Carnival of Souls

Review by Sean Elliott, Associate Editor, iF Magazine
Published 5/22/2006

What are BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fans supposed to do now that the series is cancelled? The Joss Whedon penned comic book is a ways off from Dark Horse comics, and the IDW ANGEL comics only deal with that series of characters. Perhaps the answers lie in the Simon and Schuster novels that carry the BUFFY banner.

The latest offering from this ongoing series is "Carnival of Souls" from BUFFY author Nancy Holder. Holder who has written scads of BUFFY books, including the "Queen of the Slayers" novel from last year, returns to a simpler time in Buffy's history with this latest book. Set during the events before Angel turned evil and started killing. This is a simpler time when there was no Dawn, no HUGE complications for the Scooby Gang, and all we had to deal with on a weekly basis was teen angst.

In this book Buffy and gang have to take on an evil carnival that comes to Sunnydale. There's something troubling about Professor Caligari's Traveling Carnival. Perhaps it's that no one can recall the arrival of its hard-to-miss caravan of old-style wagons, countless performers, and horse-drawn carts. Maybe it's the creepy calliope music that tirelessly beckons visitors. Let's face it, an enigma that chooses Sunnydale nearly guarantees it's up to more than wholesome family entertainment.

After a visit to the carnival's Hall of Mirrors, a once-shy pair of homely sophomore twins parades the halls of Sunnydale High like diva supermodels on a runway. Intuiting the twins' abrupt personality change as more than a self-confidence boost, Buffy -- joined by Angel, Giles, and the rest of the Scoobies -- decides to investigate the suspicious carnival firsthand. But soon it's apparent that the price of admission is higher than she imagined. Those who enter the carnival's attractions exit...changed. Each of the gang soon shows extreme displays of vice. Willow is wracked with envy. Cordelia's greed consumes her. Xander unleashes his gluttony. Angel reveals a lusty new persona. And a dark anger rises in Giles. But it's Buffy's now-blinding pride that threatens to overpower her, and in the process destroy those she loves.

Holder, who remains one of my two favorite Buffy authors (the other being Christopher Golden) has such a keen sense of character with the Buffy universe that you can hear each person saying their lines as you read them. Often times you don't even have to read the obligatory tag on the end of a line such as "said Xander" because the voices are so clear in the dialogue.

The story is a fun romp from yesteryear for Buffy. It's really just a great good vs. evil story that is self-contained and needs no huge overreaching big bad to make it work. The pacing is great and consistent, and doesn't drag in any spot. The banter between all involved is witty and worthy of Joss' original writing style. Of course, one of the best things about this book is Holder's decision not to include Dawn. Dawn, or Scrappy Doo as I call her, is one of my least favorite additions to the Buffy-verse (especially a younger version...the older version I can tolerate around season seven time period).

Buffy fans should enjoy this book as a fun return to what was, and what can only exist again in written fiction. Also a word to the truly dedicated BUFFY fans, check out how many inside jokes and references that Holder throws into the story here and there to give you a chuckle.

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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