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Although only the fourth "Buffy"-"Angel" cross-over novel, 'Monster Island' was actually the seventh I read. Such are the occasional vagaries of my reading schedule.

Actually, I'm pleased that I didn't read it earlier. Had I done so, I would almost certainly have picked up the hardback edition, and there's no way that I'd consider this novel to be worth buying in that format.

'Monster Island' is a sequel of sorts to the season one "Angel" episode, 'Hero', which saw the death of Doyle, who died himself to save a group of half-demons from the racist demon group, the Scourge.

Despite Doyle's sacrifice, the half-blood demons aren't safe, as the Nazi like Coalition for Purity are intent on wiping them out. The massacre begins in Sunnydale, so by the time the action moves to Los Angeles, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang are already well aware of their intentions. What they aren't aware of is that the Coalition's leader is actually Doyle's father, who blames Angel for his son's death.

Like its predecessor trilogy, 'Monster Island' assumes that a crossover must involve every regular character from both series, so instead of just the Slayer and maybe one or two others journeying to LA, the whole "Buffy" cast except for Anya (who's injured), Giles and Dawn team up with Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, Lorne and Fred.

Golden and Sniegoski mix and match the two sets of regulars into various teams, but it still feels as if there are too many of them to fit into the plot. Consequently they criss-cross LA in groups of three or four when twos or three would be have sufficed, with the dialogue redistributed accordingly.

It's the characters who don't have any supernatural abilities who suffer the most from this character bloat. The likes of Fred and Xander aren't essential to the plot, while Gunn only seems to pick up a kid who requires looking after for the rest of the novel. Leave them out and we could have had an interesting "companion" short story collection about what they and those left behind in Sunnydale got upto.

Perhaps that's being a little unfair. Many readers might like to see the maximum number of characters used, or it might well have been a requirement of the publishers, but I personally felt as if Golden and Sniegoski were trying to pad things out somewhat (the book clocks in at over 430 pages). This is apparent from some of the repetitive descriptions used - Lorne is often "Krevlorneswath of the Deathwork Clan", who has green skin and red horns, and who wears pastel suits.

To be honest, the plot itself isn't that great. There are an awful lot of fights, including a massive one at the end, while other elements were a bit predictable, especially the involvement of the Old One, Garth.

There's also the usual Pocket Books problem of continuity. I know I bang on about this all the time, but the vague setting annoys me. There's a nod to Willow's increasing magic dependency, but pretty much everything is non-specific. For the "Buffy" characters it's between 'Bargaining' and 'Tabula Rasa', and the "Angel" crew haven't been back from Pylea for that long, but that's about it. In which case, why is there no mention whatsoever of Darla? Even if the Angel Investigations team decided not to mention it to Buffy, some reference to it would have been nice, whether in conversations between the AI crew or in a character's thoughts.

On a positive note, the paperback edition has far fewer typos than recent Pocket Books novels, and the novel did at least keep my interest up. However, it was hardly rivetting stuff and does feel somewhat padded, as if the authors and publishers think that "more" is always "better." BACK TO THE TOP

MONSTER ISLAND

Written by CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN & TOM SNIEGOSKI

POCKET BOOKS

£6.99


RATING: 6/10


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