Review: The X-Files Origins #2: Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry [audiobook]

Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My original The X-Files: Origins #2 - Devil's Advocate audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

In my previous review of The X-Files Origins Book 1, I noted my skepticism toward a young adult series chronicling Mulder’s and Scully’s adventures as teenagers, well before they become the FBI’s Most Unwanted. I went into these books with an open mind, and having done so I don’t expect I will return to the Origins titles if any more are published.

While the books themselves are not badly written, I can’t help but feel they unnecessarily complicate the already labyrinthine and overly-convoluted mythology of The X-Files. By introducing The Syndicate as background forces in both young Mulder’s and Scully’s lives, there comes with it a degree of water-muddying predestination, manipulation, and issues of fate that put a bit too much strain on my suspension of disbelief. I also can’t help but view Origins, as a whole, as little more than a quick cash grab for the young adult market. Simply put, I much prefer the stories of The X-Files beginning with the 1993 broadcast of the show’s pilot episode, and view these the dual titles of Agent of Chaos and Devil’s Advocate as extraneous, unnecessary additions. Give me a televised season 11 and the Joe Harris comic books at IDW, and I’ll be quite content, though.

So. Devil’s Advocate. Jonathan Maberry tackles a 15-year-old Dana Scully and charts her course as a believer to a skeptic as she gets wrapped up in a serial killer investigation. As much as I enjoyed Maberry’s prior efforts in the young adult genre with his Rot & Ruin books, I found myself struggling a lot with this story. While certain elements make sense by book’s end, I just couldn’t quite make the mental leap in believing the teenage Scully presented here grows into the hardened disbeliever who shoots down every single theory developed by her future partner. This 15-year-old Scully hangs out a New Age headshop called Beyond Beyond (this store also serves as the principle form of connective tissue tying both Origins titles together), getting psychic readings in between having visions of murder and communing with dead people. While there is some precedent for her visions in X-Files canon (see season one’s Beyond the Sea), Maberry lays it on thick and heavy throughout Devil’s Advocate, far too much for my tastes, frankly.

That said, I did enjoy the burgeoning relationship between Scully and her first boyfriend, Ethan, a science club geek with aspirations of becoming a forensic scientist in the future. I also liked the callbacks to those aspects of Scully’s history that viewers learned over the course of the series, such as her talking with Ethan about holding a dying garden snake when she was younger, and her connection with her father over Moby Dick.

Emma Galvin’s narration is very well done throughout. She has a youthful sounding voice that works tremendously well for Scully, and she does a terrific reading of the material, putting in plenty of energy, excitement, and fright at just the right places. As expected with a major publisher, the production quality here is top-notch, with no noticeable hiccups.

Despite being a fan of The X-Files, the Origins titles, taken as a whole, proved to be too frustrating and unnecessary for me to fully enjoy. Neither left me deeply satisfied, and I felt both titles, in their own ways, provided too many extra wrinkles for the larger narrative these young characters will find themselves wrapped up in together during their later years. Devil’s Advocate, like it’s companion piece, Agent of Chaos, provides too little importance for too little reason.

[Audiobook provided for review by the]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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