Not long ago, I learned there were to be three novels released dealing with the Fringe universe. I will have to admit tight off the bat here that I didn’t watch the television series as it was airing, so I was a bit of a latecomer. I have watched most of the series, but not all. The Burning Man is the second of the three novels following the first in the series titled The Zodiac Paradox (click the title to read my review).
This second story centers on the pre-teen and teen years of Olivia Dunham. While going through the Cortexiphan experiments under the supervision of Dr. Walter Bishop in Jacksonville, Florida, young Olivia learns of the death of her military father. To make ends meet, Olivia’s mother marries an abusive shady character named Randall. Olivia and Randall never hit it off in a father/daughter relationship.
Randall earns most of his income through illegal activity. He hooks up with a crooked cop named Toni Orsini and the two of them are planning to rob some drug dealers, but Randall has forgotten his gun at home. When he arrives at home to get his weapon, he finds himself facing Olivia; she shoots him and Tony enters the house to see what happened. He grabs Olivia and one of her powers is revealed as Tony has his right arm burned, and eventually has to have it amputated. Randall is out of the picture.
While Olivia’s mother is suffering an illness, Olivia has to grow up fast, learning how to take care of the household and her little sister, Rachel. Olivia’s mother dies and before the state can take them in as wards, Olivia receives an anonymous letter from a company that sports a 3D logo with the letter M. In the letter are two airline tickets to Boston and the promise of full tuition scholarship for her and Rachel to attend a very fine private school.
In the meantime, Tony is always in the background and he has made it his mission to destroy Olivia because he views her as a demon with powers to cause electrical disturbances and to burn people alive, as she had done to him. Randall goes on a killing spree that spans several states to get to Olivia.
I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the pacing of the story, it never slowed down and I found myself going right along with the pace. I couldn’t put it down, and when real life forced me to quit reading, I couldn’t wait to get back to it.
Before I read the story though, I noticed that there were several very uncomplimentary reviews on the Amazon.com web site. Some were actually scathingly bad reviews. It made me a little apprehensive to read, but as usual, I don’t rely on other’s opinions to guide my own judgments. Apparently the problem that some of the diehard Fringe fans are having is with the author’s getting some names and known backstory facts wrong. This might bother some of the people that are very familiar with the television show. I have read many stories that have departures from canon and found that I personally am not bothered by it. But I also know a lot of people who feel that there should be a “bible” for movies and television shows that lay out all of the facts and precise back story, just as exists for Star Trek. So be warned, if you are a person who wants strict canonic accuracy, you may be disappointed reading this. On the other hand, if you are wanting to read a story that has good, developed characters, good pacing, and some vivid visualizations, and are a fan of Fringe, then you might enjoy this installment.
As far as I am concerned, canon isn’t always necessary for a good story.
I do have a warning for those that may be considering reading The Burning Man though, there are, as was in the show, some very graphic descriptions between the cover. Many of those are in the section when Olivia escapes from the genetic research facility following when Tony disappears. I am talking VERY graphic, to the point of rivaling a Stephen King story. I have a pretty strong stomach for this kind of thing, but Faust’s descriptions of the people affected by experimentation being carried out in that facility made me cringe. You have been warned.
Well, there it is…