X-Files: Whirlwind (Charles Grant)
The X-Files: Whirlwind is the third book I've read in the series, all by different authors. Despite the fact that Whirlwind introduces a new face to the iconic TV show, the results are very similar. The plot structure is the exact same, the characterization is shallow, and the side characters are completely bland. Add to that a confusing mystery that would be pretty mediocre by the TV show's standards, and you get yet another perfectly forgettable tie in novel.
Like the previous two, the book follows the same simple structure of a slow build by introducing a victim point of view, then cutting to Mulder and Scully, then throwing in a whole bunch of random characters that our heroes will eventually encounter. These random characters don't work as well as the similar ones seen on the TV show for two reasons. Firstly, the amount of pages it takes to describe these characters and their actions is disproportionate to the time we spend meeting them on the show. As 30 second fill in characters, most of the people in this book would be alright, but when they combine to consume about half of the book, that is a problem. Secondly, they just aren't very good. None of them stand out in any way, and the ways in which they interact with our heroes or each other do little to tell us about who they are. They are just as vague after all the random cutaways are fulfilled as they were before.
The main characters aren't much better, continuing the tie-in series' policy of accurate, yet cursory characterizations. An interesting twist at the beginning pitches Scully as the believer and Mulder as the skeptic, but this doesn't hold up for long at all. Basically only lasting long enough for the agents to get their feet on the ground, at which time the traditional dynamic takes over. This dynamic isn't particularly important here as the action seems to dictate the character rather than the opposite, but it is at least faithful to the series. There is one interesting segment in which Mulder pulls rank on a local official, then immediately feels guilty, but unfortunately this potential sub plot is never expanded upon.
The plot involves a killer whirlwind summoned by someone from a local Indian tribe. We take the familiar detours through the plot, struggling to describe how the victims died, trying to obtain more information on the victims, seeing more bodies pile up, being introduced to a crazy bad guy that is clearly not the main villain, and etc. It would be a very, very average plot on the TV series, and it translates very poorly here. The antagonist's motivations are confusing, and an entire sub plot about a drunk driver's encounter with the whirlwind is abandoned without Scully and Mulder even talking to the man, who actually managed to survive it somehow. There are some overly complicated dynamics between the various suspects and witnesses, something the book draws out in agonizing fashion, but at the end of the day we are left with a pretty standard monster of the week story. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with a story this convulted, and a monster this uninspiring- killer magic whirlwind- the results are aren't very entertaining.
Stylistically, this book is very similar to the previous one I read, Antibodies. There is some exceptionally gory stuff, but it never extends to an area too mature for the TV series or anything. The dialogue is extremely bad, with every character sounding the exact same. Even Mulder and Scully's banter is boring here, with the author capturing little of the humor present throughout the series. There are also some atrocious two-three line paragraphs describing the coming whirlwind that pop up at various points in book. They are amateurish, borderline pretentious, and overall pretty unimportant. As for the setting, there are some decent descriptions, but the author tells us how hot and sweltering the New Mexico desert is a few too many times. The final showdown fails to impress as well, with some of the most confusing descriptions used here.
Whirlwind is a very unimpressive book. There is nothing here to set it apart from the average monster of the week tale on the TV series, and plenty that it gets wrong in relation to it. The secondary characters are bland, it has no implications in the overall arc, and our heroes are characterized very basically. A book to skip for all but the most desperate X-Files fan.