Today, on The X-Files: is it possible for an author to plagiarize himself? Mulder and Scully are on the case. Time to blow through Whirlwind, by Charles Grant.
Serial killers come in all shapes and sizes, but this one is particularly puzzling.There’s no pattern to the mutilated bodies that have been showing up in Albuquerque: both sexes, all races, ages, ethnic groups. There is no evidence of rape or ritual. Only one thing connects the victims. They were the victims of a natural disaster. One of the most unnatural natural disasters imaginable, leading to a most painful, most certain and most hideous death….
Mulder and Scully, FBI: the agency maverick and the female agent assigned to keep him in line. Their job: investigate the eerie unsolved mysteries the Bureau wants handled quietly, but quickly, before the public finds out what’s really out there. And panics. The cases filed under “X.”
Many people have accused Charles L. Grant of simply recycling the plot of his Oxrun Station novel The Bloodwind for this installment of The X-Files. Personally, I just don’t see it. I mean, the Bloodwind is a lethal snow devil, a whirlwind of snow and ice which is formed by using a statue as a mystic focus for one woman’s hatred and malice, and is sent by that woman to kill her enemies and those she believes have slighted her. By contrast, the Sangre Viento is a lethal dust devil, a whirlwind of dust and sand which is formed by using a medicine bag as a mystic focus for one man’s hatred and malice, and is sent by that man to kill his enemies and those he believes have slighted him. Not to mention, The Bloodwind is set in Connecticut during winter, whereas Whirlwind is set in New Mexico during summer. Clearly they’re not a thing alike, those two books.
Jokes aside, though, The Bloodwind and Whirlwind are in fact noticeably different stories – the most noticeable difference being that, unlike The Bloodwind, Whirlwind is actually a good story. If you recall, in my review of The Bloodwind I pointed out three major factors which I thought severely hampered the story: the writing style, the characters, and the pacing. Whirlwind has managed to correct all three problems.
The style and characterization are likely improved simply as a consequence of writing an X-Files book. By choosing a more traditional narrative style for The X-Files, the author neatly avoids all the issues I head with the meandering, indirect, and frequently irrelevant narrative voice of his “quiet horror” type of novel. Likewise, all the character problems I had with the protagonist of The Bloodwind are neatly side-stepped merely by virtue of introducing Mulder and Scully as the protagonists of this story. Since they already have strong, developed personalities and are strong proactive protagonists unlike the timid Pat Shavers, it is simply a matter of writing them properly; and in that regard, the author has done well.
The pacing is also a great deal better. In The Bloodwind, the story was bogged down by seemingly endless buildup that was supposed to create atmosphere and tension but only succeeded in generating boredom; it was only about three-quarters of the way through the book that anything actually happened. Whirlwind fixes this by having the first few chapters alternate between the first crimes being committed and Mulder and Scully getting assigned to the case and beginning their investigation, keeping things moving fast by interweaving the necessary introductory material with suspenseful murder scenes.
And lest you think I am comparing Whirlwind solely to The Bloodwind, I believe it also represents a marked improvement over the author’s previous X-Files novel, Goblins. The killer this time is someone who meaningfully participates in the story before the reveal, not an out-of-nowhere introduction like that story’s not-really-a-goblin goblin. It also features more supernatural elements, and thus feels more like a proper X-File: while both have serial killers as their villains, this one uses a magic-powered dust devil rather than an ordinary knife to commit his murders and is thus a lot more interesting.
Nothing about Whirlwind really blew me away, so I wouldn’t call it a spectacular book. However, it is one of the stronger installments in The X-Files novel series.
Final Rating: 3/5