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?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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Beetle Queen

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

Beetle Queen (also published under the title Revenge of the Beetle Queen) was written by M.G. Leonard and first published in 2017. It forms the second part of The Battle of the Beetles Trilogy, following Beetle Boy (2016) and preceding Battle of the Beetles (2018). The story picks up a couple of months after the events of the first book and follows the continuing adventures of Darkus Cuttle and his hyper-intelligent rhinoceros beetle, Baxter. Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequences to fully appreciate them.

Darkus managed to rescue his father from the clutches of the evil Lucretia Cutter, but he knows that the monstrous fashionista is planning something big. The paper reports that she is designing dresses that will be worn by every actress who has been nominated at the Film Awards in LA. Darkus does not know what Cutter will do when all of those cameras are turned on her, but it can’t possibly be good.

However, his snooping is hampered by his father. Bartholomew Cuttle knows how dangerous Cutter can be. She very nearly killed Darkus the last time they met and he doesn’t want to risk losing him. Bartholomew is keen to whisk his son away to live in the countryside but Darkus can’t allow that. He could never run away and leave his new human and beetle friends in danger.

When a close friend is badly injured by Lucretia Cutter and his father vanishes once again, Darkus knows that he has to act. With the help of Uncle Max, Virginia, Bertolt and their best beetle friends, they set off on an epic adventure that takes them from frozen Greenland to the bright lights of Hollywood. They know that they need to act fast. Lucrecia Cutter needs to be stopped before she can move her evil plan into its next stage…

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Thunderhead

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

Thunderhead was written by Neal Shusterman and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing story of Citra and Rowan – two youths who live in a world where humans are functionally immortal and the population is controlled by an order who are known as the Scythes. The book forms the second part of the Arc of a Scythe series and follows Scythe (2016). At the time of writing, no further instalments have been announced.

Ever since she passed her trial, Citra has struggled with leaving her past behind. Although she is now a true Scythe, it is hard to think of herself as being Scythe Anastasia rather than the girl that she once was. Her revolutionary gleaning method has also been drawing the attention of her fellows. Her decision of letting her victims choose the terms of their death is unheard of, and the order is divided on whether or not they support this. While Citra is initially unconcerned about their opinions, her view changes when an attempt is made on her life. Someone has noticed how influential Citra is becoming and will stop at nothing to silence her forever.

Meanwhile, Rowan now walks a different path. He has taken Goddard’s ring and now operates from the shadows as Scythe Lucifer. His targets are those Scythes who abuse their power – the ones that kill for sport or deliberately target racial minorities. While the Scythes initially struggle to stop him, matters change when Rowan finds himself captured and at the mercy of a Scythe with a horrifying agenda. His captor is about to put a terrible plan in motion, but first they wish for Rowan to suffer.

It’s clear that the world is in a state of flux and not necessarily for the better. Although the Thunderhead – the AI that controls most of the world – can see the coming storm, it is powerless to directly do anything to stop it. The best it can do is manipulate certain key players into positions where the can make a difference, although in doing so it puts them in grave danger. Meanwhile, Faraday may also have found something that could change the course of history – a legendary city, hidden from both the Thunderhead and Scythes alike. However, travelling there is unspeakably dangerous. One slip up and he will likely find himself permanently dead…

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The Raging Ones

The Raging Ones was written by Krista and Becca Ritchie and first published in 2018. It is a science fiction story, set in a world where everyone’s death day is predetermined. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

On Saltare-3, society is based around how long a person will live. Scientists have determined accurately determine a person’s life span through a simple blood test. Babes – people who will live to be no older than thirteen – are the only ones who are allowed to wile away their short lives at leisure. The long-lived Influentials are also allowed a measure of luxury. Society deems only them worthy of education as they will live long enough to make use of it. All menial jobs are performed by the Fast-Trackers – people destined to die between the age of thirteen and thirty. They will never live long enough to become great, but at least this means they will give something back to society.

Franny Bluecastle knows that her time has come. There is no point fearing your death day when you’ve known about it your whole life. However, when she wakes up from a drug induced stupor the following day, she finds herself trapped in a nightmare. She has somehow managed to skip her death and now has no way of knowing when it will catch up with her.

She is soon discovered by two other people like her – serious Court Icecastle and laid-back Mykal Kickfall. She also learns that the three of them share a strange bond that allows them to sense the same physical sensations, even when they are far apart. Court realises that if anyone finds out that they have missed their death days, serious questions will be asked. Their only salvation is to win a place on the first manned space mission in centuries. But how can they hope to be selected when every other viable Influential is desperate for the same chance…

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Satellite

Satellite was written by Nick Lake and first published in 2017. It is a science-fiction novel that focuses on a teenager who was born on a space station as he prepares for his first journey to Earth. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Leo finds it odd that people refer to Earth as being his home. He and his friends – Libra and Orion – have never known anything but the confines of Moon 2. They were born on the space station and have been unable to travel down to Earth as their frail bodies could not withstand the gravitational pull of the planet. However, now that his sixteenth birthday is approaching, everything changes.

Tests have shown that Leo and his friends are now potentially strong enough to survive on Earth. Leo is thrilled by the news. Although he loves his life in space, he’s keen to experience everything that he’s missed out on. He knows that getting used to gravity won’t be easy, but he longs to meet his Grandfather for the first time and help out on his ranch.

However, Leo is not prepared for what lies before him. Earth is not the utopia that he has imagined and he quickly realises that the Company who control Moon 2 have been hiding many things from him. When Leo came down to Earth, he thought he would be free. He soon realises that nothing could be further from the truth…

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The Girl Who Dared to Stand

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Girl Who Dared to Think. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Girl Who Dared to Stand was written by Bella Forrest and first published in 2017. It is a dystopian science fiction story which follows Liana and her dissident friends as they continue to evade capture within the futuristic city of the Tower. The novel forms the second part of the The Girl Who Dared to Think series, following after The Girl Who Dared to Think (2017) and preceding The Girl Who Dared to Descend (2017), The Girl Who Dared to Rise (2017), The Girl Who Dared to Lead (2018), The Girl Who Dared to Endure (2018) and The Girl Who Dared to Fight (2018).

Liana and her friends have managed to find a new sanctuary but they do not know how long they can remain hidden. Devon’s sudden attack cost the lives of two of their allies and the survivors have been left feeling bitter and scared. Yet, in a hidden room beneath the Tower, Liana has found something unexpected. A prototype version of the Scipio AI, left abandoned and detached from the mainframe for three hundred years. Suddenly, she realises that they may have a way to fight back.

However, the most important thing is to first ensure that they can move around unnoticed. This means replacing each of their neural nets to ensure they aren’t picked up by any of the Core’s scans. Unfortunately, nets are not easy to come by. Their production is a closely guarded secret and, even with Mercury’s intel, stealing them from within the Core will be unimaginably dangerous.

Although the heist gets off to a good start, things take a downward turn as Maddox is captured by their enemies. Although Liana wants to mount a rescue, her plan is put on hold as she is unexpectedly approached by another faction of rebels. These mysterious individuals have both the power and influence to redeem her name. However, in exchange for their help, they wish for a terrible favour in return…

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Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines was written by Philip Reeve and first published in 2001. It is a dystopian science fiction novel, set in the far future when cities have become mobile. The novel forms the first part of the Mortal Engines Quartet and is followed by Predators Gold (2003), Infernal Devices (2005) and A Darkling Plain (2006). More recently, Reeve has also published a prequel series – titled the Fever Crumb series – and a film adaptation of Mortal Engines is due for release later this year.

Following the Sixty Minute War, the world fell into chaos. Faced with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, most cities were transformed into hulking traction engines in order to protect the people who lived within. Now, they follow the credo of Municipal Darwinism. The successful cities are the ones that hunt and devour others, harvesting them for precious resources and slaves. The weaker cities are quick to fall.

As prey becomes scarce, London is forced to venture out into the dangerous hunting plains. Tom Natsworthy is as excited as anyone when she manages to capture the small mining town of Salthook. It even gives him the opportunity to meet his hero Thaddeus Valentine – head of the Guild of Historians. However, his luck soon turns when Valentine is attacked by one of the citizens of Salthook. Although Tom manages to save Valentine’s life, he learns that he is responsible for the brutal scarring of his would-be assassin’s face. And unfortunately this is a secret that Valentine would prefer to remain hidden.

Although Tom survives, he finds himself ejected from London in the company of the assassin – Hester Shaw – a bitter young woman who thinks of nothing more than her revenge. As the two search for a way back into the city, they learn a horrifying secret. The Lord Mayor of London has gotten his hands on an ancient weapon and soon plans to unleash it on the world…

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The Supervillain and Me

The Supervillain and Me was written in 2018 and is Danielle Banas’s debut novel. It is a science-fiction romance about a girl who slowly starts to fall for a notorious villain when she is asked to help prove his innocence. The novel forms the first part of the Morriston Superheroes series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Morriston City has never been safest of places. Despite the fact that it boasts two active Supers – Red Comet and Fish Boy – its crime rate is so bad that it’s unsafe for any ordinary person to walk the streets without carrying a taser. As the daughter of the mayor and sister of Red Comet, Abby knows this only too well. Her family are so busy trying to make the city a safer place that they don’t seem to spend much time together anymore.

Things get worse still when a new Super appears and burns down the mayor’s office. Dubbed the Iron Phantom by the press, he proves keen to use his powers to cause as much damage as possible. However, Abby isn’t sure quite what to make of this. Before he was revealed to be a villain, the Iron Phantom saved her life and he certainly didn’t strike her as a bad person.

It’s not long before the Iron Phantom shows up in her bedroom and begs her for help. He has reason to believe that the mayor’s office is planning to implant microchips in the general public and he needs to find out why. He also swears to Abby that he is innocent of his crimes and that someone is trying to frame him. Slowly, Abby is drawn into the conspiracy but she can’t help but worry if she is doing the right thing. How can she trust someone if she does not even know who they are, and what would her brother do if he learned that she was helping his arch nemesis?

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The Book Knights

The Book Knights was written by J.G. McKenney and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy novel that draws its inspiration from Arthurian legends, set in a dystopian city where reading is illegal. The novel reads as though it is part of a series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Arti Penderhagen’s life is turned upside down when her parents are arrested for the crime of reading and her home is burned to the ground. As she flees for safety, she is taken in by a young pick-pocket called Gal Hadd and offers to teach the orphan how to read in exchange for advice on how to survive on the streets.

Yet Gal’s tips may not be enough to protect Arti. Morgan Le Fay, the CEO of the city, has reason to believe that Arti has the power to thwart her plans to take absolute to control over everything. She sends her chief of police – Mordred – to scour the city for any trace of Arti, and to capture her by any means necessary.

Yet Arti soon finds allies in strange places. When she encounters an elderly librarian named Merl and reads a passage in a book that no one else can see, she learns that she is the one destined to use the magical pen Excalibri to write a better future for the world. However, to do so she needs to get her hands on the legendary Grail Tome, an ancient book in the possession of Morgan Le Fay…

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