6 Rated Books Book Reviews

The X-Files Long Weekend: Ruins

Title: Ruins

Author: Kevin J. Anderson

Genre: Science Fiction, Book Adaptation

Summary: (from amazon.com)
A well-connected American archaeologist disappears while exploring the lost Mayan city of Xitaclan — and FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are flown to the YucatΓ‘n jungles to investigate.

Not an ordinary FBI team, Mulder and Scully are assigned to the X-Files,the strange and inexplicable cases the FBI wants to keep hidden from scrutiny…the cases involving the paranormal, the supernatural — and possibly, the extraterrestrial.

Based on a mysterious jade artifact and ominous local legends, Mulder decides there may be more to this case than simply a missing team of scientists– namely ancient curses, blood sacrifices, and deadly reptilian monsters lost in the jungle since before history. Scully is more skeptical. Her priority is to keep an eye on her partner and try to provide logical explanations for Mulder’s unorthodox speculations.

Unbeknownst to the two FBI agents, the lost city of Xitaclan is the scene of an impending three-way brush war between Central American drug lords, international smugglers who deal in looted Mayan artifacts, and a covert U.S. military commando team that has been sent to investigate, and destroy, a strange electronic signal received from beneath the ruins — a signal aimed upwards, at the stars! Mulder and Scully must unravel the secret of Xitaclan and discover what has become of the lost archaeology team before these opposing forces converge on the forgotten ruins…and unleash a power that nothing on Earth can contain.

Why did I read this book: X-Files dork, guilty!

Review:

I actually read this book back in the day (at the height of my X-Files dorkdom, around seventh grade). In honor of the movie release this weekend, Harper Collins had a limited reprint of the X-Files books–and what better way to celebrate an awesome show on a book blog?

Naturally, I repurchased this book (my copy long since tattered beyond recognition) and decided to re-read and review it here.

Ruins is my easy favorite of the X-Files books written by the capable Kevin J. Anderson. I must admit, I’m always a little wary when reading book adaptations of popular films or television shows (or games for that matter), since translating characters from the screen to the page is an incredibly tough thing to do. Often times I’ll cry out, “But (insert name) would NEVER do that!” or be overly critical of dialogue choices, etc. Mr. Anderson, however, has a remarkable handle on the early Mulder and Scully, and I could not be more pleased with his novelizations of the series. The surprisingly complex plot and the spot-on characterizations are highly impressive–not to mention the evident care and time Mr. Anderson put into researching the Mayan civilization to craft a lush setting and backstory.

Ruins begins on an archaeological site in the Yucatan, called Xitaclan. Funded by the government of Quintana Roo and the University of California at San Diego, a small team of grad students led by aspiring archaeologist Cassandra Rubicon are excavating the untouched Mayan city. While exploring the inner pyramid, Cassandra makes a notable discovery–she finally reaches the inner-most chamber, which gleams like polished metal alloy (something the Mayans did not build with, preferring stone, obsidian, jade and only crude gold or silver decorative metals). Excited with her discovery, she rushes back out to alert her teammates only to find that they are under attack from men with guns. Cassandra runs back into the temple, trying to hide, but stumbles into some kind of chamber that hums, and seems to swallow her whole–at which point she thinks to herself, there are things worse than men with guns.

Cut to a few days later, and Dana Scully makes her way down to the bowels of the FBI, to partner Fox Mulder’s office. Warily, Scully eyes the books strewed on Mulder’s desk, and the jade figurine–Mulder tells her that they have a new case, and to pack their bags for a trip to Mexico. They meet up with Dr. Vladimir Rubicon, who accompanies the two agents to the Yucatan to look for his daughter and her team. Meanwhile, in Cancun “expediter” Aguilar and chief of police Barreio deliver a strange new artifact to drug lord and (pirated) Mayan artifact collector, Salida. On their latest trip, they bring a strange new piece, made of smooth glass and metal, fresh from Xitaclan. Unfortunately for Salida, his new prize is his last, and his mansion is leveled by a mysterious blast–explained away as the workings of a rival drug lord…

Mulder, Scully and Dr. Rubicon–with the aid of the omnipresent Aguilar’s services–arrive at Xitaclan, but the team is nowhere in sight. Mulder finds himself preoccupied with the reliefs of the winged serpent god, Kukulkan while Scully’s more concerned with jaguars and other jungle predators.

And in Washington D.C., a covert group of operatives are sent out to somewhere in the Yucatan on a search and destroy–for some power source is emitting a very powerful signal.

Ruins is a treat–while the writing isn’t without its uneven moments, the characterizations of Mulder and Scully are wonderful, and the best of Mr. Anderson’s work. Scully’s reluctance to buy into Mulder’s theory of winged serpent alien gods as reason for superior Mayan astronomy and the missing archaeological team is priceless, in true Scully fashion. Mulder’s determination to find the extraordinary explanations in the face of ordinary answers (ignoring the drug/artifact smuggling reasoning for the team’s disappearance) certainly feels very in tune with the character we have come to know and love on the show. Even more surprisingly, the cast of secondary characters are fully developed, and each has their own set of believable motivations. Officer Barreio’s justifications for his ideological stance in Quintana Roo–even if it means selling goods to drug lords for money to arm his revolution–feel as genuine as Dr. Rubicon’s sacrifices to find his daughter.

Similarly, the plot is multi-faceted and excellently paced–the involvement of rival drug lords, U.S. government cover ups, artifact pirating, and aliens, all wrapped up in a cool Indiana Jones meets the Mayans sensibility kicks ass. I loved this book as a young’un, and rereading it my expectations were pretty low–but I found it to be every bit as enjoyable as I remembered! Definitely recommended for any X-Files fan.

Notable Quotes/Parts: On the way to Cancun, Mulder, Scully and Dr. Rubicon share a flight with a rowdy group of seniors.

As Mulder had dreaded would happen, once the pilot turned off the seat belt light, the senior citizens tour group got up and began to exchange seats, gossiping, walking up and down the aisles, waiting in long lines at the coffin-sized lavatories.

To his horror, some vile ringleader got it into her head to start singing “family favorites”–and to his even greater surprise, most of the passengers actually knew all the verses to “Camptown Races” and “Moon River”.

Additional Thoughts: The Mayans are pretty damn cool. The amount of detail and time Mr. Anderson put into the research of the Mayan cities and customs was impressive–the Mayans are one of my favorite ancient peoples. Something the book mentions in passing is the Mayan game of pokatok–a game kinda like modern football/soccer and basketball put together. Except, no feet and hands could be used to move the ball–and the losing team’s lives are forfeit for sacrifice.

Verdict: Wonderful fun book–X-Files fans will not be disappointed. I’d recommend giving it a read while the book is in print!

Rating: 6 Good

Reading Next: Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

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5 Comments

  • Kate
    July 25, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Ooo, I was lost at “Funded by the government of Quintana Roo and the University of California at San Diego, a small team of grad students led by aspiring archaeologist Cassandra Rubicon are excavating the untouched Mayan city.” Grad students may excavate, but at a site as well funded and seemingly important as this, it wouldn’t have been led by an aspiring archaeologist – probably the aspiring archaeologist’s more capable professor! This is why I don’t read almost anything involving digs πŸ™‚ I couldn’t even make it through Birthright, and that’s La Nora.

  • Thea
    July 25, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Kate, I certainly wouldn’t use ‘realistic’ to describe this book in the slightest πŸ˜‰

    This book is fun though, when taken with a truckload of salt! I’ve always liked the romanticized (and most likely completely inaccurate) view of digs (Indy, The Mummy, the paleontologists in Jurrasic Park, the fun in Mr. Impossible)…maybe I’ll give Birthright a shot πŸ™‚

  • Kate
    July 25, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Somehow, Indy passes muster with me…!!! I don’t get the hows and whys of it – I can deal with inaccuracies in a lot of places because hey, it’s fiction! but somehow just even getting basics and logistics wrong tends to make me nuts. That said, since it’s an X-Files book I should probably get over it, since it’s not intended to be realistic in the first place!

  • Thea
    July 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Kate, I know what you mean :p This is a major problem I have with underwater movies–as weird as that sounds! Whenever there are divers that magically descend to 100+ ft underwater and then rush up to the surface without dying of embolisms (or even suffering from the slightest discomfort from the massive pressure changes), or submarine movies that don’t make any sense with the compression/decompression, it irks me to no end.

    There are always exceptions though–i.e. Deep Blue Sea, which is admittedly a terrible movie, but for some reason I love it! Guilty pleasure. (Plus, I’m a Thomas Jayne fan)

  • Tracy
    July 25, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Oh I’ve had a crush on Mulder for years! How can you not like X-files…and I’ll stock up on the salt! πŸ™‚

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