When the Williams family pulls into the township of Gainsville, Kansas, to look up an old friend they quickly find themselves imprisoned in a nightmare scenario as US government forces throw a security cordon around the area. Something else has arrived in Gainsville. XAN-Ubara-Q'han, Surveyor-General of the Ninth Swarm has landed....
Patrick Tilley's XAN is an interesting take on the classic fifties sci-fi scenario of a covert alien landing. The invader is powerful, intelligent and utterly ruthless, its technology interesting - if very lightly sketched - and its powers vast. If only there was someone in the story to care about.
Tilley's characters are paper thin, not very believable, and occasionally very stupid. At no point do their emotions feel real, nor do they engage our sympathy. Most of them turn out to be quite unpleasant in one way or another, and by the end of the book I was rooting for XAN.
XAN itself is a missed opportunity. Given the chance to intrigue us with a mysterious alien life-form from a culture thousands of years beyond ours, Tilley gives us almost nothing. XAN's capabilities grow with the needs of the plot, with little in the way of foreshadowing.
The book itself is a slog, made worse by Thomas Fawley's bland monotone narration. For all the emotion he puts into this performance, he could be reading the menu options on a voicemail system. It's that dull.
There's a great book to be written on the theme of a sneaky invasion by a single powerful alien. XAN isn't it.
What did you like most about Xan?
This reads like a b movie version of Tilley's excellent and far more serious 'Fade Out' , alien invasion, will the plucky locals win out against the cold intelligence of the insectoid warrior - you think you know the answers but you'd be wron. Written back when authors weren't looking to launch multipart novels with movie potential this storystarts exci tedand gets darker and more 'real' until you really want to rewind and ask 'did that really just happen'?