Non-Fiction Reviews

The Science of The X Files: The Truth...

(1996) Michael White, Legend, 9.99, pbk, 195pp, ISBN 0 099 18572 5

So what is the prognosis for life on other worlds? Have governments engaged in high tech conspiracies in the name of science? Are biochips possible? What pathologists' tales might Scully have to tell: indeed does she have a latex glove fetish? These are the science questions we want answered and, from his book's title, Michael White is the man to give us them...

To cut to the chase, give this one a wide berth. While the first two chapters do deal with the possibility of alien life and technology, sloppy gee-whiz writing, and poor research get in the way. For instance we are told (p9) that in 'two to three decades' anti matter production will no longer be 'prohibitively expensive'. Really? Shades of fusion energy from the 1950s Zeta prototype will be too cheap to meter. Again, we are informed (p32) that fc from the Drake equation 'represents the number of intelligent species who would want to communicate with us'. Wrong, it represents an estimate of the proportion of life bearing worlds with intelligent species on it that have the technological ability to communicate across interstellar distance.

Later chapters do not deal with the science in the X files, but the fantasy (as opposed to the science fiction) within the series: ghosts, telepathy and such, with an overview of pseudo-science. Mulder and Scully are barely mentioned and I hardly ever came across a reference to a specific episode or story line. This book contains much sensationalist specious tosh. There is a good book to be written based on the science within the X files (even though books on science in SF have been done before), but this one is not it. The tragedy that those not equipped to be discerning (i.e. those who have to trust the author to deliver a fair reflection of (even sympathetic) scientists' views) will be sold short. However the publishers' need not worry (unless they are into professional ethics) as the popularity of the X files will no doubt ensure healthy sales. This is not Legend's best hour.

Jonathan Cowie

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