|About the Book|
Movie/TV tie-ins and novelizations are generally critic-proof. They are usually written solely for fans, who arent necessarily reading them for brilliance of language or poetic flourishes. Indeed, it seems pointless to even comment on how well- or poorly written a tie-in is, so I wont even go there with Christa Fausts first of a three-part trilogy of novels based on the TV show Fringe, The Zodiac Paradox. Fringe, created by JJ Abrams, was one of the best sci-fi shows to grace TV screens since the wonderful The X Files. It was, in fact, heavily inspired by that now-classic show.The set-up: A special branch of the FBI known as Fringe Division is created to investigate an unusual number of crimes and incidents that seem to have no scientific explanation. Led by the skeptical but intrepid (and sexy and blonde) young agent Olivia Dunham, the team recruits one of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 21st century. Unfortunately, Dr. Walter Bishops brain has been atrophying as a patient for the past decade in a Boston mental institution, where Dunham finds him. Dr. Bishop, a literal mad scientist, will only be released if his estranged son, Peter, signs him out and agrees to care for him. The equally-brilliant but morally questionable (and sexy and rugged) Peter Bishop (Dunham tracks him down in Baghdad, where he appears to be running guns) reluctantly joins the Fringe team.Obviously, the sexual tension between Peter and Olivia runs high from the start, but the real reason that fans tuned in every week was Dr. Bishop (played wonderfully by actor John Noble), whose alternating scientific brilliance, child-like obsession with food, and heart-breaking moments of memories lost and regained stole every scene he was in.Fausts novel provides the back-story that fans of the show have only gleaned from occasional references. Set in 1971, young scientists Bishop and William Bell are experimenting with their own lab-made hallucinogen (an early batch of cortexiphan) at Reiden Lake, when they create a powerful psychic link that accidentally tears a hole in the fabric of space-time, and a serial killer from the alternate universe comes through. This serial killer flees to San Francisco and begins to wreak havoc as the Zodiac killer. Bishop and Bell (with the help of Nina Sharp) track him down in order to stop him and send him back to his own universe. Unfortunately, a renegade FBI agent is also on the trail of the killer, not to stop him but to recruit him as a weapon for the U.S. government.Ill admit, it was fun to read the continuing adventures of a young, pre-institutionalized Dr. Walter Bishop. As a stand-alone episode of Fringe, I think Faust succeeds in creating something that true fans will appreciate. As a stand-alone novel (for those who have never seen the show) it could probably have used more character development. The problem, of course, is that true fans would probably not need character development for characters that are already pretty well-established. Despite its flaws, though, The Zodiac Paradox is worth a read for Fringe fans, and I look forward to reading the next two in the series.