The Empire State

Posted in Audio by - August 22, 2018
The Empire State

Released December 2006

Bernice’s mission to save the troubled Braxiatel Collection that has seen her research time sensitives in the short story anthology Collected Works and seek out the Oracle of Delphi in the previous audio outing reaches its culmination in Eddie Robson’s ‘The Empire State.’ But when the famed tower reappears around her filled with citizens carrying about their normal business as if the last century has never happened, only a missing member of Bernice’s archaeological team holds the key to what is happening and the means of saving the Collection.

‘The Empire State’ wisely takes the time to at least hint at the turmoil occurring at the Collection through Jason’s first-hand accounts, a fact that is quite hilariously hammered home when Jason takes it upon himself to ensure that Bernice pays attention to his communications after Bernice reads but does not respond to several consecutive attempts. Still, as the Draconians gear up for further aggressions over territorial disputes, people are mysteriously going missing and Jason has found himself trapped in an infinite corridor, all suggestive of the dangers that await Bernice upon her return and why she is so desperate to find the Stone of Barter that once signified trading prowess and could allow the trading of skills and knowledge like material goods but that is also allegedly the transmuted form of a powerful individual.

Tracking the artefact to the ruins of the Empire State, Bernice initially thinks that she has traveled back to a time when the city still existed, but she soon realises that the city has been brought back around her and that something she absorbed from the Stone is the cause. However, it’s not quite as straightforward as she initially believes, and the city is increasingly filled with more and more people who are all succeeding regardless of the inherent contradictions that all of the successes entail because of the romanticised notion of the Empire State from her readings that has filled her mind. Unfortunately, she has also brought back the man who destroyed the city in the first place, and he is dedicated to trying to do so again now that he believes his first attempt failed. On Bernice’s side in stopping this destruction but also wholly on her own is her associate Maggie who proves quite adept at holding her own secrets before finally revealing that she is a constructed temporal physics experiment who could fix anything before Bernice inadvertently took her powers through the Stone.

With an amusing Death Star of good emotions analogy applied to this moon as Maggie furtively visits the observation deck at the heights of the tower, both Sophie Louise Dann and Simon Watts give sterling performances to flesh out this strange yet familiar world that should not exist and that finds itself out of sync with the universe at large. However, it’s Philip Edgerley as Saf, the bartender who does not drink, who steals the hour as a friendly ear for exposition who clearly knows more about what is going on than he suggests. As a man who is attempting to make this bar a place that transcends the usual meanings of time while declaring he would have only noticed Maggie if she were attractive and also hiding certain truths from Bernice until she becomes suitably annoying as instructed, his reveal as the keeper of the Stone is handled deftly and makes a tremendous amount of sense within the confines of the story, leading not only to the return of Maggie’s own powers but also signaling the return of Braxiatel who is rather less than surprised to find himself once more in Bernice’s presence as the world threatens to crumble down upon them.

The small cast is used to perfection in this story that weaves together its disparate threads into a satisfying whole, and ‘The Empire State’ decisively ends this seventh series on a high that looks to be ushering in an even more momentous eighth. With an evocative atmosphere and a tense mystery at its core, ‘The Empire State’ perhaps doesn’t carry the weight of a series finale like ‘The Crystal of Cantus’ or resonate quite as fully as a completely self-contained story might given how quickly the resolution unfolds with the fallout to be explored later, but it nonetheless is an incredibly vital and wholly enjoyable entry in the continuing adventures of Bernice Summerfield.

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