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Titan Books and author Christa Faust continue to explore the past lives of the people that will one day form the government’s covert Fringe division in their latest paperback novel, Fringe: the Burning Man! Based on the hit TV Show (Fringe) about a division of special government agents that explores the “unimaginable”, Burning Man focuses on special agent Olivia Dunham’s abusive childhood, and teen years, where she must face off against an obsessed psychopath with a murderous vendetta against her. Here’s the book’s synopsis:

As a child, Olivia Dunham is “Subject 13,” exposed to the experimental drug Cortexiphan. It has strange effects upon her—effects that manifest when her stepfather assaults her mother—with dire consequences.

All of her life, Olivia hides the strange things Cortexiphan has done to her. But the older she gets, the more difficult it becomes to suppress them. And when faced with a life-or-death situation, she can no longer deny her true nature. For if she does, someone close to her will die.

Thanks to Faust, and her Fringe books, I’ve now started watching the show (Fringe) with the normal obsessive compulsiveness I usually reserve for cookies and internet porn. Which is probably the intended purpose (porpoise?) of the novels. Faust can craft a damn good story and her telling of Olivia’s past was incredibly engaging. My only criticism of the novel is in the handling of the books villains. In Burning Man there are two “bad guys,” which I felt was one too many. First we meet former police officer Tony Orsini. He’s a corrupt cop who encounters the child Olivia, and the full force of her Cortexiphan induced powers, which results in the loss of one of his arms. Convinced Olivia is a demon from hell, Orsini goes on a murderous rampage to find and kill Olivia. Then (two thirds of the book later) Olivia is locked up by a deranged scientist, Dr. Lansen, who had picked up the study of cortexiphan altered patients and is conducting his own horrible experiments. I feel both are excellent villains but I don’t think they needed to be in the same book. Doctor Lansen had a weird level of intent toward his patients and I think that could have played out better had he been the books principle “bad guy” and introduced from the very beginning. On the other hand, Tony Orsini’s obsession with Olivia and the murderous lengths he went to just to get at her was excellent horror fiction and I feel the book would have done better to stay with him for some climatic resolution instead of just switching gears and bring in a whole new terrible situation for Olivia to fight through. I’ve always felt that the strength of a good fiction story is rooted in the stories villains. For me they’re what makes a story compelling and threatening. I think by putting them both in the story (with out any connection between the two) took something important away. However, the overall story is compelling and it’s actually one of the best supernatural stories I’ve read since Stephen King’s Joyland.

Fringe: The Burning Man is on sale right now in all major bookstores or you can get your copy online from Titan Books! Now, I’m going back to watching some of the TV show. I just love that Walter character! How much acid do I have to drop before I’m a genius like him? Or at least convinced that I’m a genius like him? Kids, don’t do drugs.

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