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Twilight of the Gods

The Bernice Summerfield Adventures (Virgin) #23
Robert Smith?

In brief: Workmanlike enough and it wraps up the Gods storyline adequately enough, but it's not the extraordinary book I'd have like the Bernice books, and the NAs in particular to go out on.

Spoilers follow, although I've avoided mention of any of the key revelations.

This review is obviously biased. I'm a huge, huge fan of both the NAs as a whole and the Bernice NAs in particular. I thought the whole Gods storyline was magnificent, giving us some incredibly thought-provoking and interesting books. The NAs have been a part of my life for the past *eight* *years*. It's probably inevitable that the last book was always going to have much higher expectations than any reasonable book could live up to.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that Twilight of the Gods still disappoints more than it should, even under those circumstances.

The problem, fundamentally, is that it's just so average. Now, that's "average" when compared to the Benny NAs as a whole and the Gods storyline in particular, so it's still a pretty high standard in the grand scheme of things. Make no mistake, this is a good book, by any reasonable measure. But by the (probably unrealistic) measure that the rest of this line has set up, it's just sort of there. That's a shame, and not really fair.

Actually, what it reminded me most of was Where Angels Fear, in more ways than one. Not only does it wrap up the storyline started there, it reads very much like a direct sequel, virtually ignoring the books in between. Understandable enough, I suppose. WAF was similarly a book that was good enough for what it was, but should have been outstanding. It was frustrating, because the expectations led us to believe we were in for something magnificent and instead we just got something that was good.

Twilight has fewer obvious problems (for example, it's quite well written, where the prose of WAF constantly hampered the story) and wraps up a lot of things, like Maa'lon and the Sultan of Dellah, but it also doesn't have the sheer scope of WAF. It continues the thread started there, far more than any other book in the Gods storyline, many of which bore little relation to the storyline's starting point and some of which went out of their way to ignore other books in the arc.

It's not to say that Twilight of the Gods doesn't tie in to the other books in the arc. Indeed, all of them are acknowledged in cursory ways, from reminders of Benny's terminal disease and subsequent amnesia, to a mention of Christine and an amusing un-namecheck of the narrator from The Mary-Sue Extrusion and Return to the Fractured Planet. I like this, because it feels like the in-fighting between the books of Justin Richards and Dave Stone has been civilly resolved and none of the apparent contradictions from those books are left dangling.

As a story in its own right, it's quite good. It's a fun action tale, with enough threads woven to keep us entertained. That's part of the problem, though. This is a great little action thriller, but it's not the grand sweeping resolution I thought we'd be in for. I can't help but think that Tears of the Oracle would have made a much better conclusion -- which it almost did. I am glad that the conclusion of that novel, with a ship carrying the non-belief virus crashing on Dellah, was finally acknowledged and good use was made of it. However, what's incredibly frustrating is that the authors appear to be under the delusion that it was the B-Aaron that crashed into Dellah. Sorry guys, it wasn't. It was the J-Kibb. Check out page 273 of Tears of the Oracle (and it's clear that they're not the same ship from page 263 of that book). If you're going to tie up dangling continuity issues from previous books, it really, *really* helps to not mix up the fundamental characters (and we're now left without any idea of what really happened to the B-Aaron, a great character).

The regulars are quite good here. Braxiatel and Emile don't have much to do, but that isn't too much of a problem (and it is nice to see Emile again). Chris and Clarence get to pair up again, which works well enough. Benny and Jason also pair up, in more ways than one and I really like where this went. Benny's dream also tied into Burning Heart, something I thought everyone had forgotten about, as well as giving us great hope for the future by the novel's conclusion. The final fates of all four characters seem just right to me. I won't discuss them in any great detail, because they're worth getting to on your own, but I have no complaints.

I will say that I thought the book finished a little early, however. Like the book itself, the last chapter serves its purpose well enough, but I'd have liked something more, I suppose. It doesn't quite do the wrapping up of the NAs justice. But maybe my expectations are impossibly high.

The Gods' identity does make a lot of sense, but it still feels incredibly tacked on, rather than a surprise revelation at the end. It rewards long time book readers, true, but it still seems to come out of left field. I'd have preferred there to be some more hints throughout the book before Chris suddenly slapping his forehead and remembering on page 216. I do like it, though and it ties in very well with both the previous book and to Dead Romance. Despite Lawrence Miles' intentions, I think this fits in really well, given the nature of the villains, as revealed in their earlier appearance. I like this a lot (and I think I prefer this to Lawrence's clever, but ultimately mean-spirited idea). Some more could have been done with them, but since they appear far too powerful, it might be for the best that it wasn't.

The final scene is great, though. I'm glad Wolsey was recognised, having been afraid for his fate -- or worse, that he'd just been forgotten about. The list of presents is also great, tying things back to Doctor Who, as they always needed to. The last two paragraphs still bring a lump to my throat.

Twilight of the Gods is an enjoyable romp. It does the job that it's supposed to do quite well, giving us an exciting action tale with a couple of deeper layers. I'd have like more depth and more sense of magnificence, but for what it is it works well enough. It has a tough job at the very end of a well-loved line of books whose quality sometimes varied, but on the whole maintained an incredible batting average in terms of quality and style. The New Adventures are over. And whatever this book lacks, I must say that it pleases me immensely that they went out with a book by a first-time author.