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Book Review

Book Cover

The Zodiac Paradox


Author: Christa Faust
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN: 978 1 78116 309 2
Publication Date: 24 May 2013

Whilst experimenting with hallucinogens, as a way to expand their consciousness and push at the boundaries of human perception, best friends Walter Bishop and William Bell are surprised when a portal opens up in front of them. They are even more surprised when a man falls through. Unknown to both they have opened a portal to another dimension and the man who has fallen through is soon to become the notorious Zodiac killer. Many years later, when they realise the truth of what happened that night, it is up to Walter, William and Nina Sharp to finally try to stop the deranged serial killer...

Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox is the first of a trilogy of books based on the television show. The novel was written by Christa Faust, herself no stranger to the world of genre tie-ins.

One of the recurring plot devises in Fringe was that Walters memory was a bit Swiss cheesed, allowing the writers endless examples of the sudden breakthrough, in whatever case they were investigating, when Walter has one of his weekly revelations. So, the chance to catch up with the character before this happened to him and explore the person that he, Bell and Sharp were as young people is certainly an intriguing prospect.

Faust has chosen to link the novel with the real life Zodiac killings which happened in northern California and were never solved. Faust uses the novel to give one possible explanation as to why this should be, as well as using known information from the actual killings. With that structure in place what we really want to know is what the characters were like when they were both younger and living in the same dimension.

The first part of the book, that of creating an interesting and engaging thriller, works pretty well, although the sudden addition of a large number of extra characters near the end did tend to slow the pace and ultimately were not really necessary to the plot. Had they been removed and another explanation given they would not have been missed.

The second branch of the book, that of well-known characters portrayed as their younger selves, is really going to be a matter of taste. For my part I don’t think that Faust really got Walter's moral ambiguity in the experiments which he had conducted on living people. In the show his fascination at the scientific possibilities nearly always overpowered any hints that what he was engaging in was wrong, so her portrayal of Walter seemed a little too kind.

On the plus side she has captured his speech patterns perfectly and it was easy to hear Walter speaking every line he was given. Bell is different as he was, in the main, a shadowy figure in the show and so far more difficult to get a handle on. Nina gets to be as strong and acerbic as she was in the show.

There is always a problem with these books and it’s the same across all genre novels. It is very difficult to maintain any sense of threat when you know that all the characters survive into being their older selves, so we are never really convinced that anything can happen to the three main characters and that anyone introduced solely for this story might as well have a target painted on their foreheads as they are not likely to live to see the end of the book. And because they are minor characters we, the audience, don’t really care.

So, instead of having the luxury of having the main characters in peril Faust has written a well-paced chase plot which keeps your interest engaged right to the end.


Charles Packer

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