Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)


By Lawrence Miles, Lars Pearson, and Christa Dickson (New Orleans: Mad Norwegian Press, 2003)

RATING: 4/5 Stakes

Buffy fans searching for a reference guide to the show have a lot of options: the three Watcher’s Guides, Girl’s Got Bite, Buffy X-Posed, and more. As far as I’m concerned, however, Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best of the lot.

Dusted is a comprehensive guide to all seven seasons of Buffy. Each episode is broken down into the following categories: Air Date, Writer, Director, Guest Cast, Story Summary, Firsts and Lasts (first and last appearances of characters or events), Young Love (detailing how the show’s myriad romances are developing), Character Notes, Demonology, Best Line, Glitches (continuity or logic errors), Pop Culture, It’s Really About (allegories and metaphors in the show), The Slayers Total Kill-Count So Far, At the End of the Day (brief review), and Did You Know? (interesting tidbits). Along with the episode-by-episode analysis, interesting sidebars focus on specific aspects of the show, such as “Buffy vs. the Emmys”, “The Best Episodes of Each Season”, and “Spike’s Nature.” An appendix contains a good listing of Buffy comics, although a similar list of novels is rather truncated.

The writers obviously know their Buffy, as there are frequent cross-references to other episodes and to Angel. The episode descriptions are interesting and, unlike the Watcher’s Guides, for example, Dusted doesn’t hesitate to criticize poor episodes or performances. Indeed, perhaps the only major failing of the book is that the writers don’t seem to really even like the show very much: in their eyes, everything fell apart after Season Three because the show stopped using allegory or metaphor to make the stories “resonate” with real-world issues. Indeed, the hyperbole can even get irritating at times, such as when they describe the Season Six finale as “a story that crosses a line past ‘bad’ and qualifies as genuinely awful.” On a side note, the book’s defense of Spike’s actions in “Seeing Red” (which most viewers and Buffy herself perceived as attempted rape) will certainly raise some eyebrows.

My guess, however, is that most fans buy episode guides for reasons other than seeing what the authors thought of each episode; in pretty much every aspect, Dusted is an impressive accomplishment. And if nothing else, the cool cover art makes it worth a purchase.

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