I’m condensing the last two books into one entry just to move things along.
The X-Files: Antibodies is one of the hardest books I’ll cover for this column because it’s really so solid that there’s not much to say. Kevin J. Anderson’s last novel is just a good, decent casefile. If you want a decent size X-Files story in book form this is that. It’s nothing unexpected and would work just fine as an episode. It’s so small scale honestly it would’ve worked within the show’s budget. As I said, it’s hard to say much about it.
The context for the final book though? That takes a moment. We started before the show was the phenomenon it would become with Goblins. Skin by Ben Mezrich comes at the end. It hit paperback the month Mulder was abducted, the true mark of the show’s glory days at an end. It peaked with the movie in the summer of 1998 and within a year the air was going out of the show. Skin is a last gasp.
But it’s a hell of a last gasp. Skin is a fist flinging, wild, over the top ride. Writer Ben Mezrich decided to throw everything he could at the book. It’s even a multi-tier X-File with an initial case of a man possessed that gives way to a story of an ancient demon. Given that most of the books ran on rails, I dug getting one where for once I didn’t know everywhere it was going once I knew the setup.
Mezrich also nails Mulder and Scully to a T. Their interactions in this are bliss. You have no issue buying that they’re them. It’s a medical story which lets Scully shine while Mulder gets his weird theories. It’s a nice story for them.
Perhaps my favorite thing about it though? It feels like a book the same way Ground Zero did. Grant’s novels were extended episodes as was Antibodies while Ruins wasn’t and X-Files story. This felt like a genuine getting your money’s worth X-Files novel with pacing that fit a book.
Skin is by far and away the best of the books. It and Ground Zero are unreserved recommendations with Whirlwind and Antibodies worth grabbing used or cheap on Kindle. Avoid Goblins and Ruins at all costs.
But looking at that track record, I have to come to a conclusion. The X-Files really didn’t work in tie-in form, even though I’d at least recommend reading 2/3 of the books. Why didn’t it work? Well, I think most of the books feel redundant, even the good ones. The X-Files already was a show built on self-contained, loosely connected episodes that played like 45 minute horror movies with strong budgets. There was nothing to make the novels pop.
What you wound up with was a lot of bloat for stories that would’ve been much quicker on tv. Whirlwind and Antibodies really would’ve been great in that form. These just didn’t have the punch of the show. They’re nice pulp but not up to the show.
It’s bittersweet as I write this last entry because this is likely the last entry I’ll ever write on The X-Files. The property lies dormant. It’s highly unlikely ever to be revived after a poorly received season. IDW has ceased publishing the comics. There’s no real money in it. After 25 years, The X-Files truly sits closed.
I’m grateful that I had this month to work one last time in this world.
I tip my hat and leave the basement.