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Re-reading my review of TALES OF THE SLAYER, VOL. 1, it's obvious that I wasn't too impressed about the first collection of short stories about Slayers other than Buffy Summers.

But for completism's sake, here we are again, and fortunately, the second collection sees an improvement, despite the inclusion of one or two clunkers.

Unfortunately, one of the poorer stories kicks things off.

Todd A. MacIntosh's name will be familiar to those who read the BUFFY credits (well, when broadcasters don't squeeze them so they can tell us what's coming up next). Here, the series' head of make-up turns his hand to writing, but ALL THAT YOU DO COMES BACK UNTO THEE isn't as memorable as his creations for the television series.

Eygptology is almost always a good choice for a series like BUFFY, but reading this, I half-suspected that it had been chosen because the mummy aspect isn't that far removed from something that the television series itself had already covered. It wouldn't be the first time that a spin-off story had been "written off" another, especially since it's written by someone who's not normally a writer.

A rather uninspiring read, ALL THAT YOU DO... isn't helped by some sloppy proof-reading ("Scoobie Gang", indeed), and gets the collection off to a rather disappointing start.

Fortunately, Kara Dalkey's LADY SHOBU is much better. The "About the Authors" blurb at the end tells us that Dalkey has written a fantasy novel set in Japan, and this is also the setting for this tale about a 10th century Slayer called to serve at the Imperial Palace.

Several of the stories here are written by established spin-off writers, and the next story, ABOMINATION is one of these. Most of these have written for one of the ROSWELL ranges, and the writing team of Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz (the editor and writer of the original ROSWELL HIGH novels) are behind this tale of a 14th century French Slayer.

Eliane is a Slayer who turns her back on her duties after her husband and Watcher is taken from her by the Watchers' Council. Even when vampires descend on her town, she still refuses to battle them in an attempt to get the Council to change its mind. Of course, it doesn't and when her son is turned, she really is forced to stand alone.

Another ROSWELL author, Greg Cox, is behind BLOOD AND BRINE, featuring pirate Slayer Robin Whitby (is that a DRACULA reference I wonder?)

It appears that DOCTOR WHO companions aren't the only ones who were forced to disguise themselves as men as Robin becomes "Rob", although it's more than likely that her followers weren't fooled but were prepared to overlook her sex if it was to their financial benefit.

There's a touch of the "ahoy there, me hearties" about this story, but it's none the worse for tapping into stereotypes, just as WHO historicals weren't. In fact, tapping into a well-known style helps a couple of the stories here, as it allows the writer to introduce his/her Slayer and Watcher into a setting that's already familiar to the reader.

After three enjoyable stories, things come crashing down with BUFFY comic editor Scott Allie's THE GHOSTS OF SLAYERS PAST.

Trying to evoke the spirit (no pun intended) of Dickens is always a hard task, and on this evidence, Allie simply isn't up to it.

The story is obviously derived from A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but this tale of a Watcher being shown the truth about his Slayer's existence simply failed to work for me. It failed to convey a sense of mid-19th century London and Allie's use of several Americanisms didn't help matters either.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is another ROSWELL novelist, and a writer whose previous work I've almost always enjoyed, and THE NEW WATCHER is no exception. The American Civil War setting works well and yet again there's a Slayer disguising herself as a boy (in this case, a soldier). It's also good to see someone proving to be a better Watcher than the one the Council sent the Slayer.

While Greg Cox might have made a nod to DRACULA, Michael Reeves' HOUSE OF THE VAMPIRE definitely does.

Reeves also draws on Sherlock Holmes, Springheel Jack and even BATMAN, but the result is a fairly enjoyable romp, and it's nice to see a Slayer other than Buffy getting to face off against Dracula himself.

Unlike most of other stories, Rebecca Rand Kirshner's THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES keeps the reader guessing as to the identity of its Slayer and her opponent. It's probably just me, but I couldn't help being reminded of Louise Brooks in this tale of a flapper Slayer in 1920s New York.

DARK ANGEL novelist Max Allan Collins teams up with regular writing partner Matthew V. Clemens for the penultimate story, STAKEOUT ON RUSH STREET, set amongst gangsters in Chicago during World War II.

Unusually for this collection, but not for this type of story, this one is written in the first person, and sees Slayer Elizabeth Winters on the trail of a vampire hitman.

Just as Buffy Summers opened the collection, she also closes it, in Jane Espenson's AGAIN. Initially, this appears to be a simple tale of some of the Scooby Gang being transported back in time. However, while Willow ends up missing Tara and Xander learns that maths wasn't so difficult after all, Buffy realises although Dawn might not exist, at least Joyce is still alive. 1999 seems so much better to her than 2002 does, as the final paragraph shows.

Overall, as with many collections this is a bit of a mixed bag. However, most of the stories are enjoyable, although MacIntosh and Allie fall short of the mark. BACK TO THE TOP

TALES OF THE SLAYER, VOL. 2

Written by SCOTT ALLIE,
LAURA J. BURNS & MELINDA METZ,
MAX ALLAN COLLINS with MATTHEW V. CLEMENS,
GREG COX, KARA DALKEY,
JANE ESPENSON
TODD A. MacINTOSH,
REBECCA RAND KIRSHNER,
MICHAEL REAVES,
KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH

POCKET BOOKS

£6.99


RATING: 7/10


NEXT VOLUME:
TALES OF THE SLAYER, VOL. 3

PREVIOUS VOLUME:
TALES OF THE SLAYER, VOL. 1