Jeff Mariotte probably didn’t know “Love and Death” (October 2004) would be the last “Angel” novel when he wrote it, but it plays pretty well since it has that status. By Season 4, when this book is set, the likelihood that the general public doesn’t know about vampires and demons was starting to be stretched thin, and “Love and Death” directly addresses this through Night Country radio host Mac Lindley, who encourages his loyal listeners to go to L.A. and kill monsters.
As she did with “Buffy: These Our Actors” (2002), co-written with Dori Koogler, Ashely McConnell writes an “Angel” novel – “Book of the Dead” (July 2004) — that makes me wish she wrote more than two Buffyverse books. Unlike most of the tie-in authors, McConnell isn’t shy about building on the established mythology. “These Our Actors,” which continued the Spike and Cecily story, later got contradicted by the TV series and comics, but “Book of the Dead” hasn’t yet been contradicted, and it therefore stands as a rare window into Wesley’s time at the Watchers’ Academy.
John Passarella completes a solid three-for-three among Buffyverse novels with “Angel: Monolith” (June 2004). As with “Buffy: Ghoul Trouble” (2000) and “Angel: Avatar” (2001), this is a rock-solid effort with on-point characterization, accurate continuity, a decent sense of mystery and committed action writing. It doesn’t offer any plot surprises, which is why it doesn’t rise to the level of elite Buffyverse novels, but it’s completely respectable.
There was never an “Angel” young-adult book line, but Craig Shaw Gardner’s “Dark Mirror” (April 2004) gives a sense of what those books would be like. This is a simplified view of the Angelverse without much interest in continuity or accurate characterizations, and with a cartoonishly big evil that’s hard to take seriously.
Scott and Denise Ciencin deliver another messy yet surprisingly enjoyable page-turner with “Angel: Nemesis” (February 2004), their final work in the Buffyverse. Similar to the couple’s other co-written novel, “Buffy: Mortal Fear” (2003), the ideas here are wildly imaginative and the characterizations don’t feel entirely correct, but there’s never any sense that they are phoning it in. Clearly, they love telling stories and their enthusiasm is contagious.
I’ll say this for Nancy Holder’s “Heat” (June 2004), the seventh and last of the “Buffy”/ “Angel” crossover novels: It’s certainly ambitious. This 456-page beast reads like “War and Peace” or “Lord of the Rings,” something with a hugely epic scope and a deep roster of characters. While there is some appeal to that, it’s apparent that Holder – who has written some great Buffyverse novels – bites off more than she can chew this time.
The fourth and final “Tales of the Slayer” collection (November 2004) is also the only one centered around a theme: specifically, the Cruciamentum – as seen in “Helpless” (3.12) — wherein the Slayer is weakened by drugs and forced to defeat a vampire via only her wits and fighting skills. Remarkably, these aren’t just eight tales of Slayers being betrayed by their Watchers and feeling horrible; the authors find a variety of angles with which to approach the concept. Here are my rankings, from best to weakest, although there isn’t a bad story in the bunch:
It’s a sign of a prolific author when even death doesn’t stop them from putting out novels, and such was the case with Michael Crichton (1942-2008), whose posthumous output includes “Pirate Latitudes” (2009), “Micro” (2011) and “Dragon Teeth” (2017). For some reason, I didn’t read “Pirate Latitudes” when it came out, perhaps thinking that Crichton didn’t intend for it to be released, since it was “discovered” on his computer rather than submitted by the author to his publisher.
Ithought the alternate-reality “Wicked Willow” trilogy was starting to get good with its second book, “Shattered Twilight,” but it comes crashing down again with “Broken Sunrise” (September 2004). In my reviews, I’ve somewhat facetiously said author Yvonne Navarro is exploring what would happen if Willow was evil for a longer time period, and unfortunately, that – and Willow being even more evil, but for no apparent reason – is what it comes down to.
With the tragic death of Luke Perry (1966-2019) from a stroke this past week, there’s been an influx of “Buffy” fans announcing that they loved him as Pike in the 1992 “Buffy” movie and they are rewatching the film in his honor. Some are even going so far to say they like the movie, giving it a bizarre short-term boost in cult popularity.