Tuesday, July 13, 2010

IN REVIEW: Blackout by Keith R.A. DeCandido

I often tell people that despite working in the library environment for nearly a decade, it wasn't until recently that I started "reading again." This is actually somewhat inaccurate; in a way, I really never stopped reading; I just didn't tell people what I was reading because it was slightly embarrassing - I had a weakness for anything Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Pocket Books.

As you would imagine, much of what I read was horrible. However, it's also where I discovered Christopher Golden, a writer who contributed greatly to the Buffy expanded universe. I now read his titles unrelated to Buffy and discovered some truly great horror and fantasy worlds that he's created. Some of the books- in particular one by Golden and his often co-writer Nancy Holder- like Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids All in a Row is excellent. Taking place during World War II, it follows what Spike and Drusilla were doing in Europe. The title I'm reviewing today was in a similar vein; taking Buffy-type supporting characters from the past and expanding upon the little information we cold glean about them from the television series. You know, if you go for that sort of thing.

Blackout is an amazing book, second only to the aforementioned Spike & Dru novel. The book is now out of print and pretty hard to come by. I had to interlibrary loan, just as I did the Days of Future Past story from the X-Men. The story centers around two primary characters it focuses on are Spike and Nikki Wood, the latter of which was the vampire slayer during 1977 in New York City. Keith R.A. DeCandido, a native New Yorker who grew up during the seventies, did a bunch of research into the title. He found out that in July, NYC suffered a 25-hour city-wide blackout. Hence the name of the book. Most New Yorkers are facing a city-wide budget crises, including prisoners being released because it was no longer cost-effective to hold them, and the Son of Sam killer was still unidentified and roaming the streets.

While Keith did take some liberties, it's surprising how accurate a picture of 1977 he creates. He also creates Reet Weldon, a former plantation slave turned vampire who has overrun (and now mostly controls) the criminal underground of the city. Reet is probably one of the best villains ever in a Buffy book, a villain who is so used to controlling things behind the scenes that when he finally steps up to fight, well... you can probably guess what happens. The book incorporates several a-ha! moments from the television series and Angel, including Roger Wyndom-Pryce's run in with Spike mentioned in an aside comment from one episode. Keith was obviously a fan of the show and really did his homework. Drusilla, who I feared wasn't going to be in the novel, does finally appear. She's written wonderfully despite being relegated to a sort of damsel-in-distress role.

This novel was so good. I'm sad it didn't make it to hardcover, but I'm guessing that by this point, they weren't really publishing many more of the books. They've all but ceased now, which is sad. Especially if this is the type of story than can be told. Read Blackout and tell me what y'all think!

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