The X-Files: Ground Zero

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Goblins | Whirlwind

I apologise for the lack of reviews over the last few weeks – I’ve had a bit of a rough time of late. Still, hopefully that is now all over with and so I can get back to working through my ominous “to read” pile…

For tonight’s review, I will be returning to the series of original The X-Files novels that were published between 1994 and 1998. This was a collection of six full-length stories by three different authors that presented self-contained adventures for Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully which were never made into episodes. Today, I’ll be looking at the third novel – Ground Zero by Kevin J Anderson. And there will be spoilers. You have been warned…

Dr Emil Gregory has worked as a nuclear weapons researcher for decades and is proud to have been involved with dozens of top-secret projects. Yet his most recent one – code named Bright Anvil – is set to be the most incredible of them all. Unfortunately, Dr Gregory does not live to see it come to fruition. He is found in his remarkably intact office, burned to a crisp by radioactive fire.

As the death occurred on Federal property, Mulder and Scully are quickly called upon to investigate. However, it’s not long before they realise that Dr Gregory is not the only one to have died in such a way. Several other victims are found with similar injuries and the only thing connecting them is that they have each had some association with nuclear weapons tests in the past.

It’s not long before Mulder and Scully discover a link to a protest group lead by a former assistant of Dr Gregory. Is it possible that they have something to do with the murders and, if so, what possible weapon could they have developed to exact their revenge? As Operation Bright Anvil draws closer, Mulder and Scully enter a race against to clock to find out who is responsible before they can endanger everyone involved in the project…

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Goosebumps 1-5

Welcome to my new series of retrospective reviews! In these posts, I’m going to be slowly making my way through R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps series. Not including spin-offs and specials, this middle grade horror series was published between 1992 and 1997 and ran for sixty-two novels. Please note that, due to the age of this series, this post is likely to contain some spoilers. You have been warned. For the purpose of today’s review, I’m going to be looking at the first five books only. I’m also going to be reviewing this series in the order that they were released in the United Kingdom, which should be noted does differ slight from the order that it was originally released in the United States.

In Welcome to Dead House, Amanda and Josh are forced to move when their father inherits a creepy old house. While Amanda is immediately concerned by the horrifying visions that she has in her bedroom, she grows more worried still when she meets the strange children that live in her neighbourhood. They all seem oddly friendly and keen for her to stay with them. Forever.

In Say Cheese and Die!, Greg and his friends uncover a strange Polaroid camera when poking around an abandoned house. While he initially thinks it is broken, Greg soon discovers that the photos its takes might show the future. Yet, as the pictures begin to grow more sinister, Greg begins to grow concerned that the camera is actually evil. What if it is causing bad things to happen, rather than predicting them?

In Stay Out Of the Basement, Margaret and Casey begin to grow worried about their father when he loses his job and begins working for their basement. Suddenly, he has no time for them and forbids them from going near the odd plants that he is growing. Margaret grows more worried still when she notices that her father is eating plant food and starting to physically change. Just what are his experiments, and does he have plans for them?

In The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Gabe is excited to be spending Christmas with his archaeologist uncle, even if it means that he has to withstand his annoying cousin Sari. After all, how many kids get to explore hidden chambers deep within the Great Pyramid? However, things take a sinister turn when one of his uncle’s assistants tries to kidnap him. As he flees, he soon finds himself lost deep within the pyramid. It is here that he learns a gruesome secret, yet he might not live to tell the tale.

In Monster Blood, Evan is annoyed that he has to stay with his creepy Great-Aunt Kathryn. Not only is she old, but she’s also totally deaf. However, while exploring a local toy shop, he discovers something that seems more fun – a can of goo that seems to possess weird properties. However, when his dog eats some of the Monster Blood and starts to grow, Evan realises that something is weird about the ooze. Worse still, it seems to be growing and developing a mind of its own…

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The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away

The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away was written by Ronald L Smith and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade science fiction story which focuses on a young boy who is terrified of aliens. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Simon is obsessed with aliens, but not in a good way. He’s put a lot of time into researching the Greys – the ones that abduct people and take them away. His beliefs have driven his tough, military man father to despair. He just wants Simon to be manly and athletic like his older brother. He has no time for Simon’s flights of fancy and childish fears.

Then, one fateful night, Simon has a weird experience in the woods. All he remembers is a bright light and a looming owl before he blacked out. When he awakes, he discovers an odd scar on his belly and realises the truth. He has been taken by the Greys and now they have put an implant inside him. That means that they are likely to come back.

As Simon’s behaviour grows more erratic, his relationship with his father gets worse and worse. His parents will not believe him about the aliens and are desperate for him to get psychological help. Luckily for Simon, he manages to get in touch with MUFON – a group of people who hold the same beliefs as him. But did Simon really have a close encounter and, if so, what is it that the aliens want?

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Slender Man

Slender Man was first published in 2018 and penned by an author who, it seems, wishes to remain anonymous. The novel is formed by a collection of journal entries, police reports and newspaper cuttings which slowly piece together the tale of a teenage boy’s encounter with a certain modern-day myth. The novel stands alone but would probably be best enjoyed by people who are already familiar with the “nature” of Slender Man.

If it wasn’t for his nightmares, Matt Barker would be a perfectly ordinary teenager. Although he rarely remembers what causes him to wake up in the night, his parents have decided that it would be best for him to talk to someone about it. When his psychiatrist advises that he keeps a journal of his thoughts, Matt initially thinks that it is ridiculous. However, it soon becomes the perfect way for him to document the strange things that are happening around the city.

It all starts when his childhood friend, Lauren Bailey, walks out of her family home in the early hours of the morning and disappears off the face of the earth. There is no evidence of foul play – no body, ransom note or signs of trouble. Although everyone at school seems to have an opinion of what might have happened, only Matt knows the truth. As his dreams grow increasingly sinister, he realises that Lauren’s obsession with Creepypastas has lured something terrible to her door.

As Matt starts to research the Slender Man for himself, he realises that there is a tiny chance that he might be able to get Lauren back. However, the Slender Man does not release his victims for free. In order to save his friend, he might have to pay a terrible price. But who knows what the Slender Man does to those that disappear and is Matt strong enough to find out?

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The Twisted Tree

The Twisted Tree was written by Rachel Burge and first published in 2018. It is a dark fantasy story about a girl who finds herself isolated in a remote Norwegian forest as something terrible lurks outside. The novel stands-alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

On the day that Martha was blinded in one eye, she gained a surprising power. She only needed to touch a person’s clothing to feel their emotions and gain glimpses into their past. Naturally, she felt that she had lost her mind. Due to a combination of this and loathing of her scarred face, she became more withdrawn and started to avoid social gatherings. The only person that she tried to confide in was her Mormor in Norway, however she never received a reply to any of her letters.

When Martha catches her mother burning a letter from Mormor, she knows that she needs to find a way to visit her grandmother in person. However, on arrival at her remote Norwegian island, she discovers that she has made a huge mistake. Mormor has passed away and a strange boy – Stig – has taken it upon himself to squat in her vacant home.

However, as Martha speaks with Mormor’s neighbours, she begins to learn that something strange is afoot. Mormor’s dying wish was that her family continue to tend the warped tree her garden – the very one that Martha fell from and lost her sight. Yet, as Mormor’s request has gone unheeded, Martha soon realises that something is going wrong. She begins to have strange visions about the tree and something terrible stalks the woods at night. With Stig’s help, she searches the house for some clue as to what Mormor has been hiding from her. In doing so, she learns a terrifying secret about her family that will change her life forever…

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The X-Files: Whirlwind

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Goblins. You can read my review of this novel [here].

I think it’s a good time to take another look at the series of original The X-Files novels that were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were based on the hit television show of the same name, but each provided a largely self-contained adventure for Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully that never made it to the screen. The series consisted of six novels in total but, for the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Whirlwind by Charles Grant only. Oh, and there might be spoilers. You have been warned.

A series of gruesome killings have rocked New Mexico. At first, it was just cattle that had been found mutilated – their bodies stripped of skin and seemingly drained of blood – but then the first human victim was also found. There does not seem to be any kind of pattern to the killer’s crimes – they strike out at people of any gender, ethnicity and age. No one can even figure out what weapon the murder used to carry out his crimes, especially as it seems that each victim was skinned before they even hit the ground.

With local law enforcement stumped, it’s not long before the case finds its way into Mulder’s hands. At first, he wonders if it has something to do with aliens but he soon realises that these mutilations are like nothing he has ever seen before. For one thing, it does not appear that the victims were flayed at all. Dirt in the wounds indicates that they have been scoured. For another, the killings all seem to have taken place around the Konochine reserve of Sangre Viento – or Blood Wind.

As Mulder and Scully investigate, they learn more about the secretive Native Americans and their strange religious practices. Legends say that the Konochine council have the power to harness a great magical force in the desert but no one seems to want to talk about exactly what this means. Could it be that one of them has learned how to harness this power to kill?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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Thunderhead

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Scythe. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Thunderhead was written by Neal Shusterman and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing story of Citra and Rowan – two youths who live in a world where humans are functionally immortal and the population is controlled by an order who are known as the Scythes. The book forms the second part of the Arc of a Scythe series and follows Scythe (2016). At the time of writing, no further instalments have been announced.

Ever since she passed her trial, Citra has struggled with leaving her past behind. Although she is now a true Scythe, it is hard to think of herself as being Scythe Anastasia rather than the girl that she once was. Her revolutionary gleaning method has also been drawing the attention of her fellows. Her decision of letting her victims choose the terms of their death is unheard of, and the order is divided on whether or not they support this. While Citra is initially unconcerned about their opinions, her view changes when an attempt is made on her life. Someone has noticed how influential Citra is becoming and will stop at nothing to silence her forever.

Meanwhile, Rowan now walks a different path. He has taken Goddard’s ring and now operates from the shadows as Scythe Lucifer. His targets are those Scythes who abuse their power – the ones that kill for sport or deliberately target racial minorities. While the Scythes initially struggle to stop him, matters change when Rowan finds himself captured and at the mercy of a Scythe with a horrifying agenda. His captor is about to put a terrible plan in motion, but first they wish for Rowan to suffer.

It’s clear that the world is in a state of flux and not necessarily for the better. Although the Thunderhead – the AI that controls most of the world – can see the coming storm, it is powerless to directly do anything to stop it. The best it can do is manipulate certain key players into positions where the can make a difference, although in doing so it puts them in grave danger. Meanwhile, Faraday may also have found something that could change the course of history – a legendary city, hidden from both the Thunderhead and Scythes alike. However, travelling there is unspeakably dangerous. One slip up and he will likely find himself permanently dead…

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The Runaways and the Everlasting

The Runaways and the Everlasting was first published in 2014 and is Monifa Anderson’s debut novel. It is a horror story that focuses on a group of teenagers who are forced into a deadly game by an all-powerful enemy. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mariah is sick of her home life. Her father ran off with a younger woman and her mother seems to blame this on her. When she meets Kitch online, she knows that she finally has a chance to escape. Kitch belongs to a group of runaways who have made a home for themselves on the outskirts of London and he’s keen for Mariah to join them.

Mariah heads to meet him and is happy to discover that he’s not some elderly pervert. The Runaways do exist and live quite comfortably together, even though they have all fled from hostile home lives. Although Mariah instantly feels welcome, this is unfortunately short-lived. When one of the Runaways discovers a gold coin in the bathroom, they set off on a treasure hunt in search of more.

Unfortunately, this soon leads the Runaways into danger. The coins were hidden by an ancient and heartless race called the Everlasting and now the Runaways have caught their attention. The Everlasting love to be entertained and so pitch them into a high-stakes game against another team. The losing team will all be killed but the winners will be transformed into Everlasting and lose their humanity. It’s a horrible situation but the Runaways have no choice to play. Their only hope is to find some way to turn the situation to their favour…

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Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

The Silver Eyes | The Twisted Ones

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet was written by Scott Cawthorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley and first published in 2018. It follows the two previous instalments of this series, The Silver Eyes (2015) and The Twisted Ones (2017) and is based on the popular video game franchise of the same name. At the time of writing, there are no plans for future instalments to this series.

Charlie should have been dead. John saw her bleed out, trapped inside one of the springlock suits. He doesn’t know who the stranger wearing his former girlfriend’s face is but he’s not willing to accept her into his friendship circle like the others have done. There is something off about the way she dresses and presents herself. She may look like Charlie, but she is certainly not her.

As John starts to investigate into Charlie’s past, he uncovers secrets that he could never have imagined. Her Aunt Jen hides boxes of her father’s belongings, and these reveal the shocking truth behind his suicide. Yet someone else is also looking for information about Charlie and they will kill to get it.

At the same time, children have started to disappear all over Hurricane. Jessica is suspicious that these disappearances are linked to the opening of a new diner – Circus Baby’s Pizza – and takes it upon herself to find and rescue the victims. However, hidden beneath the diner, she finds that a madman is in the process of conducting a hideous experiment. Will she be able to stop him or will she become his latest victim?

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