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Book Review

Book Cover

Bernice Summerfield
The Vampire Curse


Authors: Mags L. Halliday, Kelly Hale and Philip Purser-Hallard
Big Finish
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 340 8
Available 15 December 2008

During the course of a career spent digging up ancient things, Professor Bernice Summerfield has had more than one brush with the oldest and most widely dispersed race of undead in the universe: vampires. Is she cursed, or does everybody have to put up with this sort of thing...?

This anthology of novellas comprises three stories, The Badblood Diaries by Mags L. Halliday, Possum Kingdom by Kelly Hale, and Predating the Predators by Philip Purser-Hallard, each of which pits Professor Summerfield against vampires. In publishing terms, she first battled the undead bloodsuckers in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Blood Harvest, a sequel to the television serial State of Decay. However, as this collection reveals, that was not her only encounter with vampires.

In the first of these stories, a young Benny files a column for a local news outlet whilst trying to stop an ancient curse escaping from her expedition...

The Badblood Diaries takes place several years before Benny’s travels in the TARDIS, back when she is still trying to make a name for herself as a professor of archaeology. In other words, it’s a “young Benny” story.

Mags L. Halliday has crafted an engaging and intriguing tale. It’s engaging because of its structure as a daily series of written accounts of the professor’s participation in an archaeological expedition to the colony world of Badblood, which has only recently reopened diplomatic relations with Earth. It’s intriguing because of the colonists’ (and of course Halliday’s) unique and ingenious method of keeping “the cursed” at bay: Badblood’s cities are giant vehicles that crawl across the planet’s surface, remaining constantly in sunlight. The author convincingly explores the technological and cultural effects of this mode of existence - and the horror that ensues when the system go wrong.

All in all, I was sorry to leave Badblood.



Later in her life, Professor Summerfield joins a galactic tour of vampire history in order to investigate sinister happenings throughout time...

All of the stories in this volume use the device of written and/or published accounts to one extent or another. Though much of Possum Kingdom is told in the standard third-person narrative way, it is peppered with assorted writings, ranging from transcriptions of Native American myths to the contents of a travel brochure.

The tale also covers a range of historical periods, past and future, jumping back and forth between them, the connections between the various narrative strands not immediately apparent. Benny’s participation is relatively minor, and at first it seems that Kelly Hale’s contribution is another “young Benny” story, set not long after the events of The Badblood Diaries. However, it eventually becomes clear that Bernice is looking back at an earlier period of her life whilst carrying out a mission for a mysterious friend (who is probably the Doctor)..

Note my use of the word “eventually”. I found Possum Kingdom rather hard work to get into.



An aged Bernice is forced to confront the bloody past of a fellow attendee at the predictably ill-fated First Interdisciplinary Conference on Vampirology...

Like The Badblood Diaries, Predating the Predators is conveyed entirely in the form of written accounts: the diary of an ecclesiastical attendee at the conference; letters penned by a local student roped into participating in the event; and excerpts from the lectures themselves. These are well-rounded and compelling protagonists, whose writings we want to read more of. Similarly intriguing is the elderly Bernice, whom we witness through the chroniclers’ eyes. Philip Purser-Hallard captures the aged Bernice well, rendering a believably crotchety yet recognisable version of the character we know.

Also in common with The Badblood Diaries, this tale depicts a fascinating colony world, in this case Murigen: a flat, waterlogged terrain over which three suns maintain almost perpetual daylight. The vampires find a way around that, of course...

Unlike the preceding two stories, which contain a horrendous number of typos, Predating the Predators is very accurately keyed. It’s my favourite story in this collection, and not just because of the accuracy of its typesetting. This is prose you can get your teeth into.


Richard McGinlay

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