Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: The X-Files: Antibodies

The X-Files: Antibodies (Kevin J. Anderson)

The X-Files: Antibodies is the third and final X-Files book written by Kevin J. Anderson. It is a typical "monster of the week" X-Files story, though there are of course conspiracy elements that drive the plot for the final third of the book. The story is a relatively promising tale about the development of antibodies that can magically fix even the most grievous of injuries, including cancer. You get the monster of the week storyline in the form of a desperate researcher, Dorman, who took a prototype version of the injection in order to escape the laboratory's destruction, and a government conspiracy storyline that shows shadowy men attempting to eliminate all evidence of the research, including the researcher's family. This promise is utterly ruined by a shockingly bad  writing style and random sub plots that don't go anywhere.
            One of the first signs that something is terribly wrong with the structure of this book is the fact that Mulder and Scully only appear in about 35% of the book's initial 150 pages (the book is only about 270 pages total.) Instead, there are several one off PoVs that function like the "cold opens" seen in the TV series. The difference is the TV series uses this technique once, maybe twice in an episode, and then only to introduce and characterize the villain. Here we get random people making random discoveries,  then Mulder and Scully finding out about it in the next chapter. It is an incredibly repetitive structure, as you will read the same plot point sometimes as many as four times over the course of the novel. Another strike against these passages is the terrible characterization for these witnesses. They are all given the most stereotypical, obvious, and simplistic personas available; we get a kindly old veterinarian, a hapless tourist, a Fife-esque security guard, and an overworked medical student. They exist only to further the plot, and there are certainly more subtle (and significantly less repetitive) ways to do this.
            In addition to the one-off PoV sequences, we get several looks at an even less exciting sub plot. The researcher's family, consisting of his wife Patrice, son Jody, and dog Vader are holed up in a cabin in the wilderness of Oregon. We cut away to the family several times, and nothing ever happens. Patrice worries about her son, who is miraculously recovering from leukemia, and about the government trying to find them. These segments do nothing but tell us what we have already discovered through Mulder and Scully's investigations, or tell us something the two are about to discover. Meanwhile, several passages tell of Dorman's attempt to make his way to the family- whom he believes to be his only chance at survival. What ensues is a nonsensical encounter between Patrice and Dorman that makes Patrice out to be an utter fool, and again seems to serve the plot more than either character's personality. The only good original character is Lentz, the leader of the government men looking to destroy the evidence. Lentz is still extremely shallow, but that works a bit better when characterizing a faceless government agent than a family we are clearly supposed to be sympathetic to.
            Perhaps predictably, the writing itself is pretty terrible. Random (bullets are like metal popcorn) and cliché (eyes like pools of quicksilver) metaphors are among the more poignant lines. Most of the descriptions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters are about as simplistic and shallow as you can imagine. The only real bright spots with the writing style are the suitably creepy descriptions of Dorman's affliction, and a good final battle between Dorman and the government agents, with Mulder and Scully trapped in the middle.
            I've managed to write nearly two pages without saying much about Scully and Mulder, which is shocking considering this is the X-Files. However, they are barely even the main characters of this story, and their characterization is minimal. In fact, the author spends more time writing about the FBI training at Quantico (apparently he did some research and wanted to show off his knowledge) than he does about these characters. The precious bits of development we do get are devoted to Scully's bond with Jody over their mutual experience of surviving cancer. It isn't great, but at least it is something. Mulder on the other hand is relegated to making some one liners (some funny, most stupid) and doing plot related things.
            X-Files: Antibodies is a case of a good premise gone terribly wrong. There is a great X-Files story buried somewhere in this book, but it is hidden by some truly terrible prose and structuring. It doesn't help that the author spent more time telling us about the FBI training procedures than he did either Scully or Mulder. This is an extremely disappointing effort all around.

Final Score

1 comment:

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