Thursday, September 12, 2013
Book Review: Fringe: The Burning Man
A few months ago, I reviewed the first of Christa Faust’s Fringe tie-in novels, The Zodiac Paradox. Walter Bishop was my favorite character on the show, and I enjoyed the heck out of all the Walter and William Bell stuff, but was admittedly not engaged in the overall plot about the Zodiac killer. However, I enjoy Faust’s writing enough to keep me reading and enjoying myself. I knew going in that this second book focused on Olivia, who I can’t say was ever a character I found especially interesting. Still. Faust? I’m there.
Early in the book, I was getting a bit nervous. The nitty-gritty writing was, typical of Faust, quite good. But the story seemed to be going down a similar path to the first book. A character from the show, a killer, a psychic bond… Uh oh. Media tie-in novels are always tough. There are certain rules you’ve got to stay within while writing, certain ideas of a universe you need to hold onto, and often, an unwillingness on the part of the people with the purse strings to stray too far from what is established. Was this second book going to follow a formula that would be the basis of all the Fringe novels? That would be sad. But thankfully, no. My faith was restored when the plot took a pretty darned surprising turn about two thirds of the way in, and the focus of the book shifted rather wildly. Excellent. I won’t go into details, but the last third or so of the book gets into some very Fringe-worthy world building, and hints at some really nasty stuff.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard it before. I’ll pick up anything Christa Faust writes. She and Philip Reeve are the two authors I don’t take any time to think about. I just get it, and read it. Like listening to James Earl Jones read the phonebook, I don’t so much care what she’s writing about, I just really like the way she does it. But getting past that, I am impressed by how well she’s able to capture the voices of established characters. That’s probably the single greatest challenge of making media tie-in novels work for fans, and she’s got it down pat. Even though most of this book deals with Olivia as a teenager, you can see the Olivia of the TV show in proto-form. And she makes for a good, smart, tough character, with a much more proactive approach to life and its problems.
I have to admit, I am darned surprised that I ended up enjoying this Olivia focused book more than the Walter one. But the plot pivot kicked me in the expectations, and that’s something I intensely enjoy. If you’re a fan of the show these books are worth checking out. Or if you just enjoy brisk, compulsively readable books. And now I’m looking forward to Sins of the Father. Back to a Bishop. I don’t know what the future plans for these books are. Will there be more? Will Christa Faust still be on them? I know I’d love to read more about Walter Bishop and his adventures in mad science. It feels like so much of his life is unexplored. Time will tell. In the meantime, go out and get a copy (and while you're out, grab Faust's Money Shot and Choke Hold!).
Fringe: The Burning Man
Author: Christa Faust
Publisher: Titan Books