The X-Files Anthology, Vol. 3: Secret Agendas edited by Jonathan Maberry
Published by IDW Publishing, October 12, 2016. Oversized paperback of 362 pages at $19.99.
The cover: F.B.I. agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, as played by Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, have their guns out to take down someone, or something, that threatens society. Below them is a gigantic white X that is being blurred to the right. Underneath this is the title Secret Agendas in stark red, with editor Jonathan Maberry’s name below that. Any cover that features these two agents makes my heart sing, so I love this cover. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “The truth is still out there! FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder go hunting in the shadows for dangerous truths in this new collection of original never-before-published tales of The X-Files.” All I need to read is “new” and I’m fully on board. I really enjoyed the first volume, Trust No One, that came out in 2015, so I’m excited to read more tales of this fantastic pair. Overall grade: A+
The characters: Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are put through the paces during their investigations, from 1993 through 2015. A knowledge of where they are in their relationship is not necessary to enjoy the tales, but it does give the reader who’s familiar with them a little more flavor. Scully continues to be the skeptic to Mulder’s implausible assumptions, yet Fox is often right in his conclusions. I loved this pair when they first debuted on television and I continue to thrill at any of their new outings. There are also a few appearances by Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man. I’m also happy to see these two appear in agents’ exploits. Overall grade: A+
The stories: Since is a collection of short stories specifics can’t really given about any of the fifteen tales, so only the most basic comments will be made about them. The first story is “Seek and You Will Find” by John Gilstrap. This is a very different X-Files tale with a doorway leading to someplace unexpected. I didn’t like this story because it seemed too far fetched, even for these agents. “Perithecia” by Andy Mangels reads like a lost episode: great set up, freaky twist, excellent science vs. supernatural argument, and a perfect ending. This is a four star story. Next up is “Give Up the Ghost” by Jade Shames with the agents in a fantastic supernatural tale. I loved this one and it had me hearing one character’s particularly haunting speech pattern long after I had read it. Another super tale is “Transmissions” by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey Mariotte. This, too, is like a lost episode with murders happening in a rural area for seemingly no reason. The action is surprising and the ending awesome. I didn’t enjoy “Desperately Seeking Mothman” by Jim Beard because the threat of the antagonist wasn’t palpable and the conclusion was too pat. A bit better is “Love Lost” by Yvonne Navarro which has a cool mystery undone by a very unsurprising ending. However, I was completely taken by “Thanks and Praise” is by Joe Harris, who has been the writer of the current comic book adventures of The X-Files. His story receives the only preface, as it was written before the latest season of the series was ever considered. It is outstanding and makes me wish that this was an actual television episode. Anything written by Harris is worth checking out. “Border Time” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Kate Corcino is another strong tale. This features a disappearance that leads to hidden agendas with sinister implications. Saying anything more would ruin this. Nancy Holder, a tremendous writer (find her Buffy the Vampire Slayer books!), is responsible for “A Scandal in Moreauvia, or The Adventure of the Empty Heart”. It is a combination of aliens, Sherlock Holmes, and a lost love which combine to make this an outstanding tale. Again, a story a reader would wish was filmed. “Stryzga” by Lauren A. Forry shows the lurking danger of a summer camp, and it has nothing to do with hockey masks — it’s so much better. Next up is “An Eye for an Eye” by George Ivanoff. This has a killer in the traditional serial killer mode, but with something a little extra to make the insane every crazier. Ghosts or something more deliver some good thrills in “Kanashibari” by Ryan Cady. I really like X-Files stories that delve into other cultures and this one satisfied my supernatural sweet tooth. “All Choked Up” by Lois H. Gresh has murder in the government involving the agents with the Cigarette Smoking Man not far behind. I like the idea of the threat in this tale, but it didn’t come off strong enough. Mass hysteria or something else provides the chills in “Along the Scenic Route” by Lucy A. Snyder. Stories that start small and blossom into a major event are always fun and Snyder pulls this off handsomely. Outstanding, through and through. The final tale was not a strong one: “Grandmother Black Hands” by Weston Ochse. This one didn’t work for me because it seemed drawn out and the conclusion anticlimactic. Overall grade: A
The final line: This is a must-read for fans. Captures the thrills of the series in sensational fashion. I hope that IDW does a fourth volume soon. Recommended. Overall grade: A
To order a copy of this book go to https://www.idwpublishing.com/product/x-files-anthology-vol-3-secret-agendas/