enjoyable story in its own right. Eddie Robson's "The Two-Level Effect" is a fun look at Jason Kane with a cheeky Doctor Who nod, and Hass (the gaseous life-form turned gardener) gets a good turn in "Let There Be Stars" by Mark Michalowski. Dale Smith ties up many of the book's (and, in general, the seventh season's) threads with the chilling "Mother's Ruin." And, of course, I liked Philip Purser-Hallard's recurrent "Perspectives," about a strange group of futuristic historians visiting the collection, a whole lot. No one does this thing quite like Purser-Hallard can-- I like it when my aliens are genuinely alien, and these ones technically aren't even aliens!

Picking out favorites feels like cheating, though. This is another Bernice Summerfield collection with scarcely a weak link, and I continue to love the way the series weaves between media-- each format lends strengths to the others, and Collected Works plugs right into the heart of the seventh season.

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