…yesterday my life’s like, “Uh oh, pop quiz.” Today it’s “rain of toads.”
Thus spoke Xander Harris in part two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s pilot episode, “The Harvest.” Even in its later seasons, Buffy didn’t have the special effects budget to create an on-screen rain of toads. The advantage to books is you aren’t limited by those sorts of budget constraints. In Out of the Madhouse, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder bring the rain of toads, along with all the trolls, sea monsters, skyquakes, and nasty Cordelia-chasing demons you could ever hope for. What’s that, you say? Trouble in Sunnydale? Must be Tuesday. The difference is, this time, it’s all happening at once. Also? Giles is out of town. It turns out there’s an interdimensional mansion in Boston that’s been keeping these monsters at bay, but now its caretaker, the “Gatekeeper,” is ailing and his magic is weakening. Buffy, Xander, Cordelia and Giles head to Boston to put a stop to the monster leak, while Willow, Oz, and Angel hold down the fort against an invasion of evil monks who are out to get Buffy. (Note: I said evil monks not evil monkeys.)
Like any tie-in, Out of the Madhouse suffers from the fact that you can’t kill off major characters. What you can do, however, is injure them severely, and in every fight scene in Out of the Madhouse I expected someone - usually Cordelia - to end up in the hospital. Out of the Madhouse has a structure somewhat like a multi-episode arc; you’ve got the main problem of new scary monsters, plus signs that the Watcher’s Council might be sketchy, subplots involving outside forces looking to hurt Buffy, and some new recurring characters who are quite likeable. The dialogue is strong, though not Whedon-quality, and except for the wild special effects that would be necessary to pull it off and the unlikely requirement of on location filming in Boston, I completely believed that this was a story I might see on the show itself. Add in a surprise ending and you’ve got a recipe for fun and nostalgia. (Plus, Golden and Holder manage to avoid the Ethan Rayne trap!)
I’d recommend Out of the Madhouse to any Buffy fan looking for stories to tide them over between issues of the comic book or to take them back to the good old days.
Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Gatekeeper Trilogy, Book One: Out of the Madhouse (Affiliate Link) Author: Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment Original Publication Date: 1999 Pages: 384 Age Range: Young Adult Source of Book: Library