Christopher Golden delivers the first masterpiece of the “Buffy” adult novel line with “Spike and Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row” (October 2000), the second hardcover in the series. The best, and least handcuffed parts, of Golden’s previous works (both solo and when writing with Nancy Holder) had been the centuries-spanning backstories of the demons Buffy fights in that particular book. Here, the author is allowed to revel in the past, telling of Spike and Drusilla as they pick off Slayers-in-Waiting in 1940, after stealing a list from Watchers Council headquarters in London.
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John Passarella makes a strong Buffyverse debut (he’d go on to write two “Angel” novels) with “Ghoul Trouble” (October 2000). Set in the spring semester of Season 3, this young-adult entry has a lot of elements that feel like a standalone TV episode, notably a band called Vyxn that plays a five-night stand at the Bronze and has all the male concertgoers under its thrall.
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This series celebrates 50 years of the “Planet of the Apes” film franchise. For this post, though, I’m taking a step further back and looking at Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel.
Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel “Planet of the Apes” is one of the classic “books that are better than the movie,” but it still gets lost in the shadow of the 1968 film. In my estimation, the French novelist (1912-1994) delivers one of the elite science fiction novels of the 20th century, using a foreign planet to explore Earthly biology, human nature, the primate evolutionary tree, the intelligent brain, classism, politics and the arc of civilization.
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Remember that time in Season 3 when Buffy fought a bunch of Tyrannosaurus rexes? Well, it happened, if you count the books as canonical. In “Paleo” (September 2000), which is set at the start of the spring semester of senior year (I’d place it just before “Gingerbread,” 3.11), three baby T-rexes and a timimus get resurrected from fossilized eggs via magic and the Scoobies must fight them.
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Earlier this decade, Ernest Cline pulled off a remarkable feat: He got seemingly everyone who grew up in the 1980s to read his very first novel, “Ready Player One” (2011). Friends who never talked about books told me to read “Ready Player One.” Friends who claimed they never read books told me I’d love “Ready Player One” and would blast right through it. With Steven Spielberg’s adaptation hitting theaters late last month, I was overdue to crack it open.
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“How I Survived My Summer Vacation” (August 2000) is the only “Buffy” young-adult book that’s an essential read for all “Buffy” book fans, and it’s the first book that fits so nicely with the TV continuity that it can be considered unambiguously canonical. The full title includes “Volume 1” at the end, which suggests Pocket Books planned to delve into more summers between TV seasons. That didn’t happen, unfortunately (although the comics sometimes explored the summers), but at least this tome covers the summer between Seasons 1 and 2, which is a rich playground for fresh stories.
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By a quirk of timing, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” became linked with the 1999 Columbine school shootings. The WB pushed the airings of “Earshot” (3.18) and “Graduation Day, Part 2” (3.22) into the summer, citing the sensitive subject matter. In reality, neither episode explores school shootings, let alone takes a political stance on them. In “Earshot,” it’s a fake-out: Jonathan aims to kill himself with a gun, and the lunch lady aims to poison the students. In “Graduation Day, Part 2,” the “school violence” is self-defense against an evil demon, and the students don’t use guns.
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“Here Be Monsters” (June 2000) is the most padded “Buffy” novel so far, but the meat of Cameron Dokey’s debut effort is pretty decent. Once the 178-pager finally gets to Buffy’s trial – proscribed by the demon Nemesis — where she takes on the monsters in her head, there are some fun references that ask “What if Buffy had lost against the bad guy in previous episodes?”
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Diana G. Gallagher’s “Prime Evil” (March 2000) is a game-changer for the “Buffy” book series – not because it’s significantly better than other books (although it is a step up from Gallagher’s first entry, “Obsidian Fate”), but because it’s the first novel to acknowledge books written by other authors. Additionally, Gallagher does a delicate continuity dance where she successfully works Anya into a story before “The Prom” (3.20), when the ex-demon humorously asks Xander to the prom out of nowhere and becomes a main character.
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After the often credulity-stretching “Obsidian Chamber” (2016), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child get back on track with “City of Endless Night” (January, hardcover), their 17th Pendergast novel. As the evocative title suggests, the action takes place entirely in their favorite home stomping grounds, New York City, in the winter months when it gets dark early. It’s the most straightforward mystery they’ve penned in a while, although the string of murders are certainly grisly and bizarre enough to be worthy of FBI Agent Pendergast and NYPD detective D’Agosta.
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