REVIEW: The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Give Up the Ghost’

Tony Black looks at the third story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Give Up the Ghost’…

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Written by Jade Shames.

Edited by Jonathan Maberry.

We get a nice change of style and pace for the third story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, with a vibrant tale from Jade Shames which frankly is hard to pigeonhole. ‘Give Up the Ghost’ has elements of pathos, of black comedy, of character introspection, whimsy and just plain bizarre, trippy weirdness, not to mention a level of ‘meta’ narrative which sees Shames bring himself, Adaptation-style, into the story. It’s an X-File as if written by Thomas Pynchon and directed by Spike Jonze, if you can imagine such a concoction, and consequently it’s erratic, off the wall nature makes it arguably the most fascinating of these anthology tales yet.

There’s a lot going on but ostensibly the heart involves Scully as she wonders whether she wants the life of an FBI agent on Mulder’s quest – she imagines a different life with less pressure, more social life, even dating (this is not a story for the shippers among you!), and even comes close to quitting her job and starting anew. It’s interesting then why Shames chooses to frame the weirdness in his story through Mulder’s experience and yet Scully’s prism, as the mysterious, Satan-like temptation being Sam places them in an alternative life where Mulder is championed as a successful FBI legend who brought down a global alien conspiracy; his desire is validation, or is it Scully’s desire for him? Shames leaves many things unclear as his quick prose allows for jumping into a multitude of scenes, covering a fair distance across his story, and tapping into all kinds of thematic and contextual ideas.

Most fascinating is how Shames gets away with making *himself* a character in the story, and leaving it as an unexplored thread – as indeed he does another very specific reference to ‘our’ world through Scully. If his writing wasn’t so swift, dark, creepy and just plain odd, he wouldn’t get away with it, but ‘Give Up the Ghost’ has such an engaging blend of occult mythology with strange, quasi-technological references as to the effect of psychedelic compounds, with a dark and at times comic whimsy which feels very unique to The X-Files.

The biggest compliment is perhaps that Shames would deserve the chance to bulk this out and make it a full episode of the show, as it’s a fun, visually arresting read, and defiantly different enough to really stand out.

Check back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Jade Shames about his story!

Rating: 8/10

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