Bruce Fretts
December 08, 1999 AT 05:00 AM EST

Fittingly, the wittily literate ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has amassed an extensive catalog of official titles: 26 and counting. The latest, Immortal (Pocket, $21.95), is a hardcover novel for adults (there’s also a separate series of teen-targeted paperbacks). Authors Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder have concocted a plotline original enough to justify the book’s 300-plus page length: While her mother is hospitalized with a possibly cancerous mass on her lung, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s heroine battles a seemingly unvanquishable vamp, Veronique.

Golden and Holder, who’ve done seven ”Buffy” books together, smartly expand upon the show’s slangy lingo (e.g., ”What’s the haps?” for ”What’s happening?”). They also display deep insight into the characters, shading Seth Green’s taciturn Oz thusly: ”Just as the Eskimos had dozens of ways to say ‘snow,’ a simple ‘Hey’ from Oz could carry a greatly varied array of meanings.” ”Immortal”’s only real flaw is its overreliance on lengthy flashbacks to Veronique’s previous lives in 6th-century Constantinople, 14th-century Paris, etc. What is this — ”Buffy” or ”Quantum Leap”?

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