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HOW I SURVIVED MY SUMMER VACATION, VOL. 1

After a succession of novels set during some non-specific "season 3" point in time, it makes a pleasant change to read some official Buffy fiction that's actually set at a specific point in the show's history.

As its title suggests, How I Survived My Summer Vacation is set between seasons one and two, and tells how the Scooby Gang spent the weeks between Prophecy Girl and When She Was Bad.  However, unlike Pocket Books' previous Buffy fiction, this isn't a single story, but rather six separate stories written by a mix of existing and first-time Buffy authors.

Many of Pocket Books' previous Buffy novels have suffered from having too many characters to squeeze in, and often those with one or more of the regulars absent have proved more enjoyable.  With its post season one setting, How I Survived... has less of a problem - there's no Oz and both Cordelia and Buffy are out of town.

Despite her absence from Sunnydale (she's staying with her father in LA), Buffy takes the lead in a couple of stories - Michelle West's Dust and No Place Like..., the second of Cameron Dokey's two contributions.  The former has her dealing with the aftermath of Prophecy Girl, particularly the death of the Master, while the latter sees her helping a spooky shopkeeper.

Back in Sunnydale, Absalom Rising and Looks Can Kill see new vampire Absalom stepping into the interregnum between the Master and Spike and Dru.  With Buffy in LA, and Jenny's desire to keep Xander and Willow out of the action as much as possible, it's left to her, Giles and Angel to shoulder most of the action.

Once Nancy Holder's apparent contractual obligation to mention the "once in every generation" and "Boca del Infierno" things, our heroes try to prevent the Master's bones from being taken by what's left of his followers, while Looks Can Kill sees them battling a shapeshifter.

Uncle Dead and the Fourth of July sees them up against a newly reborn vampire and a plague of zombies, led by a dead Sunnydale war hero.  One of the neat touches throughout How I Survived... are the nods to later seasons - here there's a brief appearance by Deputy Mayor Finch (Mayor Wilkins is out of town), while elsewhere we get to see Angel in Giles' apartment.

Finally, The Show Must Go On has Willow and Xander involved in a stage production of Macbeth, unaware that it's being run by a group of vampires.

Although you could dip into How I Survived My Summer Vacation's six stories in isolation, it can also be taken as a whole.  As a whole, it's actually some of Pocket Books' most enjoyable Buffy fiction.  The more specific setting and the reduced character count help to produce an enjoyable read, although if you don't like Jenny Calendar you probably won't like the collection either as she plays a major role throughout.

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HOW I SURVIVED MY SUMMER
VACATION, VOL. 1

Written by MICHELLE WEST,
NANCY HOLDER, CAMERON DOKEY,
YVONNE NAVARRO, PAUL RUDITIS

POCKET BOOKS

4.99/$5.99

RATING: 9/10