In the late 60’s and early 1970’s, a serial killer roamed Northern California, initially targeting young couples who had parked in a lover’s lane. The killer left cryptic, numeric messages at the scene and sent coded messages to the press about his deeds. He called himself Zodiac and it was just the start of a crime spree that went on for several years and may have included nearly 40 murders. No one knows for sure, because the killer was never caught.
This real-life mystery is the basis for the first Fringe Tie-in novel by Christa Faust. But like the series, this isn’t what you’d expect.
Fringe – The Zodiac Paradox (Novel #1) is a prequel set in 1971. Walter and Bell are college students who accidentally open a portal to the other world, allowing the Zodiac killer to slip over to our side. Once they realize what they’ve done, they enlist Nina’s help in finding a way to send the killer back where he came from before anyone else dies.
(SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK)
I was completely pulled in by the tense opening because Christa does a great job masking the fact that the killer and Walter are in the same place but in two different worlds. But as the story goes along, this same fact makes it very confusing and hard to read. On the show, there are visual cues that help you remember which side of the rift you’re on. But in print, the cues are harder to pick up on which makes the story tricky to follow.
Another big issue I had with this book was the characterization of Walter as an eccentric, bumbling student. I thought Walter’s odd behavior was something that came on later in life due to his experimentation, the loss of his son and his incarceration in a mental institution. I expected young Walter to be charming and sharp and adventurous. I didn’t get that at all.
I also didn’t understand the psychic connection between himself and the killer. And why did the killer have that freaky Fringe side effect? Felt like an add-on to make the book more like the show.
Overall, this one just didn’t work for me. I watched Fringe for the characters as we first knew them – Peter, Olivia, Walter, Astrid – those are the characters I wanted to read about. I understand that it’s tricky to write a tie-in novel for a show that’s so linear but that’s the author’s problem to solve.
If you’re primarily a Walter fan, you might enjoy this look at his younger self.
Fringe – The Zodiac Paradox (Novel #1) comes from Titan Books and is available now at Amazon.