Non-Fiction Review

Angel: Hollywood Vampire

(2004ed) Keith Topping, Virgin, 6.99/US$7.95, pbk, 456 pp, ISBN 0-7535-0807-9

This is probably the definitive guide to the Angel TV series about a young-looking, but centuries old, vampire with a soul. And if you have read this far then you'll know Angel is a spin off from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Guides and biographies largely come in two guises. The authorised ones that have access to the inside gen but tend to be censored. Then there are the unauthorised ones that have neither this advantage nor the disadvantage. Angel:Hollywood Vampire is of the unauthorised ilk and so is not obliged to hype the series on behalf of its makers, just its fans. Decidedly on the plus side this guide is in its 4th edition and covers 4 seasons with an episode guide to each and (one presumes) any errors from previous editions corrected. In addition there's a section on Angel as he appears in Buffy, one on the Angel spin-off novels, and Angel sites on the internet.

Because, I suppose, the guide is unofficial many of the episodes (surprisingly many) contain 'logic' paragraphs that illustrate where the episode fails in series-continuity and/or logic. I add the note 'surprisingly many' because a number of these lapses are not required to make the episode work. Alas this continues to be a problem with many TV series which despite growing effects budgets can't seem to afford to keep an eye on where they are coming from or going too. Anyway, this coverage is most welcome.

The guide is comprehensive and I do not hesitate to recommend it not only to Angel and Buffy fans but those with a deep interest in cult TV. The guide is so thorough that it lists both US and UK first broadcast dates as well as the German and French translations of episode titles. My one criticism is the lack of criticism. Other than the logic flaws and preferred websites, we do not get a feel for how good each episode is compared to others. (Britain's SFX magazine does this particularly well in its 'spoiler zone'.) This lack of analysis is particularly noticeable in the section of spin off novels. The standard of TV spin-off novels is notoriously low, though there are a few notable exceptions. James Blish, and arguably Dianne Duane's Start Trek novels buck the low-quality trend and offer the reader more, but I have no idea from Hollywood Vampire whether the Angelnovels are any good or simply crap fan fiction. Despite this failing the guide scores on so many other levels that it is bound to give others a run for their money. Meanwhile (at the time of writing Dec 03) with series 5 launched in the US the saga continues.

Jonathan Cowie

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