Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox – Review


Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust was released by Titan Books, for the FOX television series Fringe.  It is the first of three canon prequel novels aimed to explore the past of the three main characters: Walter Bishop, Olivia Dunham, and Peter Bishop.  The majority of the book takes place in 1971, when Walter and William Bell are still university students.  While testing an experimental, hallucinogenic formula for research in the middle of Reiden Lake, Walter and Bell unknowingly open a gateway in between universes.  From the other side of the gateway, a murderer named Allen Mather steps through to our side in an attempt to evade police officers.  Since they’re tripping on drugs, Walter and Belly disregard Mather as a part of their shared mind space.  As Mather gradually realizes that he is in a different universe, he begins to plot the continuation of his rampage. Three years later, Walter and Bell realize that the man they helped into this universe has become the Zodiac Killer.  The guilt of the killer’s victims on their shoulders, the two men enlist the help of Nina Sharp to try to stop the Zodiac and send him back to where he came from.

Fringe-The-Zodiac-ParadoxThough there have been mentions of real life events, this is the first time one has been directly correlated to a Fringe event.  The choice of having the Zodiac Killer as the main antagonist of the story is really well done. Since the Zodiac Killer was a real person, it helps to create that bridge between what happens in real life and what could happen given certain Fringe-science circumstances.  There are enough loose ends about the real Zodiac Killer, that he easily becomes the fictional person created by Faust.  Most of horrendous acts referenced in the book are similar to or exactly as occurred in real life.  The Zodiac’s cryptic messages and ciphers also help explain Walter’s ease in cracking the Observer’s written language in the future.

Faust’s characterizations of Walter, Bell, and Nina are so spot on with their characters. When writing in Walter’s point of view, his train of thought easily flows between scientific inquiry and in depth detail of what they’re eating.  While observing the people around him, Walter’s mind goes on tangents about his personal skills at socialization and blunt statements about Bell’s womanizing ways. It’s just like having Walter back.  Any references towards Bell seem kind of detached and aloof, but this also goes with the Bell from the show.  The stark difference in the three sentences to the one long paragraph describing what Bell and Walter look like conveys how well of a grasp Faust has on these characters.  Up until this point, there hasn’t been much on Nina’s background.  The plot is very heavy on the lifestyle and ideals that Nina lives and has for herself at this point in her life. She reminds me of a more carefree Olivia Dunham — or, even better, Fauxlivia.

There are heated discussions between the characters explaining how their future selves get to where they are on the show.  The ongoing debate of pushing ethical boundaries in the name of science crops up throughout the story.  There’s a scene similar to the Cortexiphan trials, but with university students, and the internal turmoil over lying to them gives insight to how much more terrible Walter could have felt when he tested on children. This begs the question: “Advancement should be gained, but at what cost?”  Empathy towards others is also a recurring theme.  Walter’s constant questioning of how his actions affect innocent people and the killer alike shows the kind of man was Walter in this point in time, and helps humanize all minor characters.

What I love the most about the story itself is how many references there are from the television series.  There are several allusions to future events to come, which came to pass on the show.  Reiden Lake has always been an important location to the Fringe team, and this story explains how Walter, Bell, and Nina came to know about its use to get to the Other Side.  We meet Roscoe Joyce again (Episode 3×10 The Firefly), along with the other members of the band VioletSedan Chair.  There is insight on the kind of relationship Walter and Belly had before science began to strain their friendship.  Also, this book delves into the relationship between Bell and Nina.  The relationship has always been cloaked with mystery, but the story shows the readers its beginning, and gives us a first class view on Nina’s thoughts on Bell. But the problem with introducing a way to see the beginnings of these relationship dynamics is that, for the most part, this book is the only time they will be addressed.  If that is the case, an overall sense of understanding isn’t quite met.

I thought that the book was a good start to this series. While I was hoping to have more information canonically, the Fringe lore that was addressed compliments the story and was added alongside the plot wonderfully.  Anyone who loves sci-fi or mysteries would enjoy Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox.

You can pick up your copy of Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox on Amazon.

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