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Audio Drama Review


Bernice Summerfield
Venus Mantrap


Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 422 1
Available 31 August 2009

Eros, artificial moon of Venus, has a reputation for romance, but Professor Bernice Summerfield is just visiting for the money - specifically the secret royalties of her recently deceased partner, the famous “novelist” Jason Kane. He entrusted control of the inheritance to Bernice’s rival in love and academia, acerbic alien rodent Professor Scoblow, and Bernice is prepared for a fight. Unfortunately, the path of finance rarely runs smoothly, and disgruntled hamsters are the least of her problems. Eros’s twin moon, the warlike Thanatos, is moving into alignment, Erosian society is in turmoil, war rockets are due for launch, and worst of all the banks are closed until further notice...

In her time, Bernice (Lisa Bowerman) has dealt with megalomaniacs, dictators, monsters, megalomaniac dictator monsters, and even taken down a major financial institution - but that’s nothing compared to the prospect of having to go out on a date, pretending to be half-human diplomat N’Jok Barnes’s (Luke Sorba) artificial escort. This trip to Venus’s manufactured moon was set up in dialogue a couple of CDs ago in Glory Days, and now she has finally arrived, but in order to get her hands on Jason’s money, and bring peace to Eros and Thanatos into the bargain, she and Scoblow (Jo Castleton) must engage in a dangerous combination of espionage and dating, at terrible risk to both life and dignity. Bernice would rather be doing the espionage than the dating, having never even contemplated such a pursuit since the death of Jason. However, as Scoblow points out, the rodent would require some serious waxing in order to pass as Barnes’s type.

Written by Mark Clapham and Lance Parkin, Venus Mantrap can be loosely described as a follow-up to the authors’ 1998 novel Beige Planet Mars, in that it is set within the Earth’s solar system and features the return of the Pakhar Professor Megali Scoblow, a former editor and lover of Jason Kane. However, you don’t need to be familiar with the events of the novel (indeed, I had completely forgotten that Scoblow was in it) in order to follow this story, because the wonderfully bitchy comments that are exchanged by the two professors make it perfectly clear that there’s no love lost between these two. Some knowledge of the 2007 audio drama The Final Amendment will be helpful, though.

Venus Mantrap is an enjoyable, light-hearted tale, but nevertheless one in which Bernice faces some personal demons and emerges all the stronger for it.

The stories this season seem to be falling into a pattern of: silly, serious, silly. The cliffhanger conclusion of this audio adventure suggests that we’ll be back to serious next time...


Richard McGinlay

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