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Lucy Lawless & Reneé O'Connor : Warrior Stars Of Xena

Nikki Stafford
ECW press (www.ecw.co/press)

US price $16.95
Available in selected branches of Forbidden Planet £12.99
UK release date: June 29th 1998

Reviewed by Michael Lynch

Ok yet another new book is out on our favourite show, but what helps to makes this one different, is that it has been written by a fan and so concentrates more on the fan's viewpoint. It has chapters written by, and about, people who are involved with the on-line Xenaverse.

First impressions of the book are favourable with a large number of pictures throughout, and with just a glance at some of the sections, it is easy to see that a lot of effort has gone into this book.

The book starts with biographies of the two stars :
Lucy's bio is a little patronising in places, but manages to unearth a few new 'facts' about her past and comes across as well researched. There are quotes from interviews with everyone from her immediate family to her drama teacher at the 'William B. Davis Centre' in Vancouver. It concludes with a section on all of her various stage and TV appearances, going right up to her Broadway run in "Grease" last year and ending with the details of her engagement to executive producer Robert Tapert.

Renee's bio is a little shorter, but again covers her background well, with details on her first acting experiences (at the tender age of 8), tracing her career through to the present day. Her bio also has a large section devoted to her mother, Sandra, who as president of her fan-club is highlighted as a reason why Renee has such a large internet fan following and manages to stress the fact that Sandra is a really approachable online person who gets a thrill in seeing the large number of people her daughter inspires.

After the biographies, the book moves on to convention appearances by the stars with a transcript of Lucy at Burbank in January 1998 and Renee at Valley Forge in October 1997. Although both of these transcripts are available online at various sites this may be the first time that a lot of non-internet (or new) fans will have had a chance to see the great interaction that both Lucy and Renee have with their fans.

The next few chapters then switch to some other fans' work beginning with Bonnie Fitzpatrick's (a.k.a. Dragon Lady) memories and impressions of Lucy's Broadway run as Rizzo in Grease. Then there is a well written essay by Debbie Cassetta (a.k.a. Mistopholees) on the Subtext elements in the show and the infamous Xena nights hosted at the 'Meow Mix' bar in New York. Incidentally, the cover of this book was put together by Mary Draganis, who runs one of the best Xena web pages around at http://xenite.simplenet.com/index.html.

Next comes a highly detailed section on some of the online Xena related resources, with information on all the fan clubs, mailing lists, web sites and other fan-based organisations available. This is really aimed at the newcomer to the online world of Xena giving them a 'feel' of the range and volume of Xena based resources on the net. Some people might also be glad to find fanclub details on some of the peripheral characters on the show.

After the online resource section is my favourite chapter with a small extract of around 50 entries from "The Encyclopaedia Xenaica", which is an online encyclopaedia written by the fans giving definitions of some of the strange terms and abbreviations you will encounter in the on-line Xenaverse (e.g. 'XWS= Xena Withdrawal Syndrome')
Each term is accompanied by a cartoon drawn by Jeanette Atwood who is the talented artist who draws the weekly 'Battle On Xena' cartoon at Tom's Xena Site . She really manages to capture the great humor involved with the show, and to my mind the chance to get hold of some 'new' art by Jeanette is worth the cover price alone.

The last third or so of the book then goes on to episode guides, with information on the episodes' background, the historical inspiration and the author's own impressions. Unlike many other guides I've seen, this one covers part of the 3rd season and is complete all the way up to the musical episode 'The Bitter Suite'.

I would recommend this book to any Xena fan. The hard work and research that the author has carried out is evident, and helps it stand out above the other 'unofficial' books that are available. It is an enjoyable and well written book, and should provide you with a good reference guide to all 3 seasons of Xena.

A "missing chapter" that looks in more detail at the sort of people who are fans of Xena:Warrior Princess is available exclusively online at http://xenite.simplenet.com/lostchapter.html

Michael Lynch
© June 1998

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