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Monday, January 29, 2007

Sucktion

I've carrying around in a corner of my head a half-formed post in my head about what I've been reading lately. This happens to be mostly light and fluffy urban fantasy stuff, almost exclusively by female authors. Much of it is pretty good for entertainment purposes, and they've all been books from series, meaning I've got several reasonable go-to sources for when I need plane reading or what have you. But then . . . THEN I made the grave error of plucking a Buffy tie-in novel, Queen of the Slayers off my shelf.

And poof! My happy, cautiously pro-girl-power-light-lit post goes up in smoke.


It did not begin in promising fashion. It picks up immediately post-"Chosen," with Buffy et al. on the bus to Anywhere But Here. The escape from Sunnydale segues, for some demented reason, into an interlude that seems to take place on the canvas of the Richard Lynch/Joe Estevez vehicle Werewolf. In it, Buffy mistakes a Wolfwere (more wolf than human, bad at maintaining human form) for a newly minted, freshly insane Slayer. The gang spend some time with characters clad only obtrusive dialogue that screams I-Represent-Trashy-Local-Color-in-the-American-Southwest. Buffy kills the Wolfwere. And then we move on to England.

England is BAD. From the smoldering ashes of the Watchers Council rises a retro-1950s Watchers Council. (That's American 1950s, where new Slayers are forced to vacuum in heels and pearls.) Except, wait! New Slayers are flocking to The Immortal in Rome! Why? No one knows, but it's damnably plucky of them, given that he vants to be alooohn. Oh! And there's a Hellmouth in Cleveland! Better send Faith there. And while you're at it, Faith, take my Kennedy, please! (I am all for throwing Kennedy in a Hellmouth, believe you me, but Kennedy's Midwestern Adventure is precipitated by her break-up with Willow [something else I'm in favor of] on the grounds that Tara is a goddess now, and Willow saw her while she was doing the Slayer-Catch-and-Release Spell. Um, what?)

Because I love, I share with you some of Kennedy's thoughts during the break-up scene:
She had to stay strong because her sweet, dear girl wouldn't be able to stand that much pain. Dear, sweet, beautiful Willow, with a heart as big as the moon.


And as she contemplates the wedding vows (for the handfasting they'd planned to have with Willow's coven, of course) she'll never get to make:
She made her vow to Willow. Not the one she had written over and over in her head: I, Kennedy, take you Willow, as my spouse . . . except in certain states and many countries of the world . . . but in the country of my heart, you are my beloved, always.


Buffy, always one to trust world-critical tasks to a rival/enemy, takes off for Rome to investigate The Immortal's Slayer farm and spends the better part of . . . a year? . . . it's hard to tell, as the book is not exactly concerned with the Aristotelian unities . . . accepting ball gowns, private schooling for the persistently alive and eternally irritating Dawn, and personalized tours of Pompeii from The Immortal. Oh, and enslaving the Slayers she's rescued from the patriarchy to train other Slayers.

Meanwhile the only surviving relative of Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia is worried about losing the shop girl he's magically roofied into a supermodel. He has good reason to worry, because she's turned into a Slayer! Not that he knows this. Despite the fact that he is a sorcerer in the employ of The Immortal, he is still unable to put two and two together, even to get a wrong answer as to why his skinny bitch girlfriend suddenly has superpowers and a thirst for killing bulls. (Seriously, she rides off into the night, on a bull, waving a sword, in a fit of bloodlust at some point.)

But let's give Antonio a break. He has a lot on his mind, what with his mission to engineer a cellphone (a purple, jungle-print cell phone, as we are repeatedly told) that will allow Lucrezia and Cesare, who have long been ruling a Hell dimension, (oh, and did I mention that they're vampires?) to work their bad mojo in the human world. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, not content to simply communicate through a rip-off of one of Gregory Maguire's less stellar fairytale novels, Lucrezia and Cesare, in all their Renaissance-wearin', demon-sire' mournin', permanently-disfigured-for-some-logic-forsaken-reason glory chat with our dimension on a purple cell phone.

But you see, they need the cell phone to try to bewitch Faith into retrieving their Orb of Mass Transit from the Hellmouth. Sort of. They also need to have it so that there can be wacky mix ups when Buffy takes Antonio's purple cell phone thinking it's The Immortal's purple cell phone. And, well, then Faith buries the bewitched cell phone in the snow and tries to accumulate all other cell phones in Cleveland, except she misses one, and L&C bewitch some runaway punk who gets the orb, then Kennedy gets her and feels all good about herself until roughly 2 seconds later when the purple-haired (the author's cleverly disguised Red Shirt) punk dies. And Kennedy is sad. But it's ok! Because the phones start working again! And Buffy tells them to come to Rome! So they can go the Amazon! Because Dawn is dying!

Sorry for the ejaculatory outburst up there. I remain a dewey-eyed optimist and still get excited every time it looks like Dawn. Might. Just. Fucking. Die. Already. Oh, before we go to the Amazon, I should tell you about Xander, who sometimes has two eyes, and sometimes doesn't. Xander goes to Africa (because Willow had the presence of mind to ship Nikki's shadowcaster out of town before the Apocalypse) to try to find out about the Slayer's power from the Shadowmen. But Willow's rusty Sumerian (and again, I quote because I love,
"I winged it a little on the Sumerian. Assyrian, I'm there. But Sumerian . . . Dawn actually speaks it better than I do. We probably should have called her in."
Buffy's nod was noncommittal. She was feeling very protective of Dawn these days. but Willow had a point.
"It's no big," Buffy assured her, although it kind of really was.
)
has landed Xander somewhere that is not where the Cave of the Shadowmen was. (Frankly, I never understood the Cave to be in Africa in this dimension anyway.) So, I guess it is kind of "a big" for Xander, who has to walk around saying "Je te touche," to get to the cave, but I'm unclear on why it kind of really is a big for Buffy.

Anyway, while in Africa, Xander learns that there's not enough good in the world and Dawn is dying!!!! (There I go again.) And there are Sand!Zombies! And The First Slayer (whose name, Willow reminds us nigh incessantly, is Senaya) helps him kill them. And maybe makes him a Slayer temporarily. And Xander may have killed the Shadowmen, which is a pity, because he spent several pages describing and admiring their hats. And then he's kind of dead or at least Warriors of Death (but not the Image of Death, who is working with Janus and not!Kali for some nonspecific anti-Buffy purpose) are after him. Tara saves him, damn her divine eyes, so that he can save Dawn by sending Buffy and a cadre of purple hairs to the Amazon. She also gives him a kiss for Willow, who lapses into a coma on one page and then is not mentioned again until he kisses her 40 pages later and the kiss fails to do anything. Except then Kennedy, freshly arrived from the abandoned Cleveland Hellmouth, kisses Willow a page later and she wakes up! Whew! I was so tense during that entirely-off-screen coma!

So Buffy, Willow, and some purple hairs do, indeed, go the Amazon in search of the Death Orchid, which blooms only once a century for the purposes of keeping a surfeit of yappy, whiny, developmentally stunted girl!harpies walking the Earth. But as if the Amazon doesn't suck enough, they're attacked by a group of ain't-gonna-be-no-purple-hairs who think Buffy is a bitch. Yes, that's right, not every new Slayer is rarin' to be tossed into the Cleveland Hellmouth or to accept Queen Buffy (my tooth enamel will never be the same after gritting my teeth each and every time someone used this term). So the bull-riding, Borgia-doing supermodel has been recruiting defectors in the guise of "Queen Regina." I wish I could believe that this was a sly, intentional funny on the author's part, but she even has Giles explain to Buffy that Regina is Latin for Queen. You may, nonetheless, forevermore address me as Queen Queenie.

Now, you might think that Q^2 might not need much motivation beyond her innate psychosis and attention-whoring ways, but she's really gathering a counter-army of Slayers because Lucrezia wants to distill the essence of Slayer, an experiment that lost her her goddamned Orb and Sire (who was killed by The Immortal, incidentally, dooming Lucrezia and Cesare to a life in black) in the first fucking place. And so the proliferation of arms commences and the canvas gets to looking like Europe, circa 1914, with the Borgias, Q^2, and Defector Slayers on one side, Buffy, The Immortal (kinda), the Watchers Council (kinda), Slayers loyal to QB (the ones she hasn't gotten killed, anyway), and the Scoobs on the other.

Except I forgot to tell you that waaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning of the book, we got a 40-page digression on the history of Janus (short version: not-very-bright hellgod gets jealous of Neptune [who seems to be a Greek god in this, the intermittently alternate universe of the author], leaves for hell dimension, hoping to nip back in a few moments, only to find the Athens hellmouth sealed. His crankiness grows over the years and he blames his exile on Buffy.), who forms an alliance with not!Kali and some personification of Death to take over the human world. The three keep appearing as giant shadow puppets over Cleveland, thus befuddling the dumb cracker minds of Team B right up until the moment in which they (the hellgods, not team B) leap into the enchanted cell phone, which takes them to the Borgias' hell dimension about 75 pages later.

So now, it's the Borgias, Q^2 and the Q^2ettes, plus hellgods vs. Buffy. Could her terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day get ANY WORSE? Of course it can! Because The Golden One, an ancient Tibetan sorcerer of supreme goodness and a key player in keeping the human world's shit together in these desperate times of magickal (Oh, I and my tooth enamel began to long for the Queen Buffy chorus every time the "ck" spelling showed up) global warming, gets killed on Buffy's watch. Worse still, he gets killed while trying to make a potion from the Death Orchid to save Dawn. Nice, Buffy, why don't you take a giant dump on the old man's corpse?

But when you really think about it, isn't it really Oz's fault that something unspecified burned the Golden One and his Monks into the Crispy Holy Men We Had Before the War?It is. Because Oz now belongs to a pack of werewolves who retain their human consciousness while in wolf form, and the Golden One had hired them as body guards. Time for a new HR manager, GO.

Ever-resilient, Oz accompanies Buffy and Co. through the time-space continuum, which dumps them out in Rome, several months down the line. Magickal Global Warming has worsened dramatically, but it's ok, because they're all living in The Immortal's magickal bubble while Mt. Etna erupts. Seriously.

And then The Immortal, who has been patiently hot for Buffy all along, is revealed to be a Bad Guy who recruited Andrew (who is thus a Bad Guy by proxy for the low, low price of 30 pieces of supermodel ass) to help keep Buffy from knowing that Spike and Angel were in town. Except, I'm not really sure when or how that happened, because I swear, she's getting dressed to go dancing with him one minute, then being slightly miffed at him and hoping to power-walk it off the next.

And it is then that we find out that everyone on Earth is smarter than Buffy. Faith has followed her on the walk, sensing she'll need back up. The two are waylaid by a Q^2ette who leads them into Q^2's trap, but that's ok, because they know it's a trap. They get a small smackerel of useful information about the Orb of Mass Transit before Q^2 is distracted by needing to kill the last Borgia heir (and again with the off-screen killing-off of a character on whom you wasted 60 pages of my time roughly 6 eons ago). Buffy and Faith are right in time with one another and hack their ways out of the cavern:
They started swinging. No one hacked like Faith and Buffy, together again. Heads flew, guts spewed. It was like being inside a horror movie, only it wasn't horrible at all, as far as Faith was concerned.
.
Don't worry, gentle reader, they make it out to a field covered with snow and demon parts. Why there are demon parts on the surface, given that all the fighting happened under ground, is anyone's guess.

When they return to the palazzo, Buffy is just on the verge of telling Giles all about he Orb of Mass Transit when The Immortal reveals that he already has it, and he's giving it to Lucrezia and Cesare in exchange for rule over a hell dimension. Why, yes, this would be the same Lucrezia and Cesare who have been nursing a serious Oediptal/Elektrical grudge against The Immortal for the last 700 years! Why do you ask? Everyone is clapped in irons and dumped in separate dungeons in different positions that are described at length.

Oh! Except not Willow, Kennedy, and Oz! Because, as Buffy remembers during a Whistler-inspired fugue state/teleportation/multidimension-spanning dream, they left the palazzo right before she went for a walk. Um, what? I guess there was some confusing dialogue about everyone not going to Cleveland, but I missed the subtext that implied that those three were just popping out to pick up some gold armor, Queen Buffy Banners (the word Buffy, topped with a crown), and weaponry for the army of Slayers that is suddenly facing off against the other Army of Slayers. I guess Whistler likes the slow pace, because all of this arming and mounting of great battles happens while Buffy is knocked out and astrally projecting into the last few minutes of Angel: The Series.

Whistler tells Buffy that Angel, Spike, Ilyria, and Gunn are about to die and Wesley is already dead (newsflash, Whistler: Wesley died 'round about Season 3). Buffy takes some time to prove that she's still the shallow Californian she's always been and is thus still pissy that Spike didn't call her immediately upon rematerialization (and not being able to work a phone until Fred built a Stargate on her office floor does not count, bitches). But she finally Gets Over Herself and has a mystical glowing threesome with Angel and Spike. Just in case you think I would ever, EVER make that shit up:
To her right: Angel
To her left: Spike
Themselves, and yet . . . not themselves. When she looked at each of them in turn, she saw them, but not with her eyes.
She saw them with her heart.
Felt them with her soul.
Champions. The words came into her mind. [Uh, that would be just the one word. A plural, to be sure, but still one word. HTH.—Ed.] She had no idea who spoke them. She wasn't even certain that she heard them.
She simply knew them.
She extended her hand. Spike took it.
Angel took her other hand.
Then the glowing figure took Spike's and Angel's free hands, completing the circle.
Buffy floated in love, and honor, and it was no longer about earthly yearnings and joys and despairs. It was not about choices.
It was about soul mates.
There are other, better places for those who do good.
There are other, better ways to love. [AhemthreesometoldyasoAhem—Ed.]


She emerges from her lectric-kool-aid funky-goodness groove:
A warmth suffused her, moving from the top of her head through her face, into her chest and spreading out through her abdomen. She felt as if she were glowing inside.

When she's fully awake, Buffy sees a glowing 4-year-old with Angel's eyes and Spike's smile in her cell. Ok, who wants to volunteer to tell this woman how babies get made? Not I.

Apparently the child is also highly acidic (which might explain her emergence through the abdomen. Ouch!), because she starts ridding everyone of their chains. She then hops up on Buffy's shoulders and controls her by touching her hair. Buffy leaps into the fray like a willing, pony reformed by motherhood (as so many she-ponies are!) and dies, but wins. Well, kind of. There's some verbose dimensional hokey-pokeying and all the major bad guys seem to escape from the human world unscathed, leaving behind their scraps of demons and monsters who kill Buffy during the throes of a self-sacrifice-derived orgasm. Kind of. Because she's only mostly dead, which could have been really awkward, because her nearest and dearest have wasted no time at all building a funeral pyre for her. Apparently, they are not exactly anxious for the third coming.

And just in case you have retained any will to live at all, the author cannot resist an Epilogue:

Willow took Buffy's hands in hers. "I saw her," she said. "Your child."
Buffy swallowed hard. "I think you were the only one who could."
"Matick user," Willow said, "Plus I had an ascended moment when we did the slayer spell. When I saw Tara." She took a breath. "Your little girl was beautiful."
"She was theirs. And mine," Buffy said wonderingly. "We gave her life, and she tipped the balance. Our daughter saved the world."


And the, before you even have time to rip out your own eyes, begging for sweet mercy:
She touched her lower abdomen, closed her eyes, and communed with heroes.


I guess I should have known better. I did, after all,dip into the world of tie-in fiction once before. But no Stargate novel, not even one that has Jack repeatedly calling Daniel "Jackson" could have prepared me for the horror that is Queen of Slayers.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Freshmaker said...

Wow, just the recap cost me some sanity points. I can't imagine how you made it through the whole thing.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Matilda said...

I'm a giver: I read, self-maim, and blurges, so YOU don't have to.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous tigtog said...

The world obviously needs a Matilda T. Zombie Queen / Slayer Queen deathmatch tie-in.

Based on this, you'll kick Slayer butt.

10:22 PM  

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