Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Author: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 1 4165 2636 6
Available 04 September 2006

In nineteen seventy-seven New York is in melt down, the civil administration is at odds with its employees and the serial killer Son of Sam stalks the night. Trying to hold back the night against the forces of evil Nikki Mavis Wood must balance her responsibilities as the Slayer with that of being a mother to her young son Robin. With the battle lines drawn an uneasy balance of power exists between The Slayer and Reet, the leader of the New York vampires, but it is a balance that is quickly shattered when Spike moves in, intent on killing his next Slayer...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blackout is the new genre novel by Keith R. A. DeCandido, himself a prodigious writer of Buffy, Marvel and Star Trek tie-in books.

The first thing to say is that if you were expecting to read a story about Buffy then you're going to be disappointed, though she appears in the forward and epilogue, this is Nikki and Spike's story. The only reason I can think of, is that the publishers didn't think that Spike was a strong enough character to carry his own line of books.

The other disappointing thing is that this is a fill-in book. What I mean is that any fan of the show will know that Spike killed Robins' mother, in his pre-chip days, so the reader already knows how the book is going to end. Not that this is so bad if the author is able to take you on a fantastical journey, but Blackout is a bit of a paint by numbers affair. DeCandido is too good a writer to be doing this sort of fill-in work and it would have been nicer to have discovered something completely fresh about Spike's past.

That is not to say that, ignoring the premise, the writing does not remain good. DeCandido maintains his easy to read style, but good writing alone does not make for an interesting or engaging narrative. Character development is minimal, but then that's the nature of the beast when you're constrained by years of television back-story and a publisher's desire for you to constrict the characters into known parameters.

DeCandido obviously knows New York and paints the background well, what doesn't come off so well is Spike's use of language. It's sad to say that I am old enough to have been around during the first explosion of punk, and I found little that was intrinsically accurate in Spike's speech patterns. It might just be that as an American DeCandido is drawing his inspiration from the show, rather than from any personal knowledge, but it does jar when you're reading the book.

So, it's a book really only for Spike fans. On the plus side the novel length does allow the reader to get inside Spike's head and examine some of his motivations, plus the fill-in type novel appears to be much loved by fans. Star Trek has hundreds of books which examine every bowel movement that happened between shows, so why not Buffy as well.

Charles Packer

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