Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Review

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VISITORS

by Laura Anne Gilman and Josepha Sherman

reviewed by Shiai Mata

Buffy

 

Buffy has faced a lot of menaces since she first became the Chosen One... a whole menagerie of hideous hellbeasts that would revolt and revile those with the strongest of constitutions.

Those she can handle, but just what sort of creature makes her hair stand on end and chills run up and down her spine? How about one that... giggles?

Yeah, the giggling is creepy. Unfortunately for Buffy, everything else about this particular monster is just plain dangerous.

The theme of VISITORS, as one might surmise from the title, is uninvited guests. A whole slew of them descend upon Sunnydale all at once, and it’s making for some very hectic times for Buffy and the Scooby Gang.

First, there is the monster of the moment, the aforementioned giggler. It’s actually a korred, which was heretofore believed to only be a Cornish myth. It survives by draining the lifeforce of human beings... teenagers full of vim and vigor being the tastiest... and to draw out that energy, it uses its magic to (shades of “Once More With Feeling”... which Joss Whedon wouldn’t write until three years after this book was published, folks)... force them to dance until their heart literally explodes!

A cautious creature, the korred has mostly been avoiding humans for now and satisfying itself on dogs (as Willow ruefully points out, it’s not a good idea to own pets on the Hellmouth) until it gets a better lay of the land. But when it comes across Buffy on patrol one night, it literally catches a whiff of what her Watcher calls her ‘supernatural aroma’ (“Are you saying I smell, Giles?”), and it is intoxicated. The korred has never encountered a Slayer before, but it is obsessed with draining her powerful lifeforce, and it begins to stalk her over the course of several nights. From time to time, Buffy’s battle instincts warn her that something is watching from the shadows, and every now and again she hears that unsettling giggling from the monster, but she can never get close enough to really see it, much less plunge a stake into its furry chest. And even if she could, all of the research Giles and Willow can come up with indicates that there’s no known way to kill a korred.

Unbeknownst to Buffy, another old threat has resurfaced in town as well: Ethan Rayne. The mischievous spellcasting chum of young Rupert Giles is just passing through town on his way to Los Angeles for some nefarious dealings, and although he has nothing specific in mind, he can’t resist ringing up Rupert just to torment him by letting the Watcher know that he’s around again. But when he discovers the korred is in the vicinity, Ethan can’t help but try and stir things up and make life even more difficult for the Slayer.

Other outsiders have converged upon the scene to distract and/or irritate the gang as well. First there is the battle of the bands being held at the Bronze. Oz bows out of Scooby duty in order to rehearse as much as possible with his band, Dingoes Ate My Baby, and Willow is frequently preoccupied with the upcoming contest and doing whatever she can to help Oz promote it. And then there are the ST’s... the Student Teachers. They’ve invaded Sunnydale High School for the week, and when they’re not hovering around in classrooms, they’re converging on the library, thus forcing Giles, Buffy and their friends to seek refuge elsewhere.

And lastly, there is Gerald Panner, an emissary from the Council of Watchers sent to Sunnydale to observe Giles and Buffy, but we suspect he has a secret agenda. Panner is ever-charming and tactful, but Giles is instantly hostile to him... there’s obviously some bad history between them... and he resents being “spied” upon by the Council.

Popping up from time to time is Angel, the vampire with a soul whom Buffy secretly loves (this story takes place during the first half of season 2 of BtVS, shortly after she met her fellow Vampire Slayer, Kendra). But his appearances really don’t amount to anything more than some quick cameos.

Authors Laura Anne Gilman and Josepha Sherman keep the story moving along briskly. So fast, in fact, you really don’t have time to notice that not a whole lot is going on. The korred keeps stalking Buffy, Buffy keeps searching for the korred, dusting a few stray vampires along the way. And there are a lot of characters thrown our way, but again, not a great deal happens with them overall. The ST’s seem to be there mostly just to serve as irritants, and don’t really contribute much to the central plot (although one ST does in a way, but it’s a bit convoluted). The battle of the bands takes place “off-page,” so it’s mostly just mentioned as an aside. Panner’s role is never really clearly defined, and other than to raise Rupert’s hackles, his presence doesn’t really mean much. Only Ethan Rayne brings some real impact to the story, although one gets the impression that much more was planned for him, but he sort of got lost in the shuffle.

But what really work well in this tale are the characterizations. Gilman and Sherman have a knack for the Slayerettes, whether it’s Willow’s Look on the Bright Side support of Buffy or mooning over Oz, Xander and Cordelia’s vicious banter-as-substitute-for-sexual tension, or the teacher/student and substitute father/daughter dynamics of Giles and Buffy, they’re almost always spot-on, and it makes this book worth reading.

Just barely clocking in at over 160 pages, VISITORS makes for an exceptionally swift read. It’s a good way to pass some time, and maybe whet your whistle for some Buffy if you can’t make the time to pop a DVD into the player.

*** 3 out of 5 stars