BOOK Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Infernal Nexus

Author: Dave Stone
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 16 5
Available now


Benny is assigned to retrieve valuable data from a spacecraft abandoned in a nexus that intersects 417 different dimensions. Entering the nexus, she finds Station Control, a communal region that contains inconceivable wonders, mysteries, political intrigues - and dangers...

Another Dave Stone novel - another weird and mind-altering dimensional warp. As I pointed out in my review of his recent Doctor Who book, The Slow Empire, Stone has already used the device of dimensional instabilities in two previous Bernice Summerfield novels, the New Adventures Oblivion and Return to the Fractured Planet.

The setting this time, Station Control, is a meeting place for races from each of the various multiverses. Benny is frequently baffled by the unimaginable variety of aliens that occupy the station - Stone doesn't bother to describe the unimaginable, as to do so would, of course, deny their unimaginability! The Professor is also perplexed by the station's habit of reshuffling its various zones, rather as the TARDIS interior does in many of the Who novels, although the author doesn't make this particular comparison.

The term "multiverse" is used by Stone to describe the various dimensions that the nexus connects. The author is as pedantic as ever about the shortcomings of certain popular fictions, pointing out that the parallel and pocket universes of many a work of science fiction represent both sloppy writing and a lack of understanding of the English language. He rightly points out that there cannot be more than one universe because, by definition, the universe is "all things that exist". Instead of a multiverse comprising several universes, Stone defines a multiverse as being one of several dimensional planes that comprise the larger universe. Not for the first time, he also knocks the TV and movie convention whereby characters are rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, when in reality such blows would be likely to lead to hospitalisation and/or brain damage.

Among the more obvious regurgitations of old ideas (which the narrative itself confesses to) is an ARVID, an artificial intelligence of a kind previously featured in Return to the Fractured Planet. One of the main characters, Sleed, shares the name of the villain of that same novel, though this appears to be the characters' only connection. Maybe the author just likes the name Sleed.

This book also marks the long-awaited return of a major character from the New Adventures era, although the reunion is not as emotional as I had been expecting.

Even at its short length of 186 pages, the novel still seems padded out. The story is virtually over 20 pages before the end, but Stone spins it out with some additional complications and a couple of epilogues. Nevertheless, The Infernal Nexus is a far from hellish experience.

Richard McGinlay

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