X-Files Anthology, Vol 1: Trust No One edited by Jonathan Maberry
Published by IDW Publishing, July 28, 2015. Paperback of 418 pages at $19.99.
The cover: A classic bust shot in black and white of the FBI’s most famous fictional agents, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, played by Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, looking just to their left, she looking a little surprised, and he reassured. Atop their images is a giant white letter X, with the title TRUST NO ONE at the bottom in white. A good eye-catching cover whose treatment was done by Wes Driver. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “Series creator Chris Carter authorized new investigations into the weird, the strange, and the mysterious. New York Times best seller and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry brings together some of today’s top storytellers for a series of anthologies featuring all-new case files from the X-Files. Scully and Mulder continue their journey into darkness as they face aliens, monsters, shadow governments, and twisted conspiracies.” I’ve been a long time fan of The X-Files and am on fire for the new episodes to appear on Netflix. New stories are only going to throw gasoline on my anticipation. Overall grade: A+
The characters: Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, and Walter Skinner are the returning characters. All are acting as one would expect them to behave, but given the nature of an anthology, these stories take place at different points in their lives. The earliest story begins on December 8, 1990, while the newest starts on May 16, 2015. It was neat to see how close or distant each was to the other in these tales, which showed how they’ve grown as time has passed. Fox gets the most amount of backstory because of that early date, showing how he interacted with an agent that had a lot of contempt for him. A story from Skinner’s past as a soldier in Vietnam gives him a good bit of backstory as well. Only Dana doesn’t get that little story boost. Her character is consistent with her appearances in the series and the films. I would have liked to have gotten a little peek into her past that foreshadowed outside forces having an impact on her life. Overall grade: A
The stories: Fifteen short stories make up this anthology. Given their length, I’ll only give a general premise and my thoughts on each so as not to spoil them. “Catatonia” by Tim Lebbon has four vanished children found, but in a catatonic state. They wake up and things get interesting. This was a strong story that hints at so much and leaves the agents with many questions. “The Beast of Little Hill” by Peter Clines has Mulder talking Scully to look at some exhibits in Kansas and things happen. A surprisingly sweet tale that went in an unexpected direction. “Oversight” by Aaron Rosenberg has Skinner dealing with a budget review that wants the X-Files’ necessity explained or it will be shut down. This story falls under “Be careful what you wish for.” “Dusk” by Paul Crilley sends up Twilight while instilling some solid creeps. Funny and scary. “Loving the Alien” by Stefan Petrucha is a fantastic tale told from Scully’s point of view as she investigates a sighting of a purported alien. “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum” by Brian Keene focuses on Skinner as he’s forced to relive an incident from Vietnam that hasn’t stopped. “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” by Keith R.A. DeCandido is the best tale of the collection. Special Agent Jack Colt has to reinvestigate a serial killer he caught, but Mulder and Scully are assigned to go with him. This story felt like a lost episode. “Paranormal Quest” by Ray Garton has a graphic death on a reality paranormal television show needing the involvement of the F.B.I. to solve. This, too, was excellent! “King of the Watery Deep” by Timothy Deal has an interesting change of setting as the agents have to go to Saudi Arabia to help with deaths from the waters. Scully’s difficulty in this location were more interesting than the mystery. “Sewers” by Gini Koch has “Spooky” Mulder going out to investigate a series of teen disappearances that spiral downwards into trouble. This was an okay story, but my least favorite of the collection because it went too far, too soon in Mulder’s career. “Clair de Lune” by W.D. Gagliani and David Benton has Mulder and Scully seeking shelter during a snowstorm in Canada. A surprising twist elevated this tale beyond my expectations. “It’s All in the Eyes” by Heather Graham also has a very slick turn in the story that makes the expected outcome to a Halloween store’s mannequins turning evil go into an awesome direction. If you have issues with mannequins, you won’t be able to sleep after reading this. “The House on Hickory Hill” by Max Allan Collins takes a haunted house story into a disturbingly entertaining direction.”Time and Tide” by Gayle Lynds and John C. Sheldon is the most science fiction tale of the book. It does some fascinating things with windows, beaches, and settings, and ultimately ends in the most perfect X-Files way. “Statues” by Kevin J. Anderson turns fine art upside down. This final story in the collection will leave you thirsty for more. Overall grade: A
The final line: This anthology continues the scares the series began. If you loved the show, you’ll love this book. If you’re new to the series, here’s a taste of the thrills that you’ll find on the small and big screen. Believe me when I say, Trust No One is must reading for fans of horror, the supernatural, aliens, and the quest for truth. Recommended. Overall grade: A