Return to the Fractured Planet
Roots: Blade Runner (The APEs are reminiscent of the Simulants). According to the narrator, back-stories given to APEs include being a feisty-young kid picked up and taken through time and space by an eccentric time-traveling alien, which sounds suspiciously familiar... There is an extract from Sylvie and Bruno Part 2, by Lewis Carroll. Ozzy Osbourne is presumably the fat, pig ugly old git from Birmingham with a predilection for Spandex mentioned by the narrator. The narrator owns a Rickenbacker guitar and furniture from Ikea. There are references to Xena ("with tits of death and this incredibly horny sidekick"), Pinochet, John Lydon, Jules Verne, Metropolis, John Cage, Papillon, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Count of Monte Cristo, Torquemada and Mephistopheles. The narrator can quote the complete works of Wilde and Shakespeare, and also the full text of Finnegans Wake.
Goofs: The narrator feels uncomfortable around Benny, since he is attracted to her and is concerned that their close association might result in him seeing her in her underwear; earlier in the novel however, he sees her completely naked without seeming particularly interested.
Continuity: Bernice has a descendant named Elanore Vita Hydrant Summerfield-Kane. Braxiatel equips her with a military-level Suit of Lights, an outfit designed to deflect various wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum around the wearer, rendering them partially invisible. She is still suffering from the progressive brain disorder diagnosed in Tears of the Oracle, which is explained in greater detail; when she had her Mary-Sue, the medic who installed it didn't prime the wiping protocols properly to eradicate themselves after they removed the Mary-Sue personality. The protocols remained in her brain, and were reactivated when the psychic parasite from Delfus Orestes possessed her - they are thus slowly destroying her mind. After they expend themselves in destroying the Sleed entity, she is left with big gaps in her memory and is left to decide whether to fill in the gaps by reading her old diaries.
Bizarrely, Braxiatel writes with tea on vellum. He has difficulty picking up on certain minutiae of human behavioural language, causing him to misread people's behaviour [he probably doesn't recognise human body language]. He provides the narrator with a jade-coloured cube that acts as a communicator and is more advanced than anything available in the Proximan Chain.
Cwej uses the alias of SecServ Investigator Roland Forrester (clearly based on Roz's name).
Artificial Personality Embodiments, or APEs, are artificial humanoids created for a variety of tasks, from suicide missions, to military intelligence. A company located in the Catan Nebula builds most of them. Low-end range disposable APEs usually exhibit nothing but psychoses or religious fundamentalism, and are often used for suicide missions; high-end range APEs are created with approximately thirty- to thirty-five years of artificially created memories, forming a consistent background, and are used as the intelligence agents. Mid-range APEs are used as soldiers or slaves, an also have artificially created backgrounds, but these are usually inconsistent and full of holes; the APEs eventually realise this, realise that they are artificial, and become self-aware, a process described as "break-out". Once this occurs, the APE is legally recognised as a Sentient Being.
The narrator's APE body was built in the Catan Nebula, but he is unique in that he has a full personality; five hundred years ago, he was captured and interrogated and subjected to Think-Tanking, an interrogational technique in which the subject's mind is copied into a clock of "biographic gel", preserving the personality, but destroying the subject's brain. The narrator's personality matrix was one of a cache uncovered a century earlier, which provided the basis for APE technology. The narrator thus has a full set of memories (see The Mary-Sue Extrusion). The narrator's personality engrams were grafted into an APE during now-abandoned research into longevity. It is [very subtly] hinted that he was originally female, before being reduced to a personality imprint. His memories were supplemented with combat knowledge and various general knowledge pre-programmed into his APE body - this includes a combat-mode, in which he reacts automatically to a threat, without needing to think about it. Because he has an APE body, he comes with a manual, which he has hidden but not destroyed. He can physically go without sleep for a month, but for psychological reasons tends to sleep more often than that, and can re-grow fingernails in a week or two. His hair only grows a few millimetres in length.
The Oblivion Angels fitted the narrator and their other APE operatives with a mental construct that allows them to instigate total and complete identity collapse as a form of "suicide pill" option for use in emergencies; the narrator had his removed. APE brains contain six copies of the synaptic net, which the ego shunts between, thus allowing parts of the brain to be freed up to allow for cells to regenerate. He has an eighty-five millimetre polyceramic tube built into his forearm, flush against the bone, which contains various items for emergencies, including a pipette of surgical adhesive, a needle-light, a small lasercutter, microfrag and neurasthenic concussion caps, and a spool of monomolecular wire. Since the Oblivion Angels activated him, the narrator has killed one hundred and fifty-seven sentient beings.
Following the removal of his ruined arm, the narrator grows a new one; this is not a standard APE feature, and is presumed to either be a result of infection with mutagens when the barely human creature attacks him, or a result of the fact that he has been lied to about his origins and is in fact neither human or APE - this question is left hanging.
One of the more minor Gods of Dellah found a device there capable of bending time and space [built by the Time Lords], and tampered with it; the accident destroyed the God's corporeal form and hurled it into the Vortex, from which it then emerged on Sharabeth with sufficient force to cast the planet into a state of fractured time. It possessed the heavily-cybernetically augmented body of Absolom Sleed, head of the Sleed Corporation, and began slaughtering the population of Sharabeth by ordering the large-scale manufacture of lethal household appliances, simply because it could. Since the Gods feed on belief, it began to feed on the belief that there must be some archetypal villain responsible; it thus became a stereotypical villain, killing people through increasingly elaborate and inefficient means. Eventually, it transformed the surviving population of Sharabeth into "basically human monsters" through engenics, a process that involved mutagens, nanites, and the entity's own powers; the process destroyed their minds.
Realising that Sleed's body was not immortal, it had its minions create an artificial brain for it, and after the narrator destroyed Sleed's body, the Oblivion Angels accidentally took its brain from Sharabeth. The entity eventual reached the Proximan Chain, and began seeking revenge against Benny, due to her interference on Dellah (Where Angels Fear) and the narrator, for destroying its empire on Sharabeth. It builds a massive mutagen bomb intended to mutate the entire population of the Proximan Chain, but because it has filled the role of a stereotypical villain, it subconsciously expects to be defeated and designs the bomb's controls with cross-linked trigger mechanisms so that it won't actually work. It is capable of possessing humans and APEs and remotely controlling them. It is eventually destroyed when its attempt to possess Benny triggers the dormant Mary-Sue protocols; since they are programmed to erase the dominant personality in the host brain, they wipe the mind of the entity and Benny destroys its brain.
Sharabeth was a heavily industrialised planet, described as the incorporate nexus point for its sector of the galaxy. Its major city was called Wiglixix. The accident that deposited the entity there resulted in it being cast into a state of fractured time, the temporal stresses having utterly disrupted it. Human minds are unable to deal with the temporal stresses, which drive them mad; APE minds are able to withstand them.
The Oblivion Angels were an organisation of mercenaries set up by an incorporate consortium to protect their interests; they broke away from the consortium's control and became an independent organisation of trouble-shooters with their own code of honour. They owned a mile-long, heavily armed spaceship. They consist of human and APE ex-soldiers. The narrator was purchased and activated by them, eventually becoming a member. He apparently uncovered the true nature of the Oblivion Angels and was instrumental in the sequence of events that tore them apart; further details are not revealed, but these events apparently reverberated throughout half the galaxy.
ARVID (ARtificial Viral-based Intelligence Destabilisation) is a method for producing short-lived, erratic artificial intelligences at low-cost.
Galactic Basic is an evolved version of English [proliferated by the spread of the Earth Empire]. Galactic Standard is also mentioned and is probably a more complex version of Galactic Basic. Rakrathese is another language mentioned.
Squeaky-cleaners are small, laboratory designed partially cybernetic creatures made to clean and tidy. They are fairly ubiquitous within the Proximan Chain habitats and are often given hidden implants and used for covert surveillance. Similarly created are Flying Eyes, which are basically flying eyeballs with membranous wings. Fnaroks are kept as pets, and can be trained (see Burning Heart).
Mobile bombs were once in widespread use by rival incorporations in the Proximan Chain; these are disguised as vehicles and travel around continuously for up to years at a time until they are given a target by whoever has their access codes. They are psychonomically designed to deflect attention, thus allowing them to go unseen until it is too late.
Links: The novel is a sequel to The Mary-Sue Extrusion, and is told largely from the point of view of the same unnamed narrator. As with most of Stone's novels, the Piglet People of Glomi IV are mentioned. Benny mentions the Cat's Paw (Ship of Fools). She grimly notes that she is familiar with cigarette burns, a reference to her torture by Nazis in Just War.
Location: Sharabeth, 2586; various habitats of the Proximan Chain, 2596.
Future History: There is city on Mars called Aeon Flux. The Proximan Chain is a collection of planetary settlements, colonies and space stations, connected by mass transit pads, and is largely occupied by Corporations involved in semi-legal business, including weapons research and tailored drug pushing. It has a population of seven billion. The Chain has no law, although various mercenary organisations such as SecServ exist, which will tackle crimes such as murder for a fee. Connaught Transit hotels are found on virtually every planet in the galaxy within range of a Star drive. Kimu is a type of widely eaten foodstuff.
The Bottom Line: Despite being filled to the teeth with the usual inspired Stone plotlines and knowing winks at the reader, Return to the Fractured Planet is something of a let down after the superb The Mary-Sue Extrusion. It's still entertaining enough, but as with Tears of the Oracle, it feels like it exists solely to tie up plot-threads before the range ends with Twilight of the Gods.