Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rewound Ending: Heat

My hobby this year has been devouring critical analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reading books that use the show to examine ideas about gender or race or ethics or whatever floats the academic's boat.  I've also read some of the graphic novels and comics based on the series, including some of the "official" continuations of the story.  But there are also a flotilla of fiction books set in the world of the show, some of which are written by authors I've heard of in other contexts.  I've read some vampire anthologies written by Nancy Holder (as well as some non-vampire books written by a different Nancy, Nancy Springer, whom I somehow confused with Holder which is why I read the first books), so I decided to try one of her Buffy books: Heat.

It was all right.  The big problem with books written inside a series is that nothing interesting can happen to the characters -- they have to fit into the shows that happen before and after the book.  So nobody can change or grow.  Occasionally a book will manage to sneak in some hidden information that explains things without contradicting events; the classic version of this is Orson Scott Card's Abyss which encompasses the movie it is based on but includes a lot more.  Heat does not do this, being set somewhere in Buffy Season 7, sometime before Principal Robin comes out to Buffy and sometime after Spike's insanity subsides a bit.  I forget where this places it in Angel Season 4.

It's also a bit too long; when reading a snack book it's best to get through it before noticing how shallow everything is.  Heat is about twice as long as it should be, probably because it stuffs in all the characters from both Whedon shows -- Buffy, Angel, Spike, Cordelia, Willow, Xander, Anya, Wesley, Gunn, Dawn, Fred and Lorne all get some screen time as viewpoint characters.  So do Connor, Lilah, Jhiera, Robin, and a slew of original characters, mostly villains or doomed witnesses.  This drags down the story.  Then, to emphasize the low stakes involved, Xander gets killed off in the final climatic battle, forcing the author to make the characters reverse the polarity of time (or something) so that everything that happened didn't.

There's a reason I don't super-size my junk food orders, and reading novel serializations of TV stories is really just literary junk food.  I'll pay stricter attention to page count next time I feel like indulging.

No comments: