|It's been a few years since the production of Buffy ceased, but the television show hasn't stopped inspiring writers. More than Fiends takes the basic premise of an ordinary woman who discovers her role in the eternal combat against evil and applies it to another age-group. With its unorthodox exploration of the life of a thirty-something single mom and its pleasant, light-hearted voice, it could have taken the reader quite far. It only makes it as far as the acceptable category.
Cassidy Burke would have been quite happy with one outlandish gift for her thirty-second birthday. Instead she gets quite a few out-of-the-world surprises. First, a strange woman knocks on her door and informs her she comes from a long line of demon-dusters. She must learn to use a special window-cleaning detergent and prepare to contribute to the struggle.
Cassie is too preoccupied with her housecleaning business to take these warnings seriously. She hopes to land a contract with a sex club and, of course, she wouldn't mind playing out her fantasies with its sexy owner, Devlin Cole. But the surprises don't stop coming. Logan, her high school sweetheart who she hasn't seen since he announced his engagement to another woman, appears unexpectedly. He comes in the hopes of a second chance with her but ends up lashing out at her for keeping his daughter a secret. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Thea is just as angry at having been lied to. She retaliates with a special birthday present: she won't talk to either of her parents. Cassie takes all of these problems in her stride. After all, what's a little domestic disturbance when there are so many demons on the loose?
Beginning to see why More Than Fiends is Buffy for the chick lit generation? Perhaps its time to explain why the comparisons don't balance out in its favor. Though frequently presented in a light-hearted vein, Buffy's quandaries and conflicts are moving because they probe authentic dilemmas of young adults. Cassie's catalogue of chick lit clichés, however, have as much depths as a paddling pool. Her first-person narrative has a quirky and comic voice, but the litany of her mishaps, mistakes and misunderstandings make her self-centered and simple-minded. Her response to pretty much everything is comfort food and more comfort food. This would be quite understandable if, like the rest of us, she acquires the pounds that usually go with it.
Part of Buffy's appeal lies in its insistence on community. Cassie certainly has people surrounding and supporting her: her daughter, her best friend, her grandmother, her trainer and her employees. None of them are really developed into much more than sounding boards for her own problems. Cassie rarely interrupts her belly-button gazing to deal with their issues. This narcissism doesn't add much to her appeal.
As with many chick lit heroines, Cassie bemoans the lack of men. Because two men chase after her, it's hard to sympathize with her. Not that I envy her Logan. It isn't so much the unabashed arrogance of a guy who shows up after sixteen years of silence and demands a place in his ex's life that puts me off. It's his immaturity: doesn't he even want to see if there is anything between them before making demands?
Devlin Cole is a much more tempting alternative, although as his name implies, he too comes with other-worldly problems. The eventual outcome of these romantic entanglements are soon obvious. Still, there is more suspense in Cassie's wavering between the two men than the action-adventure sequences. This doesn't say very much for the gravity of Cassie's supernatural mission.
Since Cassie and her demon-dusting promise to be back in a sequel, More Than Fiends might well be just the warm-up. I'm not sure it's worth sticking around for the real act.