Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How I Survived My Summer Vacation [Buffy]

How I Survived My Summer Vacation

(labelled as “Volume 1”, though no further volumes were released)

By Cameron Dokey, Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, Paul Ruditis, and Michelle West

RATING: 4/5 Stakes

SETTING: Between Seasons 1 and 2

T.V. CHARACTER APPEARANCES: Buffy, Angel, Giles, Xander, Willow, Joyce, Hank Summers, The Anointed One, Jenny Calendar, Absalom, Deputy Mayor Allan Finch, Principal Snyder

SIGNIFCANT ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Amber Thierson (Hemery friend); Mrs. Aragon (L.A. shopkeeper); Patrick Beverly (vampire); Samson Murray (undead General); Elisabeth (actress); Jay Nichols, Corvelle, Kevin (vampires)

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “When sophomore year ended with Buffy’s defeat—just barely—of the Master, she headed off to spend the summer with her father in L.A. The theme was R&R, parties, and an occasional shopping spree. But things that go bump in the night don’t take vacation. So Buffy’s trying desperately to keep a lid on things in L.A.—and to keep her secret identity from her father. Meanwhile, back in Sunnydale, trouble keeps popping up in the darnedest places. Giles wants Willow and Xander to have a ‘normal’ summer, so he and Jenny Calendar, whose budding romance is progressing to full bloom, attempts to stave off the forces of darkness sans Slayer and Slayerettes. And Angel, grappling with Buffy’s brush with death, must decide: Does he want to be a more permanent member of the Scooby Gang? Concerts. Picnics. The resurrection of an ancient monster or two. Just your typical fun in the sun.”


How I Survived My Summer Vacation is a collection of six original Buffy stories set between Seasons One and Two. This is the period where Buffy has left Sunnydale to live with her Dad for the summer, leaving her friends to mind the store. Two of the stories in this collection are Buffy solo stories set in L.A., while the other four focus on the remaining White Hats: Giles, Jenny Calendar, Xander, Willow, and Angel.

“Dust” by Michelle West is a nice continuity-implant that helps to explain just why Buffy was in such a bad mood when she returned to Sunnydale at the beginning of Season Two. Just as she’s getting ready to head to L.A. to see her Dad, the Anointed One hits Buffy with a magical curse: every time she touches someone, she flashes to a vision of that person dying. Separated from her friends, trying to adjust to living with her Dad, and being unable to even walk down the street without worrying about bumping into someone and envisioning their death are the themes of this story—one definitely worth reading.

Nancy Holder’s “Absalom Rising” shows the Scoobies trying to figure out what to do with the Master’s bones, while the Anointed One and Absalom try to get them back. There’s a lot of running around, but since we know the bones get buried (since they’re dug up in the first episode of Season Two), there’s not a lot of excitement.

“Looks Can Kill” by Cameron Dokey is the typical “villainous shape-changer comes to town” story, even going so far as to include a big finale where the villain has assumed the form of a hero during a fight, and now said hero’s friends have to figure out which one is which. It’s a little better than it sounds, but no points for originality here.

I really liked Dokey’s other contribution, however, “No Place Like . . .” This one sees Buffy encountering an aging Mexican shopkeeper whose daughter died years before—but the little girl’s spirit is trapped and Buffy has to find a way to set her free. There’s a really nice use of Buffy’s cousin Celia (from Season Two’s Killed By Death), and a story that’s resolved through brains instead of violence.

Yvonne Navarro’s “Uncle Dead and the Fourth of July” was a story that would have been just plain fun to see on the screen: a famed, crazy, and over-the-top General is raised from the dead and amasses a patriotic zombie army to keep Sunnydale safe from “enemy forces.” Giles promptly raids a costume store to go undercover as an “Allied” officer, but things do not go as planned . . .

Finally, there’s Paul Ruditis’s “The Show Must Go On.” A repertory theatre has stopped in Sunnydale for a couple of weeks, and Xander and Willow get hired on as stagehands—unfortunately, the rest of the crew are vampires. Although the idea isn’t brilliant, it’s executed well, as there’s a lot of comical running around backstage because Angel, Giles, and Ms. Calendar don’t want Willow and Xander to know what’s happening.

All in all, this is a nice collection of stories, and the sort of project I wished had been repeated for other summer breaks. The timing of this one was probably the problem, however—it was released in August of 2000, which places it after Season Four! Way to seize the momentum, Pocket Books!

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