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Book Review: Agent of Chaos

March 13, 2017

29244700X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos
Kami Garcia
Imprint, 2017
Library Book

To say I came into reading this with high expectations is an understatement. I wanted the book to come at least close to faithful to the characters and the show I loved in high school and college. Which is something that even the TV series itself hasn’t always done. (Don’t get me started on the recent reboot. Or the first movie. Seriously. Don’t. Not unless you want shouting, waving of arms, and possibly swearing.) And I also wanted it to be a good book, a good story in its own right. Like I said, high expectations.

A story about Fox Mulder’s teenage years had a lot to live up to. It needed to be faithful and true to the Mulder of my TV screen, working in his basement, searching for the Truth, wanting to Believe, still grieving the loss of his sister. And the story not only had to be faithful to what I loved about the (early seasons of) the series, but also cover enough new ground to be a good story, rather than a regurgitation of fanservice and tropes.

Like I said, high expectations.

This book met and exceeded my expectations. Starting in Mulder’s senior year of college, when he’s moving to D.C. to try to reconnect to his workaholic Dad. The loss of his sister, Samantha, is still raw, although five years have passed, since she was kidnapped on a night he was supposed to be watching her in their house. He has insomnia, and obsessions with things like reading about serial killers, and learning all the stats, ever, about the New York Knicks. He has a photographic memory.
He has exactly two friends: Phoebe, a girl back home who might be something more than a friend. And Gary, a new friend in DC, who goes by Gimble, his D&D name.

The spooky, ritualistic murder of young kids in the DC area stirs up Mulder’s raw memories of losing his sister, and also the beginnings of his interest in crimes and the criminal mind. More than anything, he wants to stop another family from experiencing the loss that his family did. He’s quickly obsessed.

It’s maybe not perfect: the number of reminders that Mulder is insomniac and grieving his sister started to scan as repetitive, verging on didactic. And yes, all the characterizations, even the original characters, leaned pretty heavily on tropes: Mulder’s remote and grumpy father, his levelheaded friend Phoebe and his geeky friend Gimble, felt a bit paint-by-numbers.

But, you know what? I’m okay with it.

The progress towards getting the crime solved moves with the right kind of suspense and spooky mood, fusing government conspiracy with gruesome and macabre elements, just like some of my favorite X-Files episodes.

Reading this makes me wish Kami Garcia had been brought on board to write X-Files episodes. I’d definitely read more of her vision of the X-Files, whether she sticks with envisioning young Mulder, or moves the series forward.

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