When it was announced that a pair of YA novels surrounding the younger versions of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were in development, I have to admit to a double feeling of excitement at new X-Files stories, but also trepidation at the idea of what was being dubbed The X-Files Origins.
Those feelings of trepidation were unfounded it turned out as both novels, with each book focusing solely on each character of our iconic duo, are a must read for fans of the series, becoming brilliant works in their own right, as well as lovely works of fan service that utilise the mythology of the series and the developing characters of the show’s iconic characters to tell superbly crafted stories.
Unsurprisingly, Garcia’s Mulder story lays the groundwork for Mulder’s journey to the FBI and becoming a profiler, whilst Maberry’s Scully novel gives the future young doctor and FBI agent’s beliefs a run through, paving her way to becoming a sceptic.
Bring centred around teen characters, we get a high degree of teen angst and growing pains, but instead of opting for a kick-ass Buffy like narrative, which might be too obvious a route to go, both Garcia’s and Maberry’s story telling fits in nicely with the style of the television series, with both authors crafting stories that are beautifully thematic and intelligently crafted, putting focus on character development, atmospheric mystery and compulsively gripping plot twists.
Best of all, for the most part, the stories fit in beautifully to the X-Files mythology, with very little of them actually feeling as if they’re being shoehorned into the series history, and also fitting in without becoming overtly complex or convoluted. There is one element of Devil’s Advocate that I am unsure I totally buy and that is that Scully’s father was, for a short time, affiliated with the Syndicate, but only because there was never any hint of it in the television show. As it is, Maberry actually makes it work within the context of the story, and if the television show were to ever actually make such a notion part of its canon, I could see it working in the long run.
It also adds a beautifully subtle and very underplayed element of suspense, especially when Maberry’s works in a cameo appearance from The Elder, the Syndicate member played very memorably in the series by Don S Williams, who hints that William Scully was meant to, like Mulder’s father, give up a child for “the cause”.
Easter eggs and fan service are a delicate thing to pull off. Do too much of it and it could destabilise the story, but if you add just enough and leave the audience wanting more, then you’ve done the job beautifully, and both Garcia and Maberry pull this off wonderfully. Agent of Chaos features a young X as a key supporting character whilst the CSM himself makes a cameo which tops and tails the story. The only problem I had reading it was I was torn as to whether I should imagine a young William B Davis or his younger counterpart Chris Owens.
Best of all, our authors make the younger versions of Mulder and Scully even more wonderful characters to spend time with as their much elder counterparts and they genuinely feel like younger and less assured versions of the characters we would end up spending over twenty years of our lives watching as grown ups. As a seventeen year old, Mulder feels like a somewhat less assured version of his grown up equivalent but many of the famous characteristics are there in a nicely played raw form. Fifteen year old Dana Scully is a wonderfully complex character, struggling with her beliefs, her direction in life and relationships with her family.
Both characters find themselves in stories that suit who they are perfectly (Mulder in a serial killer thriller, Scully in a religious horror mystery), with Garcia and Maberry’s excelling with the material and their narratives superbly. In the end they become not just great YA genre novels, but very entertaining X-Files mysteries in their own right.
These are X-Files stories that are befitting the best of the series. Having previously edited IDW’s superb collection of short stories that have been published over the last few years, and with Garcia having contributed what was essentially a “pilot” of sorts to Agent of Chaos, both writers have prior experience at writing official X-Files fiction, and also doing it very well.
Suffice to say, this reviewer read them pretty quickly, not because they are quick reads, because they are a lot deeper than that, but the sweep and style of the writing makes you want to keep going to see how they turn out. I mean, we all know at the very least Mulder and Scully will make it to the end of their books okay because they appear together in ten seasons of a television series and two big screen movies, but the emotional engagement and the way both Garcia and Mayberry make you care for them makes you want to read to the very end. In Maberry’s case especially, he really ups the angst for Scully and puts the world up against her in a manner that you simply need to get to the end to see how she will resolve it.
I adored both of these novels, they were even better than what I expected and as a life long fan of the show and our heroes, I was very eager to see how telling a story from both these periods of time would be accomplished and credit where credit is due to both Kami Garcia and Jonathan Mayberry for pulling it off. As much as I loved the show, one of my biggest disappointments with it was its failure to take advantage of its rich backstory and explore aspects of the show that were ripe for exploration. Episodes like Musings of the Cigarette Smoking Man, Travelers and The Unnatural were wonderful, but it disappointed me that the series never explored its backstory in such a way outside of those episodes, safe for a few flashbacks here and there, so to see a pair of novels exploring the backstory of the series like The X-Files Origins does complete with appearances from younger versions of CSM, X, Bill Mulder, William Scully, The Elder and a lovely Skinner cameo is simply brilliant and catnip for a hardened X-Phile such as myself.
Garcia and Maberry’s handle all of this superbly, and are shown to be accomplished X-Files writers, but best of all, they GET Mulder and Scully. These two young characters are very much our heroes in their younger form and they make for great company as lead characters, especially in superbly crafted mysteries like this.