Buffy Summers and her gang know that Sunnydale is a haven for outsiders, whether of the supernatural or strictly adolescent variety. Shy transfer student Kevin Sanderson is no exception. But Kevin instantly finds a mentor in Daniel, a paleontologist and fellow dino-phile at the Sunnydale Museum of Natural History. When Buffy starts hearing rumors of alligators in the sewers, she has to wonder about Kevin and Daniel's hobbies.
Meanwhile, the Slayerettes are having extracurricular excitement of their own. Alysa, a hotshot talent agent, wants to represent the Dingoes, and she's offering the Scooby Gang fame and fortune. If she's legit, it could be Oz's big break. But Buffy's too busy to run a background check -- Daniel and Kevin have reanimated an ancient creature with a new agenda...an agenda that begins and ends with the destruction of the Slayer....
* Cover image and blurb from the author's web site.
There are many strange ideas in the world of paleo-fiction, from hollow worlds to prehistoric space arks. But even by those standards, a book about vampires and demon-possessed dinosaurs is a little far-fetched.
Paleo is set during the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the Mayor and Faith the evil vampire slayer were the main enemies. Neither makes an appearance in this novel. The book opens with paleontologist-in-training Daniel Addison coming across a 60-year-old journal of a long-dead scientist who discovered a spell that can reanimate fossils. Daniel and a dinosaur-loving high school student, Kevin Sanderson, try out the spell on a fossilized dinosaur egg. It works, but there is something odd about the dinosaur and its glowing eyes.
Meanwhile, Buffy finds the vampire-slaying business surprisingly slow, with all the vampires having gone into hiding because they sense that something really bad is coming to town. Things quickly pick up when Buffy and her gang come across a trio of juvenile T. rexes set loose on Sunnydale. At the same time, Willow's boyfriend Oz meets a talent agent who may give his band the lucky break it needs to make it big, but he is having doubts about the agent's true intentions.
Paleo reads like a filler episode of the TV series: The stakes are not too high, and nothing really relates to the larger story arc of the third season. The plot is straightforward with no twists and the book suffers from predictability as a result, but all-in-all it's a decent effort. Navarro has put more research into the novel than some writers of mainstream fiction about dinosaurs, and from a technical standpoint, it's better written than those works.
The author never delves too deeply into the psychology of Buffy and the main characters -- a shortcoming of all tie-in fiction where the universe is defined by writers of the TV series -- and some of the dialogue reads very much like a baby boomer author's attempt to emulate the hip speech of teenagers. The dinosaurs themselves also are curiously underused, with only a few popping up. Still, there is more than enough action to keep fans of the TV series happy. I can't recommend Paleo to anyone who was never into the show, but for those who were, there are worse ways to spend your time.
The novel is currently available as a digital download on the publisher's web site, which is the version reviewed here.
- In a rant on her web site against the user reviews on Amazon.com, the author gives a glimpse of how tie-in fiction is cranked out. Basically an author submits a proposal, waits for the thumbs up from the publisher, and then has eight weeks to turn out a novel.
- The author has written several novels set in the "Buffyverse", most dealing with Buffy's sidekick Willow.