Saturday, August 11, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: The X-Files: Goblins

The X-Files: Goblins (Charles Grant) 

                The X-files: Goblins is the sixth and final tie in to the popular TV series that I will be reviewing (not including the two movie novelizations.) Goblins, the story of an invisible murder causing havoc in a backwater military town, suffers from many of the same flaws that nearly every book in this series has had, creating very hollow representations of Mulder and Scully while functioning mostly as a third rate monster of the week story without any of the menace or charm that those characters so often brought on the TV show. With a terrible supporting cast, generic plot, and below average writing style, Goblins does precious little to elevate itself above being a decidedly mediocre tie in offering.
                Starting in traditional X-Files fashion, with the mysterious creature killing off a hapless victim, the book then moves through the usual phases of an episode of the TV series. These stages include: investigating the evidence, interviewing witnesses, formulating theories, and confronting the inevitable outside influence factoring into the case. A small wrench is through into the otherwise generic gears of the story when Mulder and Scully are forced to partner up with two relative newcomers to the FBI, agents Licia Andrews and Hank Webber. Webber is a decent character, overeager but willing to learn and possessing plenty of redeeming qualities to offset his many mistakes. Andrews on the other hand is certainly not agent material, mostly getting in the way by being as obnoxious as possible, and as we learn late in the book, there may be a reason for that. Additionally, a sub plot involving an old friend of Mulder's with an emotional connection to the case is thrown in for no purpose other than to pad the body count. With the two off beat measures in this book failing so miserably, it is a small surprise that Goblins is an entirely generic and forgettable mess.
                All of the tropes are here that made the show so popular, but none of them feel right. Government conspiracies come into play with the origins of the Goblin, but the reasoning and method behind their testing makes no sense at all. A shadowy figure gives Mulder a "crucial" piece of advice that ends up having no bearing on the story, and Mulder and Scully disagree on principle alone with none of the fire or suspense that the two usually bring through their arguments. Generally there is a bit of suspense about who is in the right on any particular case, such as in the episode Duane Barry from Season 2, but here Scully's token rebuttals never seem to be grounded in reality.
                The resolution is very hasty and leaves a ton of open questions. The Louisiana connection, touted by the mysterious man at the beginning of the book, ends up feeling unneeded and dumb. The fate of the Goblin, and the government team behind it, is totally open ended, and the effects the case had on our heroes is not elaborated on at all. A very disappointing effort all around.
                The relationship between Mulder and Scully, and the characters themselves, is once again squandered in this book. Mulder acts like a pervert at times, fantasizing about random passerby and being a bit sexist in his views of some characters. Scully is a completely open book here, with the only direction to her character being that she has to oppose everything Mulder does on "scientific" grounds. As for the new agents, while this gimmick has worked rather well at times for the TV series with different group dynamics, it falls flat here for a handful of reasons. One, the characters have almost no personality to clash with Mulder and Scully, and two, both characters are somewhat incompetent for different reasons. There is no contrast of styles or conflict between this group outside of what is dictated by the story progression. Besides Licia, who hates everyone and can barely even be called a character, the other three are perfectly fine with one another, and there is no room for comparison between the two pairs because the younger group does almost nothing without overbearing guidance from Scully or Mulder.
                As for the villagers, they are a mix of random tropes: helpful but wary police chief, crazy old lady who may actually be on to something, power hungry scientists, and brutish military officials. There isn't one supporting character who manages to stand out beyond their role in the mystery, and like many other books in this series, the villain lacks both charisma and menace beyond the intriguing premise.
                Goblins, much like author Charles Grant's first entry in the series, suffers from being badly overwritten in many areas, and underwritten in several others. Dream sequences are easily the worst thing about this book, as the author applies his background in horror to a book ill suited for such things, creating long winded and pretentious passages that are self serving and offer little to the actual plot. Thankfully, there are only two or three dreams in the entire book, but there are several other places that suffer from this kind of misguided "sophistication" as well. The action scenes are relayed in a confusing manner, and the dialogue is incredibly stilted, particularly that of the research team. The lone success of this book is creating a suitably ominous atmosphere in a few scenes through clever use of the weather, but other than that this is a poor effort.
                Goblins was not an ideal way for me to finish my time reading X-Files novels. It is just more of the same as the other five, done with about the same degree of competence as the others and with little entertainment value on its own merits. Not an insultingly bad read, but far from an enjoyable one.
Final Score

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