After a pretty average start to the UNSEEN trilogy, DOOR TO ALTERNITY should have seen Holder and Mariotte pulling things together, ready for the conclusion to the series.
Instead, we get a pretty tedious 300 pages that struggles to maintain the reader's interest.
Pocket Books have promised us a BUFFY/ANGEL crossover, but so far they haven't delivered. Buffy and Angel meet up, then each decides to look after events on their own patch. Gunn, who seems to be a bit of an afterthought, turns up in Sunnydale and then decides to return home! No-one expected the characters to join forces from the outset, but having them meet and then part immediately afterwards isn't really playing fair, and it doesn't help the structure of the book much either.
THE BURNING had an awful lot of plot strands, and the authors keep all the balls in the air here, as well as introducing even more. The result is a novel that flits from one location to another, one story line to another and one character to another, all padded out by lengthy, and increasingly tedious, fight scenes. There's also an awful lot of violence, as if the authors believe that this somehow makes the book more "adult".
The "door to alternity" provided by the renegade Russian scientists seems like little more than a telepathically controlled version of Quinn Mallory's invention from SLIDERS. It might have been better to have revealed this in a single huge chunk rather than through various flashbacks throughout the novel, so as to keep a sense of mystery for a little longer.
However, even that wouldn't have made up for the lack of decent characterisation here. I didn't find myself particularly interested in any of the novel's original characters, and the ones from the television series aren't particularly well served either. And while some of the DOCTOR WHO novels and audios have been able to flesh out even the most two-dimensional characters and to build on what we saw on screen, there's none of that here.
In fact, many of the regulars are rather poorly depicted. Anya does little more than talk about sex while Xander puns lamely. The "BUFFY-speak" element of the show might well be one of the elements that quick date, but Holder and Mariotte haven't subtly moved the dialogue on while remaining true to the characters - Cordelia seems stuck with her "morbid much?" speak and Willow is even more annoying.
In addition, the chance to set the Buffy-Riley relationship in a more convincing context is blown completely as the authors give it a far greater emotional depth than Gellar and Blucas gave it on screen. It simply doesn't ring true.
The opening installment of this trilogy promised a lot, but this second chunk doesn't really deliver. Perhaps the conclusion will manage to make it a worthwhile exercise, but at this stage I wouldn't put money on it. BACK TO THE TOP