Like many millennials, I grew up with The X-Files. To this day, there’s something irresistible about the odd lighting, barely congruous storylines, interminable will-they-won’t-they between Scully and Mulder and, of course, the cases in the show that I can’t bring myself to admit isn’t that great and let go of.
Maybe my love for The X-Files… is an X-File itself? Ok, that’s a reach but not by a lot, really.
Suffice it to say that when I stumbled across Gillian Anderson’s Earthend Saga I was *elated* and resolved to read the whole thing. But life happens, and time was scarce so I decided to finally try out this new fengled audiobook thing that I’ve been hearing about.
The Results: I am a convert. Audiobooks are awesome. And the three books which comprise the Saga? Well… erm… yeah. Mixed feelings. But read on to find out how it went down!
A Vision Of Fire
This book started decisively. The characters were introduced swiftly, their personalities established and their relationships to each other and the world around them clarified. Because it was my first audiobook, I thought that was all due to the medium but no – Gillian (and that guy Jeff Rovin) just did a really great job.
And my little X-File-loving heart was so happy when I realised that the plotline was essentially an X-File.
Perhaps that’s not quite fair. A Vision Of Fire deals plainly with the supernatural. Children are having visions which manifest themselves in real-world, frightening and life-threatening ways. And at the centre of it all, just trying to help her patients, is child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara. Her quest to help one young girl in New York ends up taking her around the world, where she meets other children who have suffered similar visions and their consequences.
She meets others who have tried to help, and (refreshingly, if you remember Scully) allows her scientific mind to ponder the possibility that what her patients are experiencing – and what the mystics who claim to understand the phenomena are saying – is something no current science can explain.
A Vision of Fire meanders a bit, but always comes back to that sweet spot between intrigue and plot. Gillian’s voice lulls you as effectively as is chills you as you listen to the story of Caitlin O’Hara and her encounters of the… third kind? Fourth?
Whatever. You know what I mean.
A Dream Of Ice
The second installment of this Saga picks up on the heels of the first. Caitlin O’Hara, renowned child psychologist and incredibly competent single mother ) that didn’t seem like a big deal in the first book, but it is in this book) is coming to accept that there are things in this world not imagined by our science. And that these things don’t have the best of intentions for us.
Anyway, this being a trilogy, one character and her supporting cast can’t be expected to carry three books.
So, enter artefact-hunter extraordinaire Mikel Jasso – who comes complete with an employer who is the head of a shady organisation (quirky support characters included). He’s been trotting the globe, hunting what he initially thought to be artefacts of a long-dead, but likely primitive civilisation. He’s done some questionable things to get his hands on these artefacts in the past, and he’s fine with that. Because it is the science and discovery which matters. Mikel could easily have been a caricature of his character archetype, but he’s saved from that by some clever characterisation and… probably… being narrated by Gillian Anderson.
Both Caitlin and Mikel are, of course, embroiled in the unfolding realisation that, long ago in the frozen landscape of the Antarctic, there thrived a people who’s ingenuity was eclipsed only by their stunning inability to accept that there are natural forces with which we should not tamper.
Sound familiar? Lol yeah, hi global warming.
Whilst Mikel’s journey is that of a solitary scientist, collecting historical artefacts which prove themselves to be more than shiny, humming rocks, Caitlin’s journey in this book is far more personal. Her son, Jacob, is acting strangely. A generally happy and well-behaved child attending a school which caters well for his needs (he’s deaf), Jacob one day has an incident so severe that Caitlin is called. She finds her son traumatised, seemingly by nothing at all – but she knows that what ails her boy isn’t some kind of fit, or tantrum.
Galderkhaan comes home to roost in this second book of the Earthend Saga, which includes a fresh hell for Caitlin as souls from the past catch hold of her son and are determined to drag themselves back into the land of the living – an eventuality which Caitlin stopped in the first book with a rather dramatic scene at the UN . By this point, our heroine has learnt a couple of tricks from her tangles with deceased souls, and sets about to find a way to once again stop Galderkhaan from bleeding out of the past and into our present.
Meanwhile, Mikel’s shiny stones are wreaking havoc and his mysterious employers are coming to understand that they’re playing with a type of fire (that’s funny, see, since this is the book about ice) they can’t contain. This doesn’t stop them from forging on, though. Because LOL humanity and also there are three books in this Saga.
A Dream of Ice was more personal, and as a result more frightening to listen to than A Vision of Fire. Better paced writing and Gillian’s low-pitched narration drove this book forward with little room to get bored or lost. In my opinion, the series peaked in this book, and could easily have ended on the book’s cliffhanger and still been a favourite of mine.
Alas, the show must go on.
The Sound Of Seas
Even the name tells you that this book didn’t really know what it was trying to accomplish in the series.
But if being unnecessary was an effective deterrent against existing then a lot of my favourite things and least favourite people wouldn’t exist – then how would I build character?
So yes, I powered through the third installment through a combination of determination to finish what I started, and excitement to write about it for TAGG.
The Sound of Seas picks up, again, where its predecessor ended. Caitlin O’Hara has gone Super Saiyan, tapped into some pretty awesome powers, and inhabited a dead person’s body in search of her son’s soul. In the time and place where she is inhabiting said body it is still very much alive, as is the Galderkhanni civilisation which she has thus far had mostly terrifying post-extinction contact with.
And Mikel Jasso is in the same place as her, though in a different time. He’s joined an Antarctic expedition in the present, with the intent of finally learning the secrets of the shiny rocks which are actually described as tiles all through the books. I just like the phrase “shiny rocks”.
Whilst Caitlin experiences the wonder of Galderkhaan in the past, Mikel explores its simultaneously awe- and fear-inspiring ruins in the present. Caitlin’s story lost my interest at numerous points in this final book, whilst Mikel’s was gripping, and almost relatable.
Almost, because if I went through what he went through in this book, I’d have chosen to lay down and give up sometime after the first bone broke. But Mikel perseveres, and we are treated to a tale which traverses the space between now and then, real and ethereal and ultimately shows us that nuance can be highly overrated.
As Mikel’s story comes to a head and we finally see the true power of this civilisation which refuses to fade away – Caitlin’s story meanders its way to finding some meaning.and an ending which is satisfactory mainly because I was ready for the end to come.
The Sound of Seas was worth listening to, despite all my grumbling, if only as a means of closure. Where A Vision of Fire was occasionally slow, and A Dream of Ice kept packing punches all the way through, The Sound of Seas left me glad to have a conclusion to the Saga and not wanting to go back.
In Conclusion: The Earthend Saga was a lovely entry into the world of audiobooks. I’ve been a bit harsh in the review because I went in with the highest of hopes and found a trilogy which was good, verged on great in the middle, but ultimately landed resoundingly on good again.
Mood Rating: Listen to this trilogy if you’re a fan of speculative fiction which dabbles in thriller territory; a newcomer to the audiobook world like me and you want a taste of the potential; and – most relevant, really – a fan of Gillian Anderson.