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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 6/28/19

Soul Trade by Thomas E. Sniegoski, Simon, 2001 

An Angel novel.  Angel gets involved when a mysterious figure with supernatural connections begins purchasing or stealing human souls. It seems that souls can be used to create a mystical drug that is addictive to demons. Angel and Doyle find themselves facing supernatural as well as human gangsters and loan sharks. The man behind the crime spree is a centuries old sorcerer who needs periodic infusions of magical potion to keep himself functional. The good guys have relatively little trouble defeating him after the inevitable minor setbacks. 6/28/19

Hollywood Noir by Jeff Mariotte, Pocket, 2001 

An Angel novel, and my personal favorite of them all. When a building is demolished, an old skeleton is found in the wreckage. Then Mike Slade, a 1960s detective who was murdered while on a case, reappears with no memory of the intervening years. He is a kind of ghost, although he can interact with the physical world and his bullets can actually hurt people, although they disappear immediately afterward. Angel and Slade are initially at cross purposes but eventually end up working together to stop a sorcerer who is raising an army of drug addicted demons. Lots of fun. 6/21/19

The Longest Night edited anonymously, Simon, 2002  

An Angel collection. All of the stories take place on December 21, the longest night of the year. Angel is peripheral in some of the stories that concentrate mostly on Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn. Several of them are more humorous than horrifying and most of them involve some sort of demon. The contributors include Nancy Holder, Doranna Durgin, Christopher Golden, and several others, most of whom have written in the Buffy universe elsewhere, but none of the stories are really outstanding. 6/18/19

Image by Mel Odom, Simon, 2002 

An Angel novel. This is one of the better in the series. A painter has the ability to literally create realities by painting them. Unfortunately, he fell in love with a demon of a species that inspired Lovecraft, tentacles and stuff. She is very possessive and his efforts to separate her from their half breed child cause problems. Add to this an immortal who knows about the artist’s power, the fact that his gift is about to pass to someone else, and the coincidental case of a blackmailer who also happens not be human, and you have a fairly frantic, quite complex, but well handled story line. 6/13/19

Fearless by Doranna Durgin, Simon, 2003  

An Angel novel. Angel finds that his rapid healing ability has vanished and the rest of the gang wakes up with morning with no memory of the previous day’s battle, even though they all have wounds currently healing thanks to a magical charm. Most of the story consists of the interactions among the familiar characters, not all of which seemed to me to be consistent with the television show. Everything gets straightened out in the end, but it takes a long time to get there. 6/13/19

Bruja by Mel Odom, Simon, 2000 

An Angel novel. This one is more thoughtful and restrained than most in the series, and it draws upon the legend of La Llorosa, currently a movie making its rounds. A woman who misinterprets her husband’s fidelity frees an ancient witch, or bruja, who roams California wreaking havoc among children as a kind of reverse guilt complex about having killed her own offspring long ago. Angel manages to get the woman to confront the witch and end the menace, but only after considerable trouble. The author wrote a lot of tie-ins, which is a shame because his original work is much better. 6/6/19

Endangered Species by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte, Simon, 2002 

An Angel novel. Angel is faced with the possibility of helping a man wipe out vampirism in a singles stroke, which would include himself of course. But things are not that simple. There is an island full of monsters, a vampire sorceress, a book that could summon a powerful entity, traitors, the interference of Wolfram and Hart, and other difficulties both natural and supernatural. Faith is released from prison by a ruse so that she can be hunted to death, but naturally she outwits the hunters. This went on a bit too long for me and the ending is slightly ambiguous. 6/4/19

Stranger to the Sun by Jeff Mariotte, Simon, 2002  

An Angel novel. Every astronomer and occultist in Los Angeles is incapacitated by a magical dust that causes comas. Angel escapes because Wesley opens the package intended for him and succumbs. A vampire lord has discovered that a ritual performed on a specific date could alter the Earth’s inclination and plunge part of the planet into eternal darkness. He hopes to found a vampire nation. Angel naturally organizes his crew to figure out what is going on and eventually foil and kill the bad guy. Standard fare but not badly written. 6/1/19

The Long Way Home by Richard Chizmar, CD, 2019, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-58767-715-1    

This is a very large collection of short stories and essays that I am including in horror although only a few of the stories contain any fantastic content. Some are more properly described as crime and suspense. There are murder mysteries, a serial killer, a boogeyman, a bizarre community, and a host of other familiar and sometimes unfamiliar plots and situations. The essays are interesting, sometimes autobiographical. This is the kind of collection where you might not enjoy every story, but everyone is likely to enjoy the majority of them. The stories are certainly well written and a few of them are quite memorable gems. 5/30/19

Seven Crows by John Vornholt, Simon, 2003  

A Buffy/Angel crossover novel. Buffy and Angel join Riley Finn and his wife as they investigate a team of smugglers in Arizona who appear to be vampires. They are hindered by a local sheriff, a businessman with powerful connections, and a supernatural wolf that is powerful enough that even Buffy and Angel together are at a disadvantage. This was a fairly good story but the ending is so compacted it almost feels like a summary rather than an actual piece of fiction. 5/26/19

Cursed by Mel Odom, Simon, 2003   

A Buffy/Angel crossover novel, though Buffy does not appear. Spike and Angel are separately seeking seven parts of a magical artifact that is linked to a woman whom they wronged more than a century earlier. So is a small army of gypsies, who aren’t really gypsies, and demons, who really are demons. Flashbacks help illustrate the story in the present. The blurbs suggest that the two main characters are allies but they actually don’t even meet until almost the end of the story. Odom is a reliable writer who unfortunately spends most of his time doing tie-ins.  5/24/19

Chaos Bleeds by James A. Moore, Simon, 2003 

A Buffy novel. Kakistos, the vampire that terrorized Faith, is back from the dead with a legion of vampire followers and the ability to raise zombies from their graves. The gang ends up being transported into an alternate reality where each has to face a specially tailored menace, but ofc course they all triumph in the end. The pace is hectic and there is some nice dark humor, particularly in the second half of the novel. 5/21/19

Mortal Fear by Scott & Denise Ciencin, Simon, 2003 

A Buffy novel. Someone is sending Buffy messages warning her of demonic attacks. In each case she kills the demons, but their dead bodies transform into parts of a magical sword, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the completed sword will not be a good thing. Her usual allies are all either out of town or have fallen under the sway of magical influences that alter their personalities or engage them so fully that they ignore Buffy’s situation. This is quite long and fast paced, but I found the dialogue clunky at times and the characters did not have the feel of the original. 5/18/19

Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback, Independent Legions, 2019

This is one of those novels for which the term “dark fantasy” seems appropriate. It makes use of some of the tropes of horror fiction, but the story is basically about the conflict between Native American legends and the European encroachment on America. Coyote, the Trickster, is a malevolent shapechanger who intends to murder several humans who might be key to creating peace between the old ways and the new. A man and his daughter are among the intended victims, but the Raven has decided to befriend and protect them, and this sets up the primary conflict for the story. Well written, imaginative, and sometimes downright creepy. 5/14/19

Heat by Nancy Holder, Simon, 2004 

A Buffy/Angel crossover novel, and possibly the longest original novel in this series of tie-ins. Various demons are planning to invade our dimension and take over, and they have human minions, a dragon, animated statues, and body hopping personalities to help them. But Buffy and Angel have Spike, Willow, and the others, as well as an uneasy alliance with a feminist demon, and the fact that the evil demons are plotting against one another as well helps make things a bit less difficult. Pretty good but too long for its story. 5/13/19

Horror Gems Volume 16 edited by Greg Luce, Armchair, 2019 

Horror Gems Volume 17 edited by Greg Luce, Armchair, 2019 

Two collections of short stories all drawn from 1923 issues of Weird Tales. The Seabury Quinn and H.P. Lovecraft entries are good, but the rest are average to awful. The two stories by Otis Adelbert Kline, hardly a literary giant, are among the best, which gives you a pretty good idea of the quality of the rest, which are by people you have likely never heard of. I don’t think any of these have been reprinted, ever, and with good reason. Interesting perhaps for historical reasons, but disappointing as entertainment. 5/9/19

Chosen by Nancy Holder, Simon, 2003 

This is the longest of the Buffy novels, but it is not an original story. It is actually a somewhat compressed version of the entire final season of the show. The First Evil has arrived and with it Caleb, the evil reverend, and the ubervamps, vampires so powerful that they prey on normal vampires. The First can imitate anyone it wants to. Although there are some side plots, this struggle is the focus of the novel. Buffy and Faith train a group of Potentials, young women who might become Slayers. They are largely ineffectual until a final assault destroys the Hellmouth, although a few of the recurring characters die in the process. 5/8/19

Go Ask Malice by Robert Joseph Levy, Simon, 2006   

This is the diary of Faith, backup to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from the time she is put into a foster home until she runs away from her Watcher because she is afraid of the demon Kakistos. There is relatively little violence or action for a Buffy book, and most of what does happen takes place in dreams. There are some interesting new details about Faith’s background – we meet her less than admirable parents – but the story is relatively static and does not have an actual climax. Interesting, but not great reading. 5/6/19

Carnival of Souls by Nancy Holder, Simon, 2006 

An old favorite for horror fans, the carnival with magical attractions that steal the souls of the customers. Buffy, Angel, Giles, and the others all fall at least temporarily under the spell of Dr. Caligari before Willow devises a counter spell and they are able to launch an attack on the carnival before the entire city is destroyed. It’s an okay adventure but I’m never entirely comfortable with stories in which people can be compelled to act against their own nature like this. 5/5/19

Monster Island by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski, Pocket, 2004 

A Buffy/Angel novel. A disgruntled pureblood demon has raised an army of his kind and plans to wipe out the halfbreeds, products of demons breeding with humans. Buffy and some of her friends travel to Los Angeles and join forces with Angel and his friends when they discover that a magically protected island of refuge off the California shore is about to be the scene of a massacre. This was one of three crossover novels between the original series and the spinoff. I never really cared for the half breed demon story line in the latter show, so I wasn’t thrilled to find it in the novel, but it was well enough written otherwise. 5/2/19

Power of Persuasion by Elizabeth Massie, Pocket, 1999  

A Buffy novel. A mysterious woman and her two daughters arrive in Sunnydale. All of a sudden a very militant women’s rights group springs up and most of the male inhabitants seem to have been placed in thrall. Buffy, Oz, and Cordelia are the only holdouts and even the local vampires are acting strangely. The women are actually related to the Greek gods and have obvious magical powers, but eventually Buffy figures out how to deal with them, even without the help of Willow and Giles. For young adults. 4/21/19

Return to Chaos by Craig Shaw Gardner, Pocket, 1998 

A Buffy novel. There is a band of druids in Sunnydale, supposedly to help, but they plan to do so by ending the current world and creating a “better” one. At the same time, someone has been organizing the local vampires and they have Cordelia in thrall as well. Alternates between serious and humorous with the usual banter mixed into the two almost unrelated plots. 4/17/19

Here Be Monsters by Cameron Dokey, Pocket, 2000 

A Buffy novel. This is actually a young adult novel in which Buffy kills some vampires after which she is called upon to face a test in a magical house in order to rescue her mother from a supernatural being called Nemesis. It’s more silly than scary and for some reason Buffy is barely able to deal with rather ordinary vampires. The rest of the gang provides some background but not much in the way of help. Very minor. 4/13/19

Sefira & Other Betrayals by John Langan, Hippocampus, 2019, $20, ISBN 978-1-61498-192-3

I believe this is the author's third collection of short stories. I had only read two before and a couple are original to this collection. They average a bit longer than most horror shorts. The title story is in fact a novella, original to the collection, about the conflict between a woman and an unusual monster. Monsters are not a major element in the others, at least not supernatural ones although the supernatural may be involved, and the fantasy element in many of them is more a question of setting than of plot. It is the characters who are important, with a variety of emotions and attributes, not all of them admirable. Some of the stories are more fantasy than horror and some are really just suspense tales. Langan has a gift for odd imagery, everything from a mysterious picnic cooler left by a road to enigmatic balloons that drift through the life of a writer. Horror fiction is usually more effective in short stories than in novels, and that's particularly true when the writer is, as in this case, so very good at it. 4/10/19

Sons of Entropy by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, Pocket, 1999

Final volume in the trilogy. The master demon has entered our world. The Gatekeeper dies and Xander temporarily acquires his powers. The Sons of Entropy break into two factions and their leader summons a second demon. His adopted daughter changes sides and helps Buffy defeat the demon. Ethan Rayne fights on the good side for a change, since the end of the world would do him no good. Joyce Summers is kidnapped to Hell for a period of time and has to battle the Minotaur. The world is, unsurprisingly, saved again. This trilogy was the longest single Buffy adventure. 4/8/19

The Ghost Roads by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, Pocket, 1999 

A Buffy novel. The Sons of Entropy are trying to engineer a supernatural apocalypse by destroying the Gatehouse, which imprisons countless monsters. The Gatekeeper is dying and his son and heir has been kidnapped, the Flying Dutchman is off the coast of California, and other dark forces are appearing. Can Buffy and Angel rescue the boy in time, and will their friends be safe while they are off on a round the world search? We won’t find out until the final book in the series. 4/3/19

 

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