Chet Williamson,
The Searchers: Empire of Dust
(Avon, 1998)

Chet Williamson continues his three-part saga of X-Files proportions in the second book in The Searchers series, Empire of Dust.

While the first book, City of Iron, was largely concerned with setting the stage, introducing readers to the characters and their various methodologies, and putting them in the plot path which would dominate the series, this volume digs more deeply into the nitty gritty of the tale. Where the first book was a little confusing because of the many diverse elements involved -- many of which were extraneous to the ultimate storyline -- Empire of Dust is more tightly focused and concrete.

Consequently, Empire of Dust is even more riveting read, as undercover CIA agents Laika Harris, Tony Luciano and Joseph Stein continue their clandestine investigation into paranormal phenomena -- events which seem to be pulling them into a web of plots to keep imprisoned and hidden (or to find and free, depending on your perspective) a divine being who may be a descendent of Christ, or who may be the living Christ himself, who some believe was taken down still living from the cross.

Or, possibly, it's an unholy being of powerful evil.

The CIA agents, posing as scientists from the National Science Foundation's Division of Special Investigations, cross paths with a broad array of conspiracy-driven foes along the way, and The X-Files motto of "trust no one" seems particularly apt as they delve into a series of strange, mummified corpses, mysterious drawings in the sand, lucid and precognitive dreamers, uncooperative Native Americans and not-so-religious fanatics.

Williamson explores the personal touches as well, as one man struggles to retain his devout lack of faith in anything supernatural or divine despite increasing evidence to the contrary, and another man begins to suspect that his long-held beliefs might not be as unshakeable as he once thought.

By book's end, you'll be eager to dive into the third volume just to see where all this is heading.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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