One Year Gone is a SPN novel bridging the gap between season 5 and 6.
And it’s definitely in the same spirit as season 6.
Good, even neat moments? Check. Ultimately disappointing and occasional missteps? Check.
The story involves Dean transitioning to a life with Lisa while Sam learns to hunt with his grandfather. Dean eventually gets the idea to go hunt for the Necronomicon in Salem, Massachusetts. With it, he might be able to raise up Lucifer and get his brother back, but he’s going to need a witch’s help. Sam & Samuel go follow him to make sure he fails.
While I certainly won’t object to characters actually having to work to get over emotional problems, a lot of this (and the last few seasons in general) really feel like the writers have gotten confused and flanderized Dean (yes he’s on there). Yeah, the guy misses his brother and all – I like that family is important in this series, but… at some point you just start to wonder why he never thought about accepting Michael, then throwing himself and Lucifer’s first vessel into the pit so Sam could lead a life. (Meta-wise, it’s obvious that Kripke’s concept had Sam always intended to become Satan and sacrifice himself to save the world. The late-game addition of other angels kind of made the concept go pear-shape and while it was definitely a plus over-all, it does lead to some lore hiccups.) At some point one wonders what Dean was really fighting for. I mean, there is something to the idea of a character fighting hard for something they end up not wanting, but we never see this with Dean – not even in this book where we get to see inside his mind. Just once it would have been nice to have him weigh or admit that he choose wrong in the war. That the price wasn’t worth it or something. Take for instance this passage:
As they made their way through the narrow streets, tourists crammed the brick sidewalks. Dean wondered at all the people enjoying their lives-oblivious to how much Sam and Dean had sacrificed so that they could continue on as normal. Would they even appreciate it if they knew? Dean doubted it. He didn’t get a chance to walk among the masses very often and he was pretty sure he hadn’t missed much as he watched tourists munching ice cream cones and shoving their bratty kids in front of buildings and statues to be photographed. For a moment, he wondered why he even cared about saving all these schlubs’ lives…
I may have to rewatch the earlier seasons, but once upon a time, Dean was kind of the blue-collar champion of the people. Sam was the one hunting for revenge, Dean was the one hunting because it needed to be done. This also further fuels my belief that Dean really needed Anna to be his girl, not Lisa. One trait of Dean’s is that he wants to be recognized as a hero. Think of the last episode, “Death’s Door” when he’s screaming about how they do their job. The hunters perform tasks every bit as essential for society as soldiers, firemen and policemen. Yet they are generally feared and hated by the populace like Batman. Lisa is aware of Dean’s life, but she doesn’t quite appreciate it as fully as someone like Anna would have. Although in Lisa’s defense, Dean doesn’t bother telling her what he’s accomplished – again, something I can sort of understand but we really should have some scene addressing this.
Speaking of characters, a delight of this book is its look into the history of the Campbells and their hunting activities even as far back as early America. It was gratifying to read this bit from a letter of one of the ancient Campbells:
After the fight with the Salem witches, Caleb and I realized that all the country villages and towns are being abused and attacked by the kinds of evil we know how to fight. It would be lovely and comfortable to stay with you here, to see you marry and have a family. It would be lovely and comfortable for Caleb and I to do the same. But we feel that would be wrong and selfish. The world outside Salem needs us.
Again, this would have a welcome motivation for Samuel. Speaking of which, in this book we do get to see Robo!Sam’s first meeting with his grandfather; which makes it less of a surprise for the way Samuel treats his grandsons later in the season. Though it still would have been nice to see him motivated not by a desire to resurrect Mary (which has been done in the series) but to save the soul of his grandson.
Lore-wise, the book will almost have to be thrown out. At least twice it references the “four princes of hell”. And Crowley as “king of Hell”. While not a large annoyance, it does seem odd that some random demon would get promoted to king over any of the four princes (princes are usually the ones that get to be kings). Also, during one summoning, we get this passage:
Constance caught one of her young farm hands by the arm, pulled him close, and, grabbing the knife, started to chant once again. I realized she was trying to raise the second Prince of Hell, whose name I knew to be Leviathan.
So, with season 7… looks like this book will have to be tossed out. (Also, it seems to be further proof of just how much the show runners were making up as they went along season 6.)
Plot wise, this book is serviceable. My biggest complaint is that towards the end they utilize “gangmembers-with-a-heart-of-gold” cliche as a deus ex machina. It comes out of no where and with such little prep the impact of them is not what it should have been. Which sucks because I like “gangmembers-with-a-heart-of-gold” and the brief bit we see does spark intriguing ideas. Such as if Dean had met them earlier and unwittingly created the SPN universe’s version of Gunn’s gang. (hmmm… gives me an idea for a fanfic) Ironically, the strongest parts of the book are the ones that take place in the past, away from our mains.
All in all, I have to give the book:
Not one of the better novels, but I think they did about as well as could be expected considering the crapitude of season 6.