I miss Fringe the TV series. The good news is that there are books to keep the world alive. My first trip back into the alternative timelines and similar dimensions is with Christa Faust’s The Zodiac Paradox.
This book puts the focus on a young Walter and William Bell. In fact, we’re there when Walter meets Nina Sharp for the first time. Nina in this book was a hit for me. Set in the 60s it is wonderful to meet a character like her and easy to will her on to become a powerful and dangerous CEO.
The challenger for these three brainiacs? The Zodiac Killer himself. That’s to say we’re not dealing with the Zodiac Killer of our history (who, in real life, remains a mystery) but a killer from a different dimension.
Trouble begins for Walter when he and Bell are testing some new drug cocktail on the shore of a lake. Meanwhile, in a different dimension, a drugged up but still in control Zodiac Killer is on the run from the police. When the Zodiac Killer crosses over Walker and Bell find themselves obliged to try and help catch him.
Fringe purists might worry about the timeline here. If the Zodiac Killer crossed dimensions nearly two decades before Walter moved a young Peter from one to the other then does that undermine the significance of the latter? Perhaps. However, in Fringe there are few absolutes. After all, we’ve no way of knowing which timeline The Zodiac Paradox is in or whether it is even in one that leads to any of the TV show realities.
There are certainly many nods to the TV series in the book. Christa Faust must have been a fan. Walter’s favourite band turns up, for example, Violet Sedan Chair and it turns up without anyone labouring the point.
The Zodiac Killer is well written and engaging. It was a plot that read itself to me and I happily returned to a Fringe-like mind set as I flicked through the pages. With the exception of a dimensional crossover in the 60s there’s not terribly much here that adds to the universe, nothing to expand on Bell, Sharp or Walter from what Fringe fans wouldn’t already know. That’s no bad thing, though, as this first offering is a careful step into the mythology.
One interesting point and perhaps with some contention is that of the personality of Walter. What do you imagine a young Walter to be like? If you imagine a younger version of the Walter we know then The Zodiac Killer gives you that.
The catch? Isn’t the Walter we know created when a slice of his brain is removed? Wasn’t the younger Walter a more serious character? Wasn’t he actually afraid of what he could become?
I only had this debate after I’d finished with the book. I suspect I would have liked to have seen an alternative Walter (again) but I only came to that conclusion in retrospect. I thoroughly enjoyed re-discovering familiar but young Walter in this adventure.
Overall? Certainly one for Fringe fans who want to explore the still expanding universe.
Disclaimer. My copy of Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox was provided for review. Titan Books, paperback, £6.99 by Christa Faust.