Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Glass Prison

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
Big Finish Productions
RRP 6.99
ISBN 1 903654 41 6
Available now

Benny is incarcerated in the Glass Prison on Deirbhile, one of the Assimilated Worlds of the fascistic Fifth Axis. Within this gaol, there is no privacy; her every movement is visible through the glass walls. For the pregnant Benny, the timing couldn't have been much worse - she is due to give birth within days...

The Fifth Axis previously featured in Justin Richards' novel Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript, in which they were the Nazis to Benny's Indiana Jones. This time around, however, Benny is in no condition for getting up to any Indy-style derring-do, having become preggers in Rayner's previous book, The Squire's Crystal.

Rayner's narrative grips the reader from the outset, hurling you straight into the prison, so to speak, with Benny and her midwife (a hamster-like Pakhar called Claire) having already been made inmates. How they came to be in this dire situation is gradually revealed through flashbacks. The structure of the novel builds into it a tense countdown towards the due date of the birth, which, as if Benny didn't have enough problems already, is plagued by potentially lethal complications.

The author manages not to let things get too depressing too quickly, by means of some characteristically quirky asides from Benny. Further light relief is provided by a fellow prisoner who goes by the adopted name of Sophia. She is a member of the fact-fixated Grel, a race that have previously proven to be dangerous adversaries of Bernice, although the two inmates ultimately become firm friends.

This moving and enthralling book will make you its prisoner.

Richard McGinlay