Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Buffy Binge Book Reviews

I can't believe I've neglected my blog for about a month now.  I'd feel guiltier about it, but I've been working very hard on commissions- and sometimes videos.  However, today I do have something for you.

I went on a Buffy novel binge this past month, so I thought I'd go ahead and jot down a few quick reviews for the inquiring Buffy fan who wants to know which books are worth while.

Keep Me In Mind
A Stake Your Destiny novel
by Nancy Holder

Man, this book would have been so much better as a linear novel than a choose your own adventure.  I of course attempted to get all the possible story lines in multiple readings, and made sure I had read every ending, mostly for fun, but also with this review in mind.
The first story I ended up with was very good, or it would have been had it been linear and third person instead of a totally disorienting first person adventure.  It's starts with a highly unnecessary letter from Giles, indicating that something is going to go amiss and your choices are going to determine what happens.  Then on the first place, you take your place as Buffy (as best I can place it, sometime in the second season just after Kendra's first appearance and pre Angle going evil) who's been looking for a demon that's been leaving nothing but the skin and bones of it's victims behind.
After a short series of choices, I wind up on "patrol" with Angle- which looks a bit more like smoochies of the big time, until I get all nauseous and The Master and Luke show up, but totally think it's 1937.  Weird, right? But I stake them anyway.
Then I have different versions of Spike attacking me repeatedly.  Spike even ends up staking me in my bedroom while I'm on the phone with Willow, who is talking  Turns out, the staked Buffy was a double, and so was the Spike, made by a demon and sorcerer team that are making doubles from people's memories.  I even end up staking an Angle double that I thought was the real one!
The story culminates with a huge confusing, yet amazing battle full of doubles of Buffy, her enemies, and her friends.
One of the other story lines involves a double of Marcie Ross, the invisible girl with a grudge against Cordelia.
There's also some evil going down in a shoe store if you get the right path.

Honestly, I loved the whole doubles being made all willy nilly plot.  It had so much potential, and did pay a lot of it off, but honestly, I would have liked it ten times better if it'd been a normal story.  I wouldn't have found myself questioning if I'd turned to the wrong page, and I would have gotten all of the details of the story without having to search down the choices I didn't make.
If you're bored and want something interesting and Buffy related to read for a little bit, I'd suggest this book just for the fun of it.  Of the two Stake Your Destiny books I've read so far, this was the better one (though The Colony had a more coherent story when put into the choose your own format) and really, I'm sure there are people out there who tend to enjoy the choose your own style books more than I do. I always get impatient with them, feeling like I'm not getting the whole story.

Rating: Read it if you have nothing better to do.

Blood and Fog
by Nancy Holder

Blood and Fog is a season six story, set sometime before Buffy stops having sex with Spike.  This book is particularly great for Spike fans, it's an expansion of his history at the same time that it spins a wonderful Buffy tale.  We all know Spike, Dru, Darla and Angelus were in England for part of the Victorian era, and so was Jack the Ripper- who it turns out, wasn't a human after all, and brought with him to London fog that made people insane.  Jack, or Thak as he was originally known, plans to bring back into our dimension the Fomhoire, a race of faery once banished by another race called the Tuatha (which all sounds like it might be based off of some real Irish folklore and myth, but I have not done the research at all) but of course neither the Slayer then, or our Slayer now could let that happen.  So Spike becomes Buffy's most important weapon in a battle against a legend of history.
Oh man, is this book good.  It has it's slow points, but simply the story of Spike and Elizabeth, the Slayer of London in 1888 is well worth getting through them.  It's the history that really sparkles, though the "current" story is a action packed as you want a Buffy story to be.

Rating: Read it.

Spark and Burn
by Diana G. Gallagher

This book's major setting is the early seventh season, when Spike is crazy in the school basement.  In fact, it's mostly exactly what we see when Buffy finds him, and when we see The First talking to him in the last scene of the first episode, but with insight into his thoughts.  It's also liberally peppered with flash back sequences, though most of them are of scenes shown in the series, dialogue and all- and Spike's inner thoughts are not always worth the tedious reading of familiar scenes.  The only thing this book adds to Spike's past, is the story of the time Spike was on the run from Nazi demon hunters from an organization much like The Initiative- though it must be said that the tale is VERY interesting, and worth being read, though it might not be worth reading the whole book just for it's sake.  I made it through the whole book, but I had a strange feeling of not being quite satisfied as a reader, despite the moments of food for thought I gleaned from it.
In all honesty, anyone looking for something fun should read one of the other books in this post.  However, if you think you'd enjoy a some what tedious look at the inner thoughts of a newly ensouled vampire, or are such a huge fan of Spike that you can't pass up a book about him (especially one that attempts, somewhere in the relative mess of it, to address why Spike never killed Buffy when he was still evil) you might at least pick it up at the library and flip through  it.

Rating: Worth flipping to the bits about Germany and running from the Nazi's, but otherwise a book made mostly for purists and Spike fanatics.

The Book of Fours
by Nancy Holder

This book was the best of the bunch that I picked up, by far. 
The set up starts with a creature called The Gatherer- it is something with a blobby, immobile form that consumes all it can.  Back during the crusades The Gatherer got a taste of Slayer, and now it craves Slayers because they give it more power.
Fast-forward to Sunnydale, sometime before Faith's decent into evil in season three.  The Gatherer's minions- mummies with axes- the Wanderers, have come hunting for Buffy and Faith, and brought with them fires, floods, hurricanes, and of course, earthquakes (is there any kind of evil that doesn't come with earthquakes in Sunnydale?).  There are four of these Wanderers, each representing an arcane element: earth, fire, water, and air.  Their axes can only properly prepare a slayer who is of their element to be consumed by The Gatherer.
So accordingly, they need four Slayers to take out The Gatherer.  Buffy is air, Faith is fire, inhabiting Cordelia's body is Kendra- Slayer of the earth- but the last Slayer, borrowing Willow's body is a new face for Buffy fans; India Cohen, Slayer of water, and Buffy's direct predecessor.

The book masterfully tells the stories of The Gatherer, India and her Watcher, and the current crisis in Sunnydale together in bits in pieces, culminating in a last battle full of the sweet pay off the intricate plot deserves.
I really commend the author for answering the questions the show never had the time to ask about the girl who's place in the Slayer line is right before Buffy.  For everyone interested in the tales of the other Slayers, this is one of the books you need to read.  It's also perfect for anyone who loves when Buffy fights the really big bads- The Gatherer is on level with all the big end of the season arc battle from the show.
The only little pet peeves I have about the book are that aside from the true prologue, all the sections in the novel also have prologues, and the first and last sections have the same title- which theoretically serves a purpose, but it still bugs me personally (a.k.a. I'm being a nit-picker).  The book also has a subtitle, only seen on the title page, "A Historie of the Four Slayers This Being Their First Adventure as told by The Watcher of the Fifth Slayer to Nancy Holder". The only actual mention of this premise is the very last page, that mentions a further story of Buffy, Faith and Kendra searching for India's soul (a story which I don't think Nancy Holder has written, but I wish she would).  I assume this "Fifth Watcher" is supposed to be the watcher of the Slayer called after Faith's demise, but honestly, the whole thing just throws a lot of confusion onto the tail end of a book that didn't need to pretend to be some kind of official document.

Rating: Read it!

And speaking of Buffy literature, I have a huge pet peeve, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  Why does every single story set after season one, but before the season seven finale talk about how Buffy's death will, "call the next Slayer"?  It won't.  Buffy's first death is the only one that mattered to the continuation of the Slayer line.  Buffy died for a few minutes, and Kendra was called.  Kendra died, and we got Faith.  Buffy died again, and nothing happened.  Nor should it have.  Buffy's place in the line is set, and as far as the power that calls the next Slayer is concerned, she is as good as permanently dead.  The Watchers Council has been so good at finding Slayers, that I find it hard to believe that if Buffy's death in season five had called yet another Slayer, they wouldn't have found her in the two years before Buffy and Willow's game changer, hence why I firmly believe my theory is true.

It just gets to me, because the Slayer forces as they were, were clearly ill-equipped to deal with Buffy's revival so I can't imagine why some people think it would react to her secondary, or even eventual third death.  They mythos just doesn't gel with that idea.

In conclusion, I think way too much about the technical details of a show about a blond who fights vampires.

Phew, this was a long blog.  I hope you stuck with it, or at the very least looked at my little "rating" summary of each book, haha.


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