‘Roswell’ flashback: ‘A New Beginning’ (2003) (Book review)


xecutive producer Jason Katims says in the DVD commentary for the series finale of “Roswell” that a theoretical fourth season would’ve found the teens on the road, helping people with their powers while staying a step ahead of the Special Unit. The closing image of Max and Liz getting married at a rural church is a nod to what Season 4 might’ve been.

Luckily for fans, the desired profit margin for book sales is less than that for TV ratings, so we did get a four-book “Season 4” at least. It starts with Kevin Ryan’s “A New Beginning” (June 2003), the eighth novel overall in the “Roswell” series.

The gang ends up in Stonewall, Colorado, when their van breaks down, and what ensues is an excellent story of our sextet gradually warming up to the locals, and vice versa, amid a suspense yarn.

The gang ends up in Stonewall, Colorado, when their van breaks down, and what ensues is an excellent story of our sextet gradually warming up to the locals, and vice versa, amid a suspense yarn. “A New Beginning” is nothing like any previous “Roswell” story, but Ryan gets the teens and their interactions exactly right and it’s enjoyable to follow them into this new context.

Their lack of money is of palpable concern, so when Liz and Maria get waitress jobs at the local diner and when Kyle lands a gig as a mechanic, a reader is balancing their ledger right along with them. When auto shop owner Dan gives the teens free use of his guest room and oatmeal for breakfast, it’s like a small victory, even though all six are crammed in the room.

Ryan peppers a mystery into the background that nonetheless hangs over the daily grind of making a few bucks: Young women have been disappearing from Stonewall, never to return. The authorities assume they are just getting the heck out of town for a fresh start elsewhere. Among the new characters is Jimmy, a Down syndrome lad who sits at the diner window every day hoping for the return of his sister, Jessica.

Max and Michael walk Liz and Maria to the diner every morning, so that nebulous threat is always on our minds. Because the abductors are only taking women, Ryan is able to write a contemporary tale that also includes the old-school notion of men being protective.

Ryan does his best work with Kyle, who is happy to be able to contribute to the mission with his mechanic skills. He also expands on Kyle’s one-way romantic interest in Isabel, something that was teased in “A Tale of Two Parties” (3.10). Out of respect for Isabel’s marriage to Jesse, Kyle has never acted on his feelings, but now he’s giving more thought to it.

As we also get the next wave of developing powers from Liz – who is very much one of the aliens now – the most surprising development might be Michael’s blunt statement to Isabel that Jesse was not “the one” for her. Isabel doesn’t fight the assertion as much as we might guess. To some degree, it’s like Ryan is commenting on Season 3’s Jesse-and-Isabel experiment and announcing that the story is moving on from that.

Because Ryan gets the core sextet right, I didn’t mind at first that basically nothing happens with the plot – he builds mood more so than a clue-driven mystery. When we finally do find out that it’s aliens (a race of monstrous-looking creatures we haven’t met before) taking the women, the writing in the final showdown is a mixed bag. The author writes a stark scene where Kyle’s life is in danger, but the rest of it is standard fight stuff.

Looking back on “The New Beginning” in retrospect, it raises more questions than answers. Strangely, we don’t learn why the aliens are taking young women, outside of the typical alien-abduction narrative where they are being “experimented on.” Presumably, the aliens are studying human reproduction, but that’s never mentioned. Maybe it will be in the next book.

One more quibble: In this book, Liz tells Max about the Future Max scheme from “The End of the World” (2.6). She had already told him in “Quarantine,” set between Seasons 2 and 3. Ryan apparently had not gotten a chance to read that Laura Burns book, which came out shortly before this one.

So I can’t say “A New Beginning” sticks the landing or enriches the overall “Roswell” mythology in a way that means anything – at this point. But reading about the teens trying to make it in this tough adult world with no money – and encountering both helpful and unhelpful people — is appealing enough that I rate this as the best “Roswell” book so far. “Season 4” is off to a strong start.

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