by Daniel Wallace
Titan Books out now
Fringe: September’s Notebook
by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry
Titan Books out now
Journey deep (very deep) inside the Star Wars and Fringe universes with these two detailed ‘in universe’ books.
Media tie-in books are strange beasts. Some are straight-forward, such as novelisations of movies or television episodes (rarer beasts these days than they once were), and their close cousins, the tie-in original fiction which provides new adventures for your favourite characters (the Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars franchises are past-masters at this stuff, but some newer shows are branching out in this way). Then there’s the obvious ‘making of’ book, which once declined in popularity thanks to DVD extra features but has made something of a comeback in recent times.
Oddest of all, though, is perhaps the ‘found object’—a book that supposedly exists within whatever fictional world it is related to. Here we have two examples, from Star Wars and from the recently-concluded J.J Abrams (director of Star Wars: Episode VII) weird science television series Fringe.
They say the Devil has all the best tunes, and veteran Star Wars author Daniel Wallace has had to immerse himself deeply in a satanic playlist to create Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side as it has supposedly been penned (do they have pens in Star Wars?) by Star Wars’ very own prince of darkness, Darth Sidious (with contributions from other past Sith Lords).
This is a nicely put together small volume (and the current edition lacks all the extras previously available with the deluxe version). It’s made up of bits and pieces of Sith lore, complete with annotations from various dark side and light side characters including the father-son combo of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.
If you want to know about the practices of Mother Talzin (from The Clone Wars animated TV series), or the Rule of Two, then this is the book for you. Does this stuff add anything to the overall Star Wars story, though? Not if you’re a casual fan, but it is no doubt like catnip to hardcore lightsaber likers who want to immerse themselves ever deeper in the Star Wars universe. It’s a great object in its own right with different paper stocks and page shapes for different bits of content, but for the more general reader it is questionable whether it is a necessary one.
The same applies to the large format September’s Notebook: The Bishop Paradox. The design boat had been really pushed out on this one, and the look is definitely prioritized over the text. Essentially a disguised episode guide (and then some) to all five seasons of Fringe, September’s Notebook has to offer something that you can’t get from an internet episode guide web site. It does that by packing the book with goodies from within the Fringe universe, in the style of the many ‘Vault’ books that have appeared in recent years. Your utility for these items (tattoos, case file cards, images to frame) may vary…
Written from the point-of-view of the sympathetic Observer (the bald-headed future time chappies) named September, the text struggles to capture the ‘voice’ of the TV series. That’s not a great problem, though, as the text is clearly secondary to this volume’s status as a designed object. Again, it is something die-hard Fringe fans (meaning those who stuck with the show during its tedious fifth and final season, and still enjoyed it!) will want this, no question, but the less committed viewer will be left cold by it, as the detail contained within it might just be too much…
Verdict: If watching just ain’t enough for you, then dive into these fictional worlds via superbly-designed ‘in universe’ media tie-ins.
Star Wars: The Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side 7/10
Fringe: September’s Notebook: The Bishop Paradox 8/10
[Add an extra point if you’re a die-hard fan of either franchise: you know who you are!]
Brian J. Robb