The X-Files #5: Antibodies

Having reviewed Skin, it’s time to move on to the next book in The X-Files licensed novel series. Or should that be the previous book? The answer may be less straightforward than you think. But either way, it’s time to attack Antibodies, by Kevin J. Anderson.

Synopsis:

When a disease-ravaged body is found in the smoldering ruins of the federally funded DyMar genetic research lab, Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully fear that a deadly, man-made plague is on the loose. As the FBI agents investigating the “X-Files” – cases the bureau has deemed unsolvable – Mulder and Scully pursue the truth wherever it leads, even into the labyrinthine corridors of the FBI… and beyond.

Racing to contain the lethal virus before it can spread, Mulder and Scully make a chilling discovery. Before his death, Dr. David Kennessy, a hotshot cancer researcher at DyMar, had been experimenting with a promising but highly dangerous technology: microscopic bio-machines that can cure any disease, heal any wound. In theory, this research could be a miracle cure, perhaps even a doorway to immortality. It was also the only way Dr. Kennessy could save his leukemia-stricken son.

But when a second corpse turns up, savagely mutilated from within, it’s anything but theoretical. Could machines created to cure have learned to kill? Scrambling for answers, Mulder and Scully are opposed at every step by faceless enemies with all the resources of the government – even perhaps of their own agency — at their command. Enemies who will stop at nothing to ensure that the secret of immortality falls in the right hands – their hands.

As sinister forces close in, Scully fights to save the life of an innocent boy while Mulder comes face to face with a crazed and desperate man. A man whose slightest touch brings agonizing death – and perhaps a resurrection more horrible still.

Source: Goodreads

SPOILERS BELOW

It’s the final book in the X-Files novel series, and you know what that means: Mulder and Scully will finally uncover the evidence they need to expose the conspiracy once and for – ha ha ha, no. Of course not. The villain of the book escapes, all the evidence is destroyed without a trace, the status quo remains unchallenged, and I remain disgruntled.

Well actually, officially speaking, this book is numbered as #5, placing it before Skin, which is numbered #6. The collection I read from, however, placed Skin before Antibodies for some reason. Though I have no way of knowing for sure, I suspect it’s because Antibodies has a scene at the end featuring the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and they figured that his appearance made it a better capstone for the book series. In any case Antibodies after Skin is the physical order I read them in print, so that’s the order I’m reviewing them in. Not that it makes much different storyline-wise, since all the novels tell stand-alone stories. It’s just that having this particular story as the final one in the novel series (there are also two movie novelizations; but those don’t tell original stories and so don’t count) just really drives home how ultimately unsatisfying X-Files stories are when it comes to endings. If you want a story with an actual resolution, best look elsewhere.

To tell the truth, I might have liked Antibodies more if I hadn’t read it directly after Skin. The two books tell fundamentally very similar stories: experimental medical technology shows promise of immortality, and so a shadowy government conspiracy seeks to control it. But whereas in Skin this results in a hunt for a legendarily deadly Thai monster, in Antibodies it causes everyone to run around chasing after a dog – a fine premise for an episode of Cowboy Bebop, but not exactly the level of serious suspense and drama you’d expect from The X-Files. Ultimately, Antibodies is unable to live up to precedent set by Skin; and having read them back-to-back in an anthology collection, the deficiency is difficult to miss.

I would have appreciated the book a bit more if it had been willing to provide some form of resolution. Obviously, it can’t wrap up the entire X-Files conspiracy mythos, with the aliens and the Cigarette-Smoking Man and all; but there’s no excuse for not wrapping up its own internal plot threads. It’s not like Adam Lentz is some big reoccurring mythos character who needs to slip away into the night so that he can return for the next conspiracy story: he’s a one-shot character who is never going to appear again. He was introduced in this story, and he should have been dealt with in this story – if The X-Files weren’t pathologically afraid of closure of any kind.

I also would have respected the book more if it’d had the guts to kill the kid. That’s right, you heard me. Obviously, this being an X-Files novel, all the evidence has to be destroyed by the end. And since Jody has nanomachines in his blood, he is living evidence. That means he has to die, right? Nope: apparently his nanomachines, unlike all the other ones in the novel, were programmed to magically disappear once they were finished working. Two words: cop out. But then, that’s the X-Files novels for you: sticking rigidly to formula, unwilling to take any chances. So, no matter how many nameless redshirts get killed off in gruesomely creative fashion, they aren’t going to kill the kid any more than they’re going to have Mulder actually obtain any proof.

The X-Files novels go out not with a bang, but a whimper: just another rote and derivative case without any shocks or surprises. Antibodies probably isn’t the worst of the book series – I’d have to give that title to Ground Zero – but it is nonetheless a final disappointment.

Final Rating: 2/5

Now, with this review complete, that leaves just two The X-Files novels I haven’t reviewed yet: Ground Zero and Whirlwind. Fear not: I definitely intend to. There’s a reason I’ve skipped over them and done this review series out of chronological order. In Ground Zero’s case, it’s because it’s been quite a while since I’ve read it and I want to refresh my memory before digging in, but I’m having a hard time finding a copy of the book – apparently everyone else also read it once, realized it was total garbage, and threw it away. The other book, Whirlwind, I do own a copy of; but I’m waiting to do a review of a certain other book first. When I finally do write my review of Whirlwind, you’ll understand why.

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