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Fringe Novel #1: The Zodiac Paradox

(The Verge) – While the popular FOX series Fringe came to an end in a rather disappointing final season earlier this year, fans can still look forward to a new prequel trilogy of novels. Author Christa Faust has produced three new never-before-seen Fringe adventures that attempt to provide some back-story leading up to the events of the popular show.
The first novel in the series, The Zodiac Paradox, focuses on scientist Walter Bishop and ultimately the discovery and invention of cortexiphan. Unfortunately, the novel, similar to the show’s final season, is also a let down. Filled with continuity errors and poor character development, The Zodiac Paradox was inconsistent with the excitement and edge-of-your-seat thrills that the show was known to provide. As a huge Fringe fan, the novel failed to meet my expectations and was extremely dissatisfying.
Walter Bishop and his friend William Bell (future founder of Massive Dynamic in the TV series) are experimenting with a new form of acid that they have procured at Reiden Lake, Massachusetts (an infamous location that serves as a plot point in the show). During their trip, an empathetic link is formed between Bishop and Bell as well as a third mind. The link opens up a gateway into a parallel universe (the same one featured in the show) where a killer being hunted by the police falls through and enters our world. The killer, a man named Allan, is now unleashed in our universe and becomes the infamous Zodiac Killer. While the minds are linked, Bishop and Bell see visions of the killer’s next victims far into the future. A few years pass and the Zodiac Killer gains recognition. Walter struggles with the idea that he and Bell are both responsible for the killer and must use their knowledge of where he will strike next to stop him and send him back to his own universe. In San Francisco, Walter and Bell team up with Nina Sharp as they hunt down the killer to send him home. Meanwhile, the FBI is also hunting down the Zodiac, but for a secret government agenda. The team discovers Allan is radioactive and could be a potential source of energy or a government weapon.
While the story premise sounded intriguing, I found that the flow of the book did not match up with the show style at all. The story lost my interest after the first few chapters and it was a struggle to reach the end. Numerous continuity errors and poor character development were such a huge distraction while reading The Zodiac Paradox. Faust does not come across as a fan of the show, but rather, a writer trying to make a profit off of a popular TV series. While Faust had access to information from the show’s writers based on story-lines that never made it to the screen, the way the story was strung together simply does not fit. The style lacks the thrilling and energetic vibe of Fringe. It tried too hard to capture the wittiness of the characters and the gripping nature of the show.

An image of the characters in “The Zodiac Paradox.” Image taken from: 2.bp.blogsport.com.

One of the major issues with the continuity in the book (acting as a prequel) was Walter’s character. In the book, he acts scatterbrained and forgetful or not “all there” like he is in the show. This goes against the Fringe timeline because in the show Walter’s brain extraction surgery that removed parts of his brain caused his character to be the one portrayed on television.  In Fringe, the audience sees flashbacks and memories on the show of who Walter was prior to this surgery, but that is not the same Walter that should have been featured in the book.
We also know that Walter and William Bell held the mentality that “all the world is a test lab” and rarely hesitated to proceed with controversial experiments and tests. This was part of what deemed them “mad scientists”. The Walter in this book is quite the contrary and holds a more ethical view on experimentation on civilians. This also might sound silly, but it really bothered me that not once did Walter eat, mention, or refer to Red Vines. The candy he eats in practically every episode of Fringe was not hinted at in the least in the entire book.
(Spoilers) Finally, the whole concept of the cortexiphan link enabling futuristic visions seemed to come out of nowhere. Towards the end of the novel Walter sees a vision of Peter, his future son, dying from an illness. While this does happen in the show, it does not make any sense that Walter would be able to see this happening almost a decade prior to the actual events. And if it did happen, wouldn’t such a significant event be mentioned at least once during the five-season run of Fringe? It seems highly unlikely.
Overall, The Zodiac Paradox was nothing more than published fanfiction. The book is simply an attempt at a cash grab for the author who simply attaches her name to Fringe. Faust even mentioned that one of her biggest desires was to write about the Zodiac killer and the Fringe novel provided her that opportunity. When reading The Zodiac Paradox, it’s clear that Fringe was not the main premise of the book, but rather the Zodiac Killer. There’s no doubt that it is difficult to write a spin-off novelization series based off of a television show, but perhaps a bigger fan of Fringe or even one of the show’s own writers like J.J. Abrams could have written the novel much better and true to the Fringe universe.
I enjoyed the first four seasons of Fringe and found myself addictively watching it (as some could attest to in the latest season of Breaking Bad). When the show finally drew to an end, I sought out any post-projects that might result from it. And as an avid reader, I thought a novel series sounded pretty awesome!
Unfortunately, The Zodiac Paradox left me disappointed and my expectations were not met. Needless to say, I will not be continuing with the book series in an attempt to leave the Fringe universe unscathed in my mind as much as possible. The second book in the series, The Burning Man focuses on Olivia Dunham, the protagonist of Fringe. The series will be completed this month with the final installation, Sins of the Father, which focuses on Peter Bishop. Fringe fans should simply avoid the series, and any potential viewers of the show should as well. Fringe  was an amazing show and the name shouldn’t be soiled because of poorly written, “fanfiction with a cover”.