Saturday, 5 June 2021

Halloween Rain (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

AuthorChristopher Golden & Nancy Holder
First Published1995
Pages: 118 (163pp)
Ebook Publisher: Simon Pulse
Ebook Date: Dec. 2017

Sometimes you just need a fast, fun, satisfying read that doesn't tax your brain too much and can be consumed over a weekend or less. I had a hankering for precisly such an experience so plumped up £2.99 for the eBook of Buffy the Vampire: Halloween Rain by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder. It was perfect - a real blast from start to finish, full of the vim and vigour that the television series exhibited.

A Buffy book first appeared in 1992 - but this was only the novelisation of the original movie from that same year starring Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer and Luke Perry, with Kirsty Swanson as the eponymous Slayer. Following the success of the television series, it wasn't long before paperbacks began to appear on bookshelves. And for fans, it was a surprising combination of novelisations of the TV episodes, as well as original novels. Many fans highly praise the novelisations - and quite rightly. Some of them expand upon the broadcast versions very well. But for most of us, with re-runs and streaming services so readily available, it is original fiction that draws us in to buy tie-in paperbacks. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer books have been written for both the young adult market as well as the mainstream market and flourished in both. This is no mean feat, I remember buying these books back in the day for my partner who was a huge fan (she still has an Angel mousemat I bought for her years ago) and there where a steady diet of books up until 2008. Even as recently as 2019 saw a number of books attempting to reboot the franchise with a new Slayer taking over from Buffy.

For those uninitiated, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the story of schoolgirl, Buffy Summers, the last in a line of young women known as "Vampire Slayers", or "Slayers". These young females or "Chosen Ones", are fated to battle against vampires, demons and other such forces of darkness that arise. But Buffy Summers wants to live the life of a normal teenager before learning to accept her destiny. As with all the previous Slayers, Buffy is aided by a "Watcher" (School librarian, Rupert Giles) who teaches and trains her to become a better Slayer. Buffy surrounds herself with her circle of loyal friends who later become known as the "Scooby Gang".

Halloween Rain takes place during the period covered by the first season of the Buffy television series. It is not considered canonical because of the fact that Halloween takes place after the events of the first season finale. However, almost all books in the range were considered to be non-canon, regardless of the fact that the plots had to be given the green light by creator Joss Whedon.

Buffy, still being relatively new to the town of Sunnydale where these events takes place, is unaware of the local legend that any scarecrow that gets caught out in the rain during the night of Halloween will come alive and slaughter anyone it comes across on that fateful evening. Buffy's closest friends, Xander and Willow grew up with the legend and didn't really give it a second thought. However, now that they have witnessed the evil goings-on that surround the Slayer and her Watcher - their thoughts turn more sinister as All Hallow's Eve approaches.

The gang have noticed that the vampire community has been quiet of late, and Giles informs them that it is traditional for "vamp's" to take the evening off! Undeterred, Buffy keeps up her nightly vigil of patrolling the graveyards of Sunnydale - just to make sure.

After consulting his supernatural library, Giles unearths the tale of "Samhain" the king of the dead souls who haunts the land of the living for one night. If he comes to life in Sunnydale, he will bring hoards of zombies with him, and he will have only one purpose - to kill a Slayer.

Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder collaborated on Halloween Rain, and they produced a brilliant YA novel. This book is an absolute joy from start to finish. It isn't too long, and can be devoured in a single day or weekend depending upon your reading habits. The most pleasing aspect of it, is the dialogue between the main cast of characters. They are totally spot-on and the whole thing reads like a superb adaptation of an actual episode. The interplay between Buffy, Xander, Willow and Cordelia are top-notch and you will have no problem 'seeing' the scenes come to life in your imagination.

I was also surprised with the sheer amount of references to the pop-culture of the late nineties. This book is crammed full of them, far too many to mention, but it serves to ground the plot in our world with aplomb. Each time one was mentioned it brought a smile to my face.

I was sceptical that reading a Buffy book would be to my tastes, and to be perfectly honest I didn't realise that Halloween Rain was part of the YA range when I downloaded it. However, I am so glad I did because it was such a satisfying read. It was such a good book that I cannot see this being the only Buffy book I ever read. Whether the longer form adult versions will be able to sustain my interest I don't know, but I've grabbed one to try anyway.

Most Buffy the Vampire Slayer books are available in eBook format, and I very highly recommend you to try at least one of them out. The television series was a pivotal moment in the entertainment industry, influencing many peole and shaping the tv of the future (Russel T. Davies has admitted that Buffy was a major influence on how he brought back Dr Who in 2005). This book, at least, is a fun and entertaining gem.

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