The X-Files: Whirlwind

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Goblins. You can read my review of this novel [here].

I think it’s a good time to take another look at the series of original The X-Files novels that were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were based on the hit television show of the same name, but each provided a largely self-contained adventure for Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully that never made it to the screen. The series consisted of six novels in total but, for the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Whirlwind by Charles Grant only. Oh, and there might be spoilers. You have been warned.

A series of gruesome killings have rocked New Mexico. At first, it was just cattle that had been found mutilated – their bodies stripped of skin and seemingly drained of blood – but then the first human victim was also found. There does not seem to be any kind of pattern to the killer’s crimes – they strike out at people of any gender, ethnicity and age. No one can even figure out what weapon the murder used to carry out his crimes, especially as it seems that each victim was skinned before they even hit the ground.

With local law enforcement stumped, it’s not long before the case finds its way into Mulder’s hands. At first, he wonders if it has something to do with aliens but he soon realises that these mutilations are like nothing he has ever seen before. For one thing, it does not appear that the victims were flayed at all. Dirt in the wounds indicates that they have been scoured. For another, the killings all seem to have taken place around the Konochine reserve of Sangre Viento – or Blood Wind.

As Mulder and Scully investigate, they learn more about the secretive Native Americans and their strange religious practices. Legends say that the Konochine council have the power to harness a great magical force in the desert but no one seems to want to talk about exactly what this means. Could it be that one of them has learned how to harness this power to kill?

There is no way that I can call Whirlwind a good book. Much like in Goblins, Grant’s writing feels very clumsy. It’s overly simplistic, lacking in descriptions and full of expository dialogue. Yet the story this time around is at least a lot more fun. While Goblins tried to dip its toes into The X-Files’s complex conspiracy, Whirlwind does a much better job of standing on its own. It is purely what fans of the series call a “Monster of the Week” story – one that is self-contained and just follows Mulder and Scully on an investigation. Other than a brief cameo from Assistant Director Skinner (a character who was strangely absent in Goblins) the focus is entirely on our favourite duo as they investigate a series of mysterious deaths.

Although I did feel that the title of the story perhaps gives a little too much away, the plot did find its feet a lot faster this time around a built an intriguing little mystery. Yet, I should probably note that the story is a bit grislier that the average episode of The X-Files. One of the few things that Grant does describe in detail are the murders, which are very nasty. Yet, if you have watched the show, you will probably note that it is not really any more unpleasant than the deaths that Mulder and Scully investigate on a weekly basis.

Unlike Goblins, this book also did a decent shot at embracing its medium. The only real reason to publish a book like this is to do things that you could not do on television. Whirlwind certainly achieves that. Not only are the deaths graphic, but they also could not have been effectively depicted on screen at the time that this novel was published due to limitations of special effects. Because of this, Whirlwind does feel a lot more satisfying. It gives the fans of the show an adventure that they would otherwise be unable to see.

Yet the novel still has many faults. While it starts off strong, it starts to break down in the final act. It takes a long time for Mulder and Scully to actually see the blood wind, and they defeat the single person controlling it with remarkable ease despite the fact that the reader has been previously told how difficult it is for a group of several mystics to summon the thing. The villain’s motivation is also left incredibly vague, as a potential reason behind his murder spree is only exposited by Mulder in the final chapters. There is never a clear reason why he targets the victims – the teenage boy in particular had never wronged him in any way. It ultimately felt that he only really killed because her could, which is always an unsatisfying motivation for a murderer to have.

I also wish that Grant had done more with the Native American cultural themes in this novel. The elders of the Konochine are just portrayed as being mysterious and shamanistic. Because of their attitude towards outsiders, they are unwilling to share any aspect of their culture with the protagonists and all we really learn about them are things that Mulder guesses over the course of his investigation. Much like Goblins, the story also ends on a very vague note that hints a possible sequel, as Mulder once again gazes into the abyss and implies that there could be more deaths in the future.

In terms of characterisation, Whirlwind is also a lot better. While there are a whole lot of secondary characters, they seemed to be a bit more developed and likeable than those in Goblins. However, I still felt that Grant had perhaps bitten off a bit more than he could chew. A lot of the secondary characters who are made out to be significant, such as Annie Hatch, ultimately don’t factor into the novel that much. The worst offender by far is Mike the drunken artist, who gets one chapter of focus and then is never mentioned again.

Still, at least Mulder and Scully felt a bit better this time around. While their characterisation still lacks any kind of subtlety, they are at least recognisable as Grant does a much better job of playing to their strengths. This was really helped by the fact that they are working alone on their case. Grant is a lot more sparing with his original characters in Whirlwind which I personally thought was a good thing. It really helped the pacing to not have to spend seventy pages introducing new characters at the start of the novel.

Anyhow, I think that covers everything. Whirlwind is not a good novel but is a lot more fun to read than Goblins. However, I must admit that I was a bit relieved to learn that it was the last book in the series to be written by Charles Grant. Here’s hoping that Kevin J Anderson is a much stronger writer.

The X-Files: Whirlwind can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. dreamingofcats
    Oct 12, 2018 @ 03:05:50

    I read both Goblins and Whirlwind and thought they were decent – I was starved for new X-files content, so this hit the spot, lol. I didn’t realize there were other books, though, I’ll have to look those up.

    Reply

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