Saturday, 31 December 2016

Book Review: Trust No One, edited by Jonathan Maberry

The X-Files: Trust No OneThe X-Files: Trust No One by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was one of those Amazon suggestions that came up while I was purchasing something else X-Files related, so I did the good consumer thing and added it to my cart. It’s a collection of fifteen short stories from various points in the X-Files timeline, though set mostly in the early years. In a lot of respects, I’m really glad I read this. There are some brilliant pieces of writing, particularly in the second half of the book. The first edition is uncomfortably heavy with typos and continuity errors, in some stories more so than others, but the editor Maberry assures me these have been addressed as of the second edition. Some of the entries read like forgotten case files we never got to see on screen, which was exactly what I wanted out of this title, while those that disappointed me were at least short.

Stories that stood out for good reasons are worthy of mention. Catatonia, by Tim Lebbon, the first in the collection, was a good editorial choice to set the tone of the book. The intro of Mulder calling Scully at 3a.m. to convince her to join him on an obscure case was kind of comforting in its familiarity, and the piece was peppered with a light dusting of MSR that fans of that formula will appreciate. Loving The Alien, by Stefan Petrucha, was the only first-person tale in the book, and was delivered in a dry, straightforward Scully wit that hit the mark completely. It was also the first story in the collection where I really enjoyed the writing and not just the story. This beautiful management of language counterbalanced the fact that the story itself wrapped up too quickly and the culprit was… not really hinted at, at all, prior to the reveal, IMO. Dusk by Paul Crilley was a laugh in the face of Twilight, and what I imagine the show would have done to capitalize on the sparkling vampire craze, though the element of M & S working together and openly together…? Uncertain whether I bought that. Sewers by Gini Koch was Scullyless but placed not long after Mulder met Arthur Dales and got hooked on the X-Files, and gave a plausible explanation for Mulder’s wedding ring in the episode Travelers. Time and Tide by Gayle Lynds and John C. Sheldon read exceptionally well and I wish this was an actual episode, as with Kevin J. Anderson’s Statues, both situated at the very end of the book. These were tidy, tight stories, with intriguing X-Files, good pacing, clever M & S banter, almost no errors and obvious attention to detail. In other stories there were irksome oversights, including Skinner googling on his phone in 1994, M & S operating in Saudi Arabia (??), M & S calling each other Dana and Fox, and numerous timeline discrepancies, like “he spoke to her at 4p.m., and it took so long that he didn’t get back to his own office until almost noon!” so ending the collection on the high notes of these very polished pair of longer stories was definitely the right way to order the book.

In a final mention, Jonathan Maberry's introduction to the book is a love letter to The X-Files so inspiring and moving it actually outshines some of the stories in the book. The book has its weak links, of course, which was inevitable when trying to collate the works of so many diverse authors, but it was pulled together out of true love and there are stories here in which that can be definitely felt.

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