Summary: Many years in the future, a newly published book explores some familiar themes. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Several decades after season six of "Buffy." (spoilers through "Tabula Rasa").

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Krissy, just because.




RETROSPECTIVE


[Table of Contents for the May 23, 2048 edition of "The Greater Los Angeles Media Review"]


No Great Shakes: Review of "Close Call: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake of 2025"-page 5.

Hell Freezes Over: Review of "The Cubs Win The World Series!: The 2042 Season in Perspective"-page 11.

We Should Have Seen This Coming: Review of "Thirty Years of Human Cloning: An Overview" (written by Bill Gates IV and Donald Trump VI)-page 17.

A Story With Bite: Review of "Slaying: When The Stakes Were Real"-page 25.


[sound of pages turning]


A Story With Bite: "Slaying: When The Stakes Were Real." 375 pages, with accompanying XMR chip. Authors: Alexander Harris and Dawn Summers-Lockwood. Published by Hellmouth Press.


Review by Robert S. Heller


It's easy to believe that the world as it was in our younger days was the best it ever was. Ask your father, or grandfather, and he will solemnly tell you that giants walked the earth in his day. You listen, smile skeptically, and go about your business wondering how anyone could live without sonic trash disintegrators or cranial media implants. If your grandparents lived in or around Sunnydale, California around the turn of this century, you might want to pay a bit more attention, because giants did indeed walk the earth there in those days. . .not to mention vampires, trolls, and demons of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. Yes, in a day where the Slayer has so little work to do that she spends more time rescuing stray animals than in brushing off vampire dust, it's hard to realize that a sleepy little town about a hundred and fifty miles north of Los Angeles was the focal point of many direct threats to the existence of life on Earth, not to mention various other problems that popped up now and again. Though the inhabitants of Sunnydale developed a remarkable talent for denying what was going on around them, they did remember, and when Buffy Summers and her comrades-in-arms emerged triumphant over demonic evil (leaving mostly the more mundane human variety in its wake. . .oh well, we can't have everything), the people closest to the great doings felt more free to speak of what they had witnessed. In this book, Alexander Harris and Dawn Summers-Lockwood-best friend and sister of Buffy Summers, respectively-have gathered many of these eyewitness accounts and created a truly remarkable work completely worthy of the remarkable times which it recalls.

The greatest strength of this work is not its overview of the relevant history of the period, which has been painstakingly explored in other books by dozens of scholarly writers in the past few decades, though one unfamiliar with the important events will be enlightened quite competently by the background text accompanying the interviews. Nor is it a work most distinguished by its gripping tales of horror, though those too are there, with details that would cause the most jaded reader to be chilled to the depths of their soul (perhaps the most notable sections of this kind are: the interview of a middle-aged woman who watched over a period of a few years as the family next door was gradually wiped out by the creatures of the night, leaving an empty house that remained as such until the closing of the Hellmouth; and the diary of a young woman identified only as Sandy, who was turned into a vampire and continued her observations about her existence until the entries ended abruptly, presumably due to an encounter with the Slayer or her companions).

[page turns, revealing pictures of a vampire in game face, and of a rather nasty looking blue demon with long claws and fangs. The text continues]

As with any good oral history, its greatest strength is in how the interview subjects convey what it was like for them to live in a particular time and place, the good and the bad, the terrifying and the mundane. As bizarre as their existence seems to us in this age (or how it would seem to anyone who didn't live there), these people lived their lives as best they could, and their accounts span the gamut of human experience, with both Harris and Summers-Lockwood displaying a keen instinct about prodding them in the right direction to make the tales as fascinating as possible.

EXCERPT: "Willy the Snitch"

* Willy was well known in Sunnydale-among those who cared to discuss such matters-as the proprietor of the only bar in town that actively catered to both human and demon clientele. He managed to survive his chosen trade until the closing of the Hellmouth, after which he left Sunnydale and has not returned since. He currently is enjoying his retirement in San Diego, California *


". . .I tried to keep things cool, you know? I made it clear right up front: no killing in the bar, and no waiting in ambush outside to grab a quick snack or an easy kill. A guy needs customers to stay in business, you know, and I would have been out of business damned quick if word got out that the place wasn't safe. Most of the customers had no problem with it: they didn't want to lose their favorite watering hole, and there were plenty of other places in town where they could do their thing. Hey, don't look at me like that. It was the Slayer's job to deal with crap like that, not mine."

"There were always a few troublemakers, of course. Some demons just don't like to play nice, you know? Usually, some of the other customers would step in and "explain" the situation to the customer in question, and that would solve the problem. Now and again, though. . .there would be some demon who was too nasty to mess with, and I had a problem. Usually, I could bribe whatever it was into going off by bribing it. . .say, with some extra booze or the location of some sweet young-hey, stop looking at me like that."

"Anyway, one night not long before closing, just after Buffy got back to town after the whole blow up with her psycho ex-boyfriend made her take a powder for a while, a Traklar demon comes in the front door. This was not a good thing: Traklars are eight feet tall, strong as a bull, and like their food live and kicking. . .not helpful for keeping things quiet. I tried to steer him to a nice farm outside of city limits with plenty of nice juicy sheep, but he spotted someone at the bar and licked his lips. There was a seriously hot girl sitting there. . .dark hair and eyes, tight shirt and jeans, and not a day over seventeen, unless my eye was bad. Cops didn't exactly wander in there asking for I.D.s, you know. From the looks she had been throwing around the bar, I had the feeling she wasn't really there to drink, if you get my drift."

"Anyway, the Traklar walked over to the girl, and started talking to her, and what I heard didn't make me feel any more comfortable. I tried to catch the eyes of the few other customers left inside, but none of them wanted any part of a pissed-off Traklar. I looked back just in time to see the girl give Big and Ugly a cool look, then said something that would have made a truck driver blush. The Traklar didn't like that at all, and reached out to grab her and rip her to shreds, and I was figuring out in my head how much this was going to cost me in repairs and lost business when I saw something out of a Steven Seagal movie."

"The girl gave the demon a disgusted look, grabbed his arm with both hands, and broke it backwards at the elbow without breaking a sweat. The Traklar bellowed loudly, causing my other remaining customers to head for the exit, and reached out with his other arm: nobody ever accused a Traklar of being too quick on the uptake. The girl broke his other arm the same way she did the first, then stepped off the barstool and did one of those spinny kick things I'd seen Buffy do a few times. The Traklar took a shot in the throat and was deader than disco before he even hit the ground. The girl looked at me, shrugged, and seemed to be about to order another Kamikaze when a football player from UC Sunnydale wandered in, looking for a quick drink. The girl spotted him, tossed a twenty on the bar, and grabbed the guy by the arm, calling out, "Thanks for the laughs, Willy," as she pulled the guy out with her: he didn't seem to mind much. I was left with an empty bar and a pretty annoying waste disposal problem."

"That was how I met Faith."


The XMR chip accompanying the book contains over fifty hours of film and video, including out-takes from the interviews, and new interviews with Alexander Harris, Willow Rosenberg, and the late Rupert Giles, who speak at length about their personal experiences on the Hellmouth, as well as some thoughts about Buffy Summers, who has now been missing for four decades since her abrupt disappearance at the moment of her greatest triumph, said triumph being a prominent topic in all three interviews. Sadly, the interviews cast no light on the mystery of Buffy's final fate: though this book is a worthy addition to the body of non-fiction works about this period of history, the absence of this one small detail may be all that keeps it from being considered a classic. That being said, I recommend this book highly.



* * * * *


The woman finished the review, then paused, lost in thought. She was sitting at a glass table on a covered porch that overlooked a cliff: the sound of the ocean could faintly be heard from below. She was slender, but healthy-looking: only the worry lines etched at the corners of her eyes--and the streaks of grey in her hair--distinguished her from someone just entering middle age. The worry lines knitted for a moment as the woman frowned at something she was looking at.

"What's wrong?" The man had come up behind her while she concentrated on what she was reading: he was tall, well-built, and seemed to be about the same age as the woman, with grey hairs coming close to outnumbering the dark ones on his head.

The woman looked up at him, then pointed at a picture near the end of the article: it was a full-color picture of Buffy Summers as a twenty year old, looking directly into the camera with the formidable force of her personality clearly visible in the hazel eyes. "They could have chosen a better picture," the woman complained softly.

The man took a moment to look, then smiled lasciviously as he replied, "I don't know about that. . .why, standing here looking at that picture is making me want to find that girl, sweep her off her feet, and take her away to some romantic hideaway until she gets tired of me." The man blinked, looked puzzled, then met the woman's annoyed eyes as he added, "Oh wait. . .I did that already."

Buffy Summers, retired Slayer and the most famous missing person since Amelia Earhart, looked up at her lover and scowled, replying, "You know, it's still a trial arrangement, Angel. . .the last time Xander was here, I think I caught him giving me the eye. He's a successful author now, after all. . .that's rather sexy, now that I think about it."

Angel favored Buffy with a mock frown, then responded, "Somehow, I think that fear of Anya is more than adequate to keep his hormones in check, Buffy. . .getting on the bad side of a woman who founded and runs a corporation called 'VengeCo' is not someone that I'd mess with." Buffy snickered, then smiled as Angel added, "Besides, I'm pretty sure that I give better neck rubs than he does."

The former vampire drifted behind Buffy to demonstrate the point, and Buffy sighed blissfully before reaching behind her and flipping Angel into her lap. They stayed like that for a moment before Buffy sighed and commented, "Oh well. . .I guess I'll keep you, then." They shifted positions, and Buffy reached out and picked up the volume that had accompanied the article in the manila envelope. She flipped through the pages and read a few of them before looking up and asking, "Angel. . .do you ever wonder if we did the right thing by disappearing after it all went down? A lot of people are still wondering what happened, and most of them probably would just like to say 'Thank you', or something like that."

Angel frowned, then pondered the question for a moment before replying, "Let's see. . .saved the world-check. Made sure everyone was OK-check. Still keep in touch with people we love-check." Angel looked down at Buffy, grinned, and concluded, "Nope. . .don't see where we missed anything. If anyone wants to say thank you, then I'm perfectly happy to take the intent as the deed. . .and I really don't want to deal with it all again. Of course, if you have other ideas-"

Buffy smiled, then responded, "Ideas? What ideas? No ideas here." She stood up, stretched, and walked over to the edge of the porch, watching the sun begin to set. Angel joined her, and they just stood there and watched, the book recounting their past remaining forgotten on the table behind them as they contemplated their present and future.



As before, comments are welcome and desired.