The Joy Device
Roots: Amongst the exotic creatures encountered by Harper Dent is a Bandersnatch, named after the magical animal in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland - later, Benny quips that she has already done six impossible things before breakfast. Vital Zazoom, Dent Harper's hairdresser, is based on Vidal Sassoon. Kirk Douglas is mentioned. Benny is familiar with Samuel Beckett and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Jason fells a fleeing thief by hurling a stone egg at him, which recalls a similar scene with a tin in Crocodile Dundee.
Goofs: The cover contains a rather large plot spoiler.
Dialogue Disasters: One of the planets visited by Dent Harper is called Surtan-Deth IV.
Dialogue Triumphs: Harper claims to have been held for three months by the Gurbels, to which Benny replies "Brings tears to your eyes".
Continuity: Benny decides that she can't face reading about her lost memories in her old diaries (Return to the Fractured Planet). All of her memories of Jason, and most of her recent memories, have survived intact. She has heard of Dent Harper, but never met him before. She decides to visit the Eastern Rim in the hope that the danger and excitement will take her mind off her recent troubles. She almost has sex with Dent Harper, but Clarence and a jealous Jason sneakily manage to prevent this. The receptionist at the Xcelsior refers to Benny as Berny Summerton, the famous male archeologist.
The construction of the new Braxiatel Collection buildings on KS-159 is underway, including the main building, which is based on the Palace of Versailles (as seen in Theatre of War). Braxiatel has had the sun and lion-skin emblem that decorates the original replaced with a disc filled with swirling embossed lines, which might be the Seal of Rassilon.
Jason and Clarence adopt the aliases Professor Fred Bloggs and John Doe, respectively. Clarence is immune to the effects of Dorpfeld's Prism, apparently because it can't affect his biomechanical brain. Jason shoots Fronz dead without any qualms (admittedly partly in self-defence).
Chris is more susceptible to the effects of alcohol in his new body.
Dorpfeld's Prism is a necklace named after Andreas Dorpfeld, who discovered it several hundred years earlier. His dying words when asked what it was are supposedly "my prism", but Braxiatel claims that he was misheard and actually said "my prison". The Prism is actually a relic of the Smermashi civilization, a race that invented a means of making things seem better than they are by modulating the alpha and beta waves of anyone in contact with a focusing stone such as the Prism, a process similar to wearing metaphorical rose-tinted glasses. This altered perception of reality caused the Smermashi to overlook the problems on their world such as plague and environmental collapse and they died out. The Prism made Dorpfeld lose his grip on reality and go insane.
Dent Harper is a famous explorer and author, rumoured to embellish the accounts of his travels to make his books more interesting [although it is implied that most of his stories are essentially true] - his books include Travels on a Wilderdonkey. He has a high IQ, and is famous for his good looks, physique and wealth. He wears boots made from the hide of a Bandersnatch that is rumoured to have killed with his bare hands. He speaks Actinian.
Virabilis is one of a twin planet system with Prevoria, the atmospheres of which touch, meaning that the Star Ferry that travels between them doesn't need to be pressurised. Virabilis has at least two moons. Benny travels to the Eastern Rim via Cyrano Major. Other planets mentioned include Magnamora Minor, Telestris, Nimfette, Surtan-Deth IV, Bactural, Mazzuuk, Chiropodie Seven, Ostrakovik Milonides (inhabited by the Incumen), Hastavarian Four, Margoginus Three, Effilibus, . The Uncharted Isles are a feature of the planet Spectralux. Harper once went on a Jawena hunt on Heyora Seven. The economy of Baglingwort Minimus depends largely on its gerontium mines. Alien races mentioned include the Actinians, the Gurbels, and the Klackers.
Links: Braxiatel's study is lined with alcoves containing statues of Levithian Graffs (The Ribos Operation). There is a reference to the adventures of the fictional Bernice in Adventures on the New Frontier.
Location: The Braxiatel Collection on KS-159, the planet Virabilis on the Eastern Rim, and a village on Prevoria, 2596.
Future History: The Eastern Rim of the Galaxy is notorious for being dangerous. Crime on Virabilis (and supposedly the rest of the Rim) is controlled by the Cartel. Domistos Tours is a commercial space shuttle service. Vital Zazoom is a famous hairstylist c2596, and Prestige League sokka is a popular game.
Dorpfeld discovered the Prism in 2315.
Unrecorded Adventures: Bernice once got stuck in a swamp on an unnamed planet hunted by animals called Schnorks - thanks to the events of Return to the Fractured Planet she can't remember how she escaped. Other flora and fauna on the planet included Stoporaths, voletta flowers and codex trees.
Braxiatel may or may not have been present when Dorpfeld died.
The Bottom Line: Justin Richards turns his hand to comedy, with mixed success. It starts off light-hearted enough, and the idea of Jason and Clarence managing to shield Benny from any bad goings-on without her even knowing that they are on Virabilis is amusing, but the humour lags a bit during the second half, replaced with the grim horror that features heavily in Richards's work. Overall, its good points outweigh the bad and it provides welcome relief from Benny's troubles, but it feels like we're just killing time before the range ends.