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Book Review

Book Cover

The X-Files
I Want to Believe (movie novelisation)


Author: Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99
ISBN: 978 1 84856 066 6
Available 29 July 2008

In the bitter heart of a brutal winter, a female FBI agent is abducted in rural Virginia. The only clues to her disappearance are some grotesque human remains and the strange and disturbing visions of a disgraced priest. Are the images haunting this fallen man of God to be trusted, or are they the deadly lies of a twisted mind? It is a case right out of the X-Files - but the FBI suspended its investigations into the paranormal years ago. Ex-agents Fox Mulder and Dr Dana Scully are the best team for the job, but they have no desire to revisit the past. Still, the truth about these horrific crimes is out there, and only Mulder and Scully can uncover it...

It’s been a decade since the last X-Files movie, six years since the TV show came to an end, and about as long since any original X-Files novels were published (of course, I’m not counting old books, such as Ground Zero, which Titan are currently reprinting). At least fans now have this particular piece of fiction to enjoy: Max Allan Collins’s novelisation of the second movie.

This being prose, the author allows us insights into the inner thoughts of the characters, resolving some questions that the film leaves unanswered, especially regarding the nature of the relationship between the hero and heroine. The movie sends out mixed messages about whether or not Mulder and Scully have maintained a relationship during the last six years. The fact that they share a bed suggests that they might have stayed together, but then the fact that Mulder wears a beard until Scully complains about it scratching her during that same bedroom scene suggests that they may have only just got back together after a long separation. Collins (author of Road to Perdition) confirms that the couple have been sharing the house for years and are in a long-term relationship.

Agent Mosley Drummy gains a little extra depth too, especially towards the end of the book, though his constant expressions of disbelief remain tiresome and repetitive.

The novelisation also contains a few short scenes that were apparently dropped from the final cut of the film, while some lines of dialogue are spoken by different characters, revealing changes made to the screenplay prior to or during filming. Collins was evidently working from a script that was written before all the locations had been scouted, as his description of the sex offender dorms differs considerably from the architecture seen in the movie.

The fact that Father Joseph Crissman is a convicted paedophile helps to achieve a couple of things plot-wise. Firstly, it puts a new spin on the subject of supernatural visions relating to violent crimes, which have been covered in The X-Files many times before, typically with the question of whether such insights can be trusted or whether it means that the “psychic” is actually in league with the criminal(s). It also makes Scully’s renewed scepticism more plausible. The novelist adds to Father Joe’s creepiness by comparing his wild locks of hair to snakes on the head of the mythological Medusa.

Unfortunately, many of the movie’s more dramatic moments involve the audience recognising bad guys, objects and locations that the protagonists are unaware of at the time. Collins does what he can to convey this via prose, such as likening the abductor Janke Dacyshyn to Rasputin, so that various characters see him in the same way even though they don’t know his name (once again, The X-Files steps into Silence of the Lambs territory in terms of depicting the kidnapping and captivity of women). However, the author often has little option but to simply tell us things that the characters don’t know, with numerous variations on the phrases: “what he/she didn’t see...” and: “what he/she couldn’t have known...”

I Want to Believe is a good book, but not a great one, and it is probably less scary than the movie. Having already seen the film, I cannot truly tell you how well the novelisation stands up in its own right.

But check out that ISBN number, which ends “66 6” - now that is spooky!


Richard McGinlay

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