Tears of the Oracle
Roots: Greek legends of the Oracle. Benny misquotes Macbeth ("methinks she did protest too much") and mentions the Vulcan nerve pinch (Star Trek). Rick's is a reference to Casablanca.
Goofs: Braxiatel is stated to have left Gallifrey before the Doctor, which contradicts what the Doctor said in The Empire of Glass [The Doctor, not wanting to admit that he was inspired by his brother rather than vice versa, was lying in that story].
Continuity: Bernice is dying, due to progressive deterioration of the brain caused by her Mary-Sue. Denson gives her several weeks to live (see Return to the Fractured Planet). Watkinson is her archaeological role model.
Braxiatel believes that the new treaty and the fate of Gallifrey in Dead Romance are diversions [lending further credence to the theory that the abandoned Gallifrey seen in that story is merely one of the nine Gallifreys referred to in The Ancestor Cell]. He can project a mental barrier to protect himself and Bernice from the influence of the Gods. When he was a youngster on Gallifrey, he never wanted to conform, attracted by the wealth of knowledge out in the Universe - this is the reason that he started his collection, in order to amass things around him so that he can share their wonders with others. Keen to leave Gallifrey, he excelled at the Academy and passed with a handful of firsts. He placed himself in a position where the Time Lords would come to him if they ever needed somebody to become involved in affairs out in the Universe - he made a great show of martyring himself when he did this, so that nobody would suspect what that he wanted to leave. Eventually, he became an unofficial ambassador and eventually persuaded the Time Lords that they needed an unofficial permanent presence out in the universe.
He confirms that the Doctor is his younger brother (see The Empire of Glass). The Doctor used to respect him, but was jealous of his freedom and ability to leave Gallifrey and see the Universe - initially, he tried to follow the route that Braxiatel had taken, but he was too impatient. He also realised that with Braxiatel already out in the universe, the Time Lords would not allow anyone else to go; now resentful of his brother, he deliberately scraped through the Academy with the bare minimum marks on the last permitted attempt, so as not to draw undue attention to himself (Braxiatel describes this as "genius" and notes that the Doctor was deliberately thumbing his nose at the Time Lords academically). He then stole a TARDIS and left (see Lungbarrow).
Braxiatel contacts the Time Lords with the same kind of communicator cube used by the Doctor and the War Chief in The War Games. His operations include a blind company front on Krastis Magna, through which he hires a ship registered to a non-existent mining corporation in the Interstices of Lange. The events of Theatre of War and Happy Endings have still not yet happened to him. Zeb'Lan is unable to create a consistent simulation of him. He wins ownership of KS-159 in a game of cards (an event first mentioned in Theatre of War).
Chris regenerates, following the events of Dead Romance. Radiation can interfere with the process, and he would probably have died, but when Braxiatel asks the Time Lords to send him to Delfus-Orestes, one of their representatives gives the process a push to help him survive. The agent also purges his system of the substances designed to turn him into a living weapon if he regenerates (see Dead Romance). The new Cwej is shorter and stocky, with dark hair.
According to Watkinson, the Oracle of the Lost is one of the [seven hundred] wonders of the ancient universe. The Delfans of Delfus Clytemnestra built the Oracle on the planet Delfus Orestes, to where the Delfans traveled to consult it. The lost planet Delfus Orestes was classified Cappa Nine Seven by the Earth Empire; when the old naming conventions were superseded by new ones c2450, it was renamed KS-159. KS-159 has twelve-hour days, with six hours of dark and six of light. It has a neighbouring planet with rings, which it may orbit. The Oracle is an artificial intelligence that predicts the future based on experience, existing and pre-existing data, and patterns of behaviour and science. She is also telepathic and factors in the current emotions of whoever is asking her a question. The Delfans realised that her prophesies thus become self-fulfilling, since they would believe what she told them and subconsciously turn her predictions from likelihood into certainty.
The psychic parasite that possessed Watkinson on Paracletes is described as being very old. It is not sentient as such, and it leaps from the mind of its host into another when its host dies. It feeds on the belief of its host. When Watkinson died, it became trapped in the mind of the Oracle, where it remained unable to feed until Kebara, into whom it leapt, awoke the Oracle. It then possessed Benny, until she tried to commit suicide - since she believed that she would succeed, the creature assumed that she would die, and leapt into Joseph, i.e. J-Kibb. The creature ends up possessing J-Kibb's physical body, which God sends to Dellah, where the ship crashes, releasing the creature to feed on the Gods and their victims.
Joseph has actually been a remote drone inhabited by the mind of the ship J-Kibb all along - God decided to spy on her when he realised that she would be a key player in the war. Braxiatel has known about this since Joseph was damaged when Mastrov tried to kill Benny (Dragon's Wrath).
The Fountain of the Forever is another legendary artefact, which is described in the (largely-derided) Riedel Manuscript. Another famous relic was the Great Mural of Gelestion, which was designed to be dissolved by the spring tide. Due to the clumsiness of Childer, its discoverer, it was destroyed when he tried to clean it with Placreb's Dilute Saline Procedure.
Despite the new treaty agreed between the People and the Time Lords in 'Dead Romance', God predicts that there is still an eighty-seven percent chance of war. The People are having problems developing time travel, due to unforeseen difficulties that God had not predicted (including the lack of telepathy in the People - see Dead Romance).
The Neo-Aretians were protected from the religious fervour on Dellah by the wave shielding built into their helmets. They observe the ancient Martian ritual of placing a coin under the tongues of their dead, to pay the Journeyman to take them to Kinova, the Martian afterlife. It is also traditional to leave their dead where they fall, a ritual that Braxiatel observes when Garshal dies.
Kebara is a very old shape-shifting mercenary, hired by God to impersonate Jason Kane, and thus infiltrate the expedition to KS-159 and ask the Oracle about time travel mechanics. His race is unnamed. He is rumoured to have taught the Ninjucoids how to mimic raw DNA strands. When the creature infects him, he forgets his true identity and starts to believe that he really is Jason.
Kebara kills Divson Follett, Benny's head of department at St. Oscar's. Following the events of that story, transit camps were established on Thanaxos to deal with the refugees from Dellah, and Follett spent several months there before moving to Kralinal Maxis, where Benny managed to contact him.
Wolsey has been in quarantine since Bernice rescued him from Dellah in The Mary-Sue Extrusion. If the Oracle can be believed, Clarence was !C-Mel, the ship that tried to destroy God in The Also People.
Links: There are references to the new treaty signed in Dead Romance, the illegal time travel experiments of Walking to Babylon, and Bernice's Mary-Sue in The Mary-Sue Extrusion. Chris mentions Body-Beppling (Original Sin). Sara!qava! is mentioned (The Also People). The Vega Station is mentioned (Demontage).
Location: The Worldsphere, Dellah, Storage Facility X One Nine, Vega, Paracletes, and KS-159 (Delfus Orestes), 2596.
Future History: Bernice was the last holder of the Edward Watkinson chair of Archaeology. Watkinson is considered to be the finest archaeologist of his generation and went missing in 2515 - he died on Delfus-Orestes, to which he travelled in search of his friend and colleague Mikelz. He was also possessed by the psychic parasite that infected him on Paracletes and caused him to slaughter the other members of his expedition there. Paracletes was placed under quarantine and permanently sealed of. St Oscar's University Press printed an anthology of Watkinson's essays, entitled Glory Under the Mud, in 2525. After his disappearance, Herve Pottle, Divson Follett's mentor, wrote a biography of Watkisnon entitled Living Archaeology. Other notable archaeological texts of this period include Plackstead's Wonders of the Ancient Universe. In the mid-twenty first century, one Professor Helzinger published a three-volume discussion on the path of the trans-Siberian railway. By 2594, the planet Placedon Minimus is the home of a University. After the [Cyber] war, there was a shortage of reliable electronic memory and storage space, resulting in the use of paper again after centuries.
Unrecorded Adventures: Braxiatel clearly knows the Oracle of the Lost, addressing her as an old friend.
The Bottom Line: A workmanlike enough novel, featuring Richards' usual plethora of twists and revelations, but it rather feels like the usual suspects have been assembled simply to move the Gods arc along, with the plot taking a back seat. The rescue mission to Dellah feels like it's been tacked on at the beginning, and the whole thing feels strangely non-cohesive.