Remember back in the first Tie-In Tuesday post I compared the tie in novel to fanfiction? Well, this week we reach the dark side of that parallel, because this particular tie-in novel is like bad fanfiction, hampered by the same problems that drag down so many of its less dignified sister-form. It’s hard to know where to start with the negatives here, from the confusing plot, nonsensical pacing or almost complete lack of continuity with the Buffy television series and its characters.
Night of the Living Rerun is the third novel from the expanded Buffyverse; its plot revolves around the Master’s attempt to rise from beneath Sunnydale through repeating the ascension of a demon called the Despised One in witchhunt-era Salem. Cue reincarnation and visions ahoy for almost everyone.
The plot runs into problems almost immediately from its choice of villain. Typically, tie-in novels tend to function like stand alone ‘Monster of the Week’ episodes with their own self-contained villains who are then usually done away with at the end never to be heard of again. While they occasionally reference the ‘Big Bad’ arc of the season they rarely involve it in their narrative in any way. By choosing to use the Master as his villain here, Cover’s story plays havoc with the first season’s continuity and the end result comes off feeling lazy and uninspired. This plot could’ve worked well had another demon been at its heart, as is Cover’s underused and unfamiliar Master lacks the wit and charm of Mark Metcalfe’s portrayal in the series proper.
The potential exploration of Salem and past Slayer Samantha Kane, with her revolutionary semi-feminist shirking of Puritan gender roles, could have been fascinating, but it’s hurried over without much depth. In fact, the whole narrative feels confused and rushed, lurching from one stop to the next with little logical rhythm or explanation of how we got there. So nonsensical do some of the various elements seem (three sets of caricatured paranormal journalists descending on Sunnydale at once, Joyce’s convenient moon rock exhibit, Xander’s sudden, uncontrollable urge to play baseball) that there are times this feels like a deliberate ‘crack fic’-esque parody.
Of worst offence is probably the lack of any recognisable characters we know and love. Instead, impostors calling themselves ‘Buffy’, ‘Giles’ and ‘Xander’ masquerade around spouting unfunny lines a far cry from the actual wit of our heroes. The result of the strange out of character behaviour Cover saddles his protagonists with (Giles has always thought he was reincarnated? Buffy abandons innocent police officers to a ravenous zombie horde?!) is that it’s impossible to invest in the bizarrely unfolding plot or relate to them on an emotional level.
Sometimes wildly out of character fanfiction can be forgiven if the author has mutilated the canon to facilitate a compelling, if unrelated, story, but that’s not the case here. Night of the Living Rerun is badly plotted, badly written and not worth wasting your time on.
Rating: 1/5 zombie hordes