In honor of the 10th anniversary of the original airing of “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “The Harvest,” back on March 10, 2007 I checked out a couple of Buffy the Vampire Slayer books from the library. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the novel tie-ins by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, and have found others entertaining, even when they weren’t Golden&Holder-quality. Visitors is one of the shorter books in the series, and it was a fun, quick read.
As always, Sunnydale is a magnet for demonic activity, and in Visitors that activity comes in the form of the korred, a demon that dances its victims to death. Keep in mind that this book was released long before the original airing of the musical episode, “Once More, With Feeling,” featuring a demon with a similar modus operandi. The korred wants Buffy as a victim, thanks to her super Slayer energy, but it spends a lot of time stalking her and giggling before it gets up the nerve to try anything. Side plots involve a band of student teachers taking up residence in the library (“Does this look like a Barnes & Noble?“) and everyone’s favorite guest character, Ethan Rayne, dropping in for a visit.
Visitors is a flawed book, and I am going to enumerate those flaws. But before I do, I want to establish that it is by no means a bad book. It sets out to provide some quick entertainment for Buffy fans, and it succeeds at that. The character voices, while not spot on, are close enough to satisfy the reader needing a Buffy fix. The plot adheres to all the show’s conventions. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is far from bad.
Visitors suffers primarily from the biggest problem with any TV tie-in: the characters are safe. I knew the korred wasn’t going to make Buffy dance to death and then eat her. I knew, because I knew the show went on well past 1999. I knew, because authors of tie-ins aren’t allowed to kill major characters. The absence of real danger hurts every tie-in, not just this one, but it stayed especially present in my mind with this book for some reason. Because of this, I never got very invested in the story.
Visitors also makes poor use of Ethan Rayne. I don’t know that I’ve read a Buffy tie-in or fanfic that didn’t involve Ethan Rayne randomly showing up for a bit of chaotic fun. I put him in my own fic as an agent of Drusilla, so feel free to call me a hypocrite. He’s always tragically underused and the resolution of his story is always murky. If you’ve got trouble, you’ve just got to have Ethan, haven’t you? He makes things so much more fun. His presence in Visitors was absolutely unnecessary. He followed the korred around and not much came of it. He didn’t even interact with the Scooby Gang much.
The final flaw I want to mention is one that won’t bother most people, but bugged me immensely: the sheer wrongness of the use of student teachers in the book. The student teachers are set up as a sort of side-villain, sketchy because of their constant presence in the library, funny because they all seem to have a crush on Giles. Having been a student teacher myself, I found this element of the story entirely implausible, and it really took me out of it, in the same way someone in the medical profession might have trouble watching House, or a forensics specialist might complain about CSI. Student teachers at a public school would not go by their first names. They wouldn’t gather in the library and ogle the librarian, most likely. They would teach class every once in a while. I could go on, but as I said, this is a relatively minor point.
In sum: Visitors is good if you’re looking for a quick, fun read with some good Buffy-style one-liners and a typical Monster of the Week plot. If you’re looking for a deeper examination of the show’s themes or Whedon-quality writing, however, I suggest you pick up one of the other tie-in novels. Perhaps something by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder. Just a suggestion.
Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Visitors (Affiliate Link) Author: Laura Anne Gilman and Josepha Sherman Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment Original Publication Date: 1999 Pages: 176 Age Range: Middle Grades/Young Adult Source of Book: Library