A Life Worth Living

A Life Worth Living is the fourth Bernice Summerfield short story anthology published by Big Finish Productions.

The Braxiatel Collection

The Braxiatel Collection
Author(s): Simon Guerrier
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: Following the Axis occupation, the Braxiatel Collection has changed its policy and opened its doors to academics and students. Hass, the new gardener, is an Ice Warrior.

Peter is now three years old.

Wolsey is getting old, and is now lame in his back leg.

Bev has scars from her torture at the hands of the Fifth Axis.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: The customary brief introduction, establishing the new status quo.

Misplaced Spring

Misplaced Spring
Author(s): Paul Cornell
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Dialogue Triumphs: "Students. I'm just starting to recall this about them: that they're often better in the concept than in the execution."

Continuity: There are doves and swallows on the Collection. As a result of the new policy, the Collection now boasts the University of Braxiatel. Braxiatel has created non-existent traditions for the university, including walking a duck around the Small Trianon once every ten years.

Braxiatel has a scar on his wrist due to the Fifth Axis' treatment of him. He asks Bernice to stay on the Collection for a year in an academic capacity; she initially refuses and asks to be released from her contract, but he refuses and talks her out of it. She gets a new academic office, which she fills with an assortment of her things, burying everything except two chairs and a kettle.

Jason has an ill-defined job as a consultant for Braxiatel, which he suspects will actually involve the theft of archaeological relics.

Killorans teach their young to build a climb of Pile of building materials, in Peter's case, stone. Peter builds a Pile but isn't up to climbing it yet.

Bev has been growing her hair and fingernails since the Occupation in order to hide her scars.

Florth is the owner of Café Vosta. Braxiatel fires him for writing abusive graffiti on Ms. Jones' door.

Meredith and Parasiel are new arrivals, students from the colony world Sothar. They are assigned to Benny's tutor group. Parasiel writes a paper on the Alpha Centaurian digs on Proxima.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, April 2604 AD.

Future History: Many colonial kids wear long black coats, waistcoats, threadbare multicoloured scarves and question marks on their lapels [oh, very funny!].

The Bottom Line: An enjoyably written start, Cornell exploiting his knack for writing about human emotions whilst reigning in his occasional excessive tendencies.

Welcome to the Machine

Welcome to the Machine
Author(s): Sin Dinez
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: Jess Carter has been on the Collection for three weeks; she is a psychiatrist. She has trouble relating to other people and considers herself an outsider and misfit. She is the author of Assumed Consciousness in Dialogue Exchange.

Thomas has been one of Benny's students for six weeks; he tries to force himself on Jess and is expelled from the Collection.

Raymond is the library's maintenance technician. Igo has been on the Collection for a month and is studying gestalt identities. Professor Blanc is working on a paper about Earth Reptile religion. Adreas lives in Jess's block and has an exoskeleton.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, [post-April] 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: Only featuring regular characters briefly (primarily Benny), Welcome to the Machine is a touching study in loneliness and shyness, with an utterly sympathetic character in the shape of Jess.

Final Draft

Final Draft
Author(s): Cameron Mason
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: The Braxiatel Collection holds its First Annual Braxiatel Collection Archaeology Conference; Braxiatel gives the welcoming address, Benny gives the keynote address on Martian Funeral Rites, and Professor A. S. Blanc gives a talk on Early Religious Iconography of Earth Reptiles (see Welcome to the Machine).

Thus far, Benny is the only person whom Hass has befriended on the Collection. He translates for Bernice a copy of a journal reporting Omvakh's 2598 survey of Rablev's Monument on Mars, which is written in Vellophoi, and which supports the hypothesis that the Monument is also his tomb, having been rebuilt after the war. This renders Benny's paper utterly inaccurate.

Jason keeps his thieving skills honed by practicing at home.

Martian funeral rites are very similar to Ancient Egyptian funeral rites, since both are based on Osirian culture (Pyramids of Mars, Godengine).

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: A surprisingly effective attempt to create drama out of an academic conference!

Against Gardens

Against Gardens
Author(s): Eddie Robson
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: The War of the Worlds (the Martian red willow).

Continuity: Hass was working at Aklaar's Park on Phobos when Braxiatel recruited him; he offered Hass a ninety-two percent pay-rise. He has been on the Collection for one year. He has set out to extensively redesign Crofton's gardens, considering them to be far too "pretty". He has a degree and a doctorate in botany, a career path, which estranged him from his disapproving parents for well over ten years. This changed when his fungal lattice garden won a major landscaping prize two or three years ago; he was the first Martian to win the prize and the first non-human in some time. Hass knew as soon as he arrived on the Collection and saw the horizon that he would not like the place, since the horizon gives him a vertigo-like sensation. He dislikes Wolsey, who seems to share the sentiment; Wolsey used to sleep in the warmth of the greenhouse, which Hass turns into an environment for his cold-climate plants, including his prized red willow. He appreciates the "portrait" that Peter drew of him (actually the green scribbles that Peter made on his translation of Omvakh's paper in Final Draft!). Hass considers Jason to be immature. He cries when his red willow dies. He gradually comes to realize that he really does want the job on the Collection.

A Damon's Tender is a plant that can accelerate or inhibit the growth of nearby plants, depending on its environment. Nobody has ever been able to find a logical pattern to its behaviour. It appears to mimic the late Mr. Crofton and believe that it is him, putting the garden back to how Crofton made it; Hass reluctantly kills it to restore order to his grounds.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: "I'm sorry. But I am the gardener here." A touching proper introduction to Hass, laying Crofton's ghost to rest in the process.

A Summer Affair

A Summer Affair
Author(s): Joseph Lidster
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: Ms. Jones choose Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to be played in public areas. Ronan whistles Dvorak's Allegretto from Symphony No. 8.

Continuity: The August Ball is held to celebrate the first post-Occupation birth on the Collection. A Sunari Ambassador and his entourage visit the Collection.

Bernice drinks wine with Ms. Jones.

Ms. Jones doesn't usually approve of sleeping during the day. Bernice persuades Ms. Jones to start writing a diary, to write down how she feels in an attempt to deal with the difficulties she has recently faced. She also persuades Ms. Jones to attend the August Ball. Ms. Jones starts a relationship with Ronan McGinley, who claims to be a Professor of Twenty-First Century Literature who was working at the Institute of Human History on Frastus Minima before he arrived on the Collection. Braxiatel insists on this, knowing that Ms. Jones will find out what happened to Frastus Minima and believe that Ronan is a mass murderer, since he wants Ronan to help her get over Moskof and move on, but does not want her distracted by him.

Braxiatel made a deal with Ronan McGinley at some point in the past, offering him a way out of his tedious corporate life; the price isn't specified here, but is it clearly a high one, as Ronan screams in terror when Braxiatel collects at the end of the story...

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: A decent outing for Ms. Jones, allowing her to put Moskof behind her and move on. It also, in retrospect, sets up future developments in the range, with the introduction of Ronan McGinley...

Denial

Denial
Author(s): Ian Mond
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: Holocaust denial, specifically the case of David Irving.

Continuity: The Rentali are humanoid with more digits than humans, and with skins that change hue between green and purple.

The Thazkans are eight-feet tall humanoids, with pale white skin, piercing blue eyes and silver hair. They have multi-coloured gossamer wings. Their physical beauty has a profound effect on other species; when they first arrived on the Rentali home world, the Rentali thought they were gods, even when they began slaughtering them. This invasion took place c. 1604 AD; the Thazkans were driven away by a coalition of other races who knew what the Thazkans represented and banded together to defeat them because they knew that the Thazkans would come for them next.

Benny met Professor Suze Mathers over a year earlier during a conference on Early Miocene Development, and likes her. They've been out drinking together. Suze gives Benny and Jason a bottle of wine, and a pair of blue bootees for Peter; Benny refuses them when Suze refuses to cancel Stamis' talk.

Braxiatel wears a pinstriped suit, a silk brown tie, and gold cufflinks in the shape of a double helix. The Braxiatel Collection contains the only known copy of the paper that Stamis wrote c.2543 AD; when Benny hears his story, she destroys it.

Stamis denies all connections to the hate group Thazkan First. In fact, he pretends to deny the Holocaust because he know it would stir up enough outrage and controversy to force the Thazkan Government to reconsider their plans to expand their territories once more; in doing so, he ruined his marriage and his children denounced him.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, 2604 AD.

Future History: Stamis wrote a tablet questioning the ethics of the Rentali Holocaust c. 2543 AD. Stamis' book is published in 2603AD. Three months after its publication, he does a speaking tour of the Seta Cluster.

The Bottom Line: "Perhaps he does pervert history, but he has a right to speak his mind." A brave and impressive exploration of a topical subject, although Stamis' noble justification for his actions does rather suggest that Mond is trying to have his cake and eat it.

Sex Secrets of the Robot Replicants

Sex Secrets of the Robot Replicants
Author(s): Philip Purser-Hallard
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? (the ProxyMationsTM). There is a reference to Freud.

Continuity: One of the first things that attracted Benny to Jason was how different he is from the Doctor.

Jason has started writing xenopornography again. His novels include Tongues of the Mollusc-Women, Different Flesh, Sins of the Pseudopod, and World of the Vixenoids. Dr Jonas Neak is the author of Towards a Pornographics of First Contact: Probing and Delving the Fiction of Jason Kane. Other major scholars in the burgeoning field of Jason Kane Studies include Dr Jan Keason, Prof Anne Sojak, Dr Ken J. Aason, and Prof Arsenio W. Cockshaft. They are all in fact Jason in disguise (all of their names except for Cockshaft's are anagrams of Jason Kane), except for Sojak, who resembles Benny with larger breasts. Jason started analysing his own work under academic pseudonyms as a joke after a visiting Professor of Comparative Literature belittled his work; he borrowed several books of literary criticism with a focus on erotic from the Collection's library and spent a week's holiday on a nearby beach planet reading them. His first paper was written under the alias Jonas Neak and was entitled "So Long, Sucker!" 'The Rhetoric of Loss and Longing in Jason Kane's Nights of the Perfumed Tentacle'. He managed to get it published in Prevarications journal. When this boosted the sales of his books, he started writing more under various other pseudonyms. He wrote Raising Kane: the Primal Scene Re-Membered under the alias of Aason. The supposed acrimonious controversy between Neak and Cockshaft over his politics of sado-masochism later boosted sales of Slave-Sluts of the Slime People. He is also making money from anthologies of his papers. The Collection hosts the conference "Textu-Al[ien] [Ent]ities" about Jason's work, with Neak and Cockshaft attending as well as Jason; since they are both Jason in disguise, he uses ProxyMationsTM to allow all three to attend. The three Jason ProxyMationsTM rebel against Jason's control and strike out on their own, offering their services to Palp Fiction; as part of their contract, they get downloaded into permanent organic bodies.

The Collection's new Assistant Librarian resembles an iridescent five-foot dragonfly. Dr Armbruister, the Senior Librarian, has a reputation for treating defaulting borrowers with severity; even Braxiatel makes sure he returns his books on time. Dr. R. J. Plempth works in the Interspecies Literature Dept.

Bernice is researching intellectual-property dowries among Anteirope's Enth Era civilization; information on the topic is sparse, since the modern Anteiropics tend to be tight-fisted with their information.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, October 2604 AD.

Future History: Braxiatel has allowed the ProxyMation Corporation to open up an outlet on the Collection; the ProxyMationsTM are cheaper than manlikes (see The Big Hunt). Psychotechs at a ProxyParlour can deep-scan a client's brain and imprint all his or her memories into a cybernetic simulacrum. After a month, the ProxyMationTM gets its memories removed for the client to download and its body is recycled. Velvet Mandible is Neak and Cockshaft's publisher. Palp Fiction is their biggest rival.

The Bottom Line: "You all remember the decision to have the copies made... if Jason's to blame for your existence, well then, so are all of you." Extremely witty and well-written, Sex Secrets of the Robot Replicants is one of the highlights of the anthology, Purser-Hallard's fondness for Philip K. Dick evident throughout without the story ever feeling deriviative.

The Blame of the Nose

The Blame of the Nose
Author(s): Ben Woodhams
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: Scanners (Gemeno's death). There is a reference to Von Däniken.

Dialogue Triumphs: "This doctor, killed by a bioengineered topo-fractal polytoxin created by a race of omnipotent superbeings who may, or may not, exist, planted on an ancient manuscript that I found by accident... This is normal, isn't it? It doesn't get much more normal than this."

Continuity: Benny's students found a buried library during a field trip on Nachos 7; she took the credit for the find, which was reported in Archaeology Tomorrow and brought the texts back to the Collection. The Harrassi are believed to be a legend, as is their most famous text, the Epic of Othere. This may or may not be one of the texts that Benny brought back to the Collection. The book is laced with a bioengineered topo-fractal polytoxin, a different element of which is embedded on each page; it collects in the skull behind the nose cartridge page-by-page, killing the reader as he or she gets to the end. Benny obtains a portable localized psi-dampening field generator to deal with the telekinetic Professor Gemeno.

Jason weighs ninety-seven pounds.

The Braxiatel Collection has an Ancient Manuscripts Research and Restoration Centre. There are currently four thousand, six hundred and thirty-seven sentient organics living on, working for, or visiting the Collection. There is a Naismith Memorial Spaceport on the Collection (see 'Life During Wartime: The Fall). The Agamemnon is a bar near to the library. The library contains a complete set of 1898-1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The University of Divine Secular Balance is on H'squavarna. Other planets mentioned here include Blessidore Prime.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, late 2604 AD.

Future History: Aljermain Hok is a noted illusionist and escape artist of the Mars colonies born 2487 and died 2562.

The Bottom Line: Well-written and intriguing murder-mystery, although the lack of detail about the legend of Harrassi is slightly irritating.

Reparation

Reparation
Author(s): Gregg Smith
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: Viveka is the four planet of the Eta Cassiopeia system. Brackton is the capital of Viveka. Benny persuades Braxiatel to return artefacts stolen by the Fifth Axis to the Vivekans. The indigenous species on Viveka are the Erins or Erinaceans, humanoids just under five feet tall with tanned skin, large ears, small black eyes, and a snout. They were violently oppressed by the early human colonists and still feel as though they have second-class citizen status on their own planet. They called their planet Tsanit before the humans invaded. Before the humans came, the Erins were split into warring, industrialized nations. When two thousand human soldiers landed, they picked a nation to do business with and established a safe zone; five years later, the human colonists arrived and exterminated whole Erinacean cities and enslaving the entire species; the Erins didn't regain their freedom until ninety years later in 2214, by which time they were a minority on their own world.

Benny has been writing the as yet unpublished Practical Archaeology.

Killorans who work on the Collection include Perry Cleese, Joe Novak, and Megan Carter. Adrian is apparently unaware that Braxiatel can time travel. The Killoran home world was never oppressed by humans, but traders and explorers have gradually disseminated Earth culture with no regards for Killoran traditions and customs.

Jason is arrested for collaborating with the Axis; Braxiatel speaks to General Krasilov, Earth's envoy in Tega and explains what actually happened (see Life During Wartime: Suffer the Children) and secures his release.

Braxiatel has held a party in the Mansionhouse every two weeks since the Occupation ended, usually celebrating the handiest festival; recent festivals include Hallowe'en, the latest celebrates Levi-Strauss Day, and the next will celebrate Tava'ak, the Martian festival of storms. He visited Viveka for the last Periastron festival circa 2369.

Location: Brackton on Viveka, and the Braxiatel Collection, October 2604 AD.

Future History: The Earth explorer ship St Paul landed on Tsanit on the 30th April 2119 AD. The planet, named Viveka by the humans, was colonized by humans brought to the planet on the colony ship Ocean of Existence in the year 2124. The first case of a human killing an Erinacean took place in 2121 AD. Eta Cassiopeia, or Achird, the system containing Viveka, was the first human outpost in its sector. The Fifth Axis considered the pilots of the St Paul, Commander David Pretty and Lieutenant Kara Vinda to be heroes.

The Bottom Line: An intelligent and pointed examination of colonialism and more specifically colonial guilt.

Nothing Up My Sleeve

Nothing Up My Sleeve
Author(s): Richard Salter
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: The story is an obvious satire on the Magic Circle.

Continuity: Braxiatel's friend Marlow supposedly died and left all of his magic paraphernalia to the Collection, including the book Card Manipulation and Misdirection. He actually faked his own death, and fakes the murder of his assistant Brenda, in an attempt to free them both from the Brotherhood of Magicians. The Brotherhood of Magicians fiercely protect their secrets, making anyone who betrays them, or who learns their secrets but who isn't a member, disappear in a very literal sense. Their code insists that anyone who wants to audition to join has to be allowed to do so; anyone who fails the audition also disappears.

Benny apparently owns a pair of fishnet stockings. Marlow's tall blue cabinet briefly reminds Benny of the TARDIS. She auditions for a place in the Brotherhood of Magicians and Stewart offers a place after she makes Marlow and Brenda appear on stage in the magic cabinet. She dons a top hat, cape and frilly white shirt for her audition.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, late 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: Briefly amusing, although the central joke soon wears a bit thin, and the Brotherhood's menace is just silly.

Buried Alive

Buried Alive
Author(s): Kate Orman
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There are references to the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Goofs: Lacaillan is spelt Lacaillian.

Continuity: The aliens are insects and have a slave system. An Emperor rules them and has a royal court; a thousand years have passed since the first "Bug-Emperor" united the continent. They consider the first emperor to be a "God-Emperor", on whom every subsequent Emperor has been based. This first Emperor placed its mind into a crystal and left it buried; the feeble and passive creatures that its descendants have become disgust it. It makes telepathic contact with Bernice. It causes the crystal to explode, destroying the city and the royal court above it. The current Emperor is designated Bug XXXLVII. There is a rumour that the early aliens ate their slaves, but some members of the royal court believe this to be a myth. The insects use sonic weapons.

Benny takes a blanket, a bottle of melon wine, and copies of the Proceedings of the Ikkaban Society 23(2) and Watkinson's Puja to Terra Roxa to the planet with her. She uses a translator to communicate with the aliens.

Location: An unnamed planet, late 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: Rather too brief and vague to be really gripping, although as usual Orman's prose shines.

There Never Need Be Longing in Your Eyes

There Never Need Be Longing In Your Eyes
Author(s): Ian Farrington
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: Little Ones is a nursery set up on the Collection by Elizabeth Monroe. Her husband Bradley is supposedly a researcher spending a year on the Collection. In fact, both of them are from an alternate dimension and are investigating children on the Collection; they attempt to copy Peter's brainwaves for research purposes. Willand Hayer is one of Braxiatel's engineers responsible for the Collection's online computer system.

Jason changes a bulb in Benny's rooms and in doing so blows the electricity supply for the entire building.

Peter's fourth birthday took place a month ago; shortly afterwards, Benny made her visit to the insect society (Buried Alive) and had to attend inquests and have her head checked for bugs on her return. She is scheduled to catalogue, archive and assess an incoming cargo from Oultram XII. The Covenant of Oultram is a millennia-old legal document recently unearthed during a dig on Oultram XII.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, late 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: Weird. There Need Never Be Longing In Your Eyes smacks of filler, but is peppered with some genuinely amusing moments.

Mentioning the War

Mentioning the War
Author(s): Nick Walters
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There is a reference to H. R. Giger. The title is probably an allusion to Fawlty Towers

Continuity: It is nearly two years since the Occupation ended. Braxiatel hosts a conference about conflict and warfare in general, with the support of Professor Yackle. Ovmakh is looking for Fifth Axis artefacts left buried on the Collection and finds a Dalek Field Robotisation Unit (The Dalek Invasion of Earth) and a Dalek transmitter that self-destructs once uncovered.

The Vellophoi are feline humanoids. Their home planet Vellophon was annexed by the Fifth Axis and most of the population imprisoned or enslaved. They have velvety fur and small black claws. They are born into full consciousness and self-awareness and only live for fifteen or twenty years. Professor Ovmakh is a leading expert in martial archaeology. She is widely published and has seen action on Mardus and Farlorne. She accuses Bernice of being a "joyrider", her paper on Martian funeral rites based largely on Omvakh's own (Final Draft). They develop a mutual respect whilst buried by the explosion.

Benny drinks coffee and eats a fried egg sandwich. She knows a xenologist called Hamilton Smith. She suffers a minor heart attack caused by the pressure on her ribs when she and Omvakh are buried alive.

As part of growing up, young Killorans suffer a period of flu-like symptoms for two weeks, including delirium, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Peter us currently going through this phase.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, late 2604 AD.

The Bottom Line: Rather impressive, with some interesting characterization. The Vellophoi are typical of Walters' knack for creating well-thought out alien species.

Fragments

Fragments
Author(s): Stewart Sheargold
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: The Braxiatel Collection contains a book that Benny will at some point write. It concerns a love triangle, and characters called Berny Winterson, Beatrice, Betty, Justin, Jonathan, and Allan (depending on the draft) loosely based on Benny, Jason and Adrian. Sterling is presumably based on Irving Braxiatel. Braxiatel leaves it for her to see in the present, so that she will decide to write it.

Ominously, the fragments of Benny's novel hint at a dead child (either Peter or a future daughter) and her murder of Braxiatel.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection, late 2604 AD.

Future History: KS-159 is a ruin by 3610D.

The Bottom Line: "I'm not manipulating you, Benny. You're my best friend." An intriguing ending to the anthology, paving the way for the darker days to come and with the first real hint at just how manipulative Braxiatel really is.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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