July 27, 2007

Review of The X-Files: Ruins

I listened to this 1996 X-Files novel because of its Mesoamerican storyline. A summary of the plot:Lost city, found....

When a well-connected American archaeologist, Cassandra Rubicon, disappears while exploring the lost Mayan city of Xitaclan, the incident becomes a case for FBI agents Mulder and Scully. They are investigators assigned to the X-Files, the strange and inexplicable cases the FBI wants to keep hidden--cases involving the paranormal, the supernatural, and possibly, the extraterrestrial.

Mulder thinks there may be more to this case than simply a missing team of scientists--namely ancient curses, blood sacrifices, and deadly reptilian monsters lost in the jungles since before history.

Scully is, as always, more skeptical and likely to provide the logical explanations for her partner's unorthodox speculations. Meanwhile, a covert U.S. military commando team has been sent to investigate, and destroy, a strange electronic signal received from beneath the ruins--a signal aimed upward, at the stars....
Unfortunately, it was only mediocre. I agree with the following comments from Amazon.com:
  • The assignment of writing an "X-Files" book is a very difficult one. Anderson probably wasn't allowed to have any kind of meaningful character development, nothing can happen that has any sort of permanent effect on any of the regular X-Files characters, and you're introducing characters that every single reader has undoubtedly formed some preconceived notions about.

    Given these limitations, perhaps all you can do is churn out some by-the-book prose and play it safe. That's what Anderson has done here.

  • [L]ike I said before, this is merely decent. The prose isn't breathtaking. There are no incredibly deep philosophical moments. No new ground was really exposed with the characters, but that's an impossibility with a series-based novel. The bottom line is that this is just vanilla. Get it if your a hardcore X-files fan, but otherwise? Fahgeddaboutit. There are much more interesting science fiction books, like Cosm and Mysterium.

  • Okay if you're not expecting much...
  • [Spoiler alert]

    The book has a few problems from a stereotyping viewpoint:

  • The Mexican characters come across badly. The major ones seems to care only about plundering the Xitaclan site, not preserving it. The minor ones seem to be cowardly and superstitious.

  • Mulder discovers (surprise!) that "ancient astronauts" came to Earth and taught the Maya everything they know. This condescending theory denies that the Maya were smart enough to develop their culture--their arts and sciences--on their own.

  • The book postulates that the feathered serpents of myth were actual beings: pets or companions of the aliens. This implies that the Maya couldn't come up with their own deities until they literally saw something worth worshiping. That their rich cosmology didn't evolve over thousands of years but was invented on the spot.

  • Rob's rating:  6.5 of 10.

    1 comment:

    russell said...

    Writerfella here --
    A goodly number of THE X-FILES books were novelizations of the series episodes, and those are the ones writerfella deemed worthy to be collected for The Bates Memorial Library. But the novels 'inspired by' the series mostly are crass, $1-2.98-dreadfuls about on a par with the 'inspired by' STAR TREK novels, and you won't find any of those in TBML, either. But if ya paid yer money, then ya took yer choice...
    All Best
    Russ Bates
    'writerfella'