The Fold: Fun for everyone

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Fold by Peter Clines speculative fiction book reviewsThe Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold, by Peter Clines, is a science fiction thriller with a superhero aspect, a bit of Sherlock Holmes and a bit of H.P. Lovecraft thrown in. It’s got dry humor, plenty of pop-culture references and an engaging main character who can be surprisingly vulnerable. This is a perfect summer read; the ideal vacation book. It’s a book you’ll want to pass along to your friends when you’re done.

Leland “Mike” Erickson teaches high school English in a small town in New England. His life is tranquil and even uneventful, until his college friend Reggie, who works for the Department of Defense, comes for a visit. Reggie is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and his division oversees a project in San Diego called the Albuquerque Door. The scientists running the Door project insist that they can fold space, transporting matter across thousands of miles in one or two steps. The project has proven itself, and the team says it’s safe, but they won’t answer basic questions about the project. Reggie is getting a bad vibe from the team, and he sends Mike out to investigate.

Mike has two things going for him: an off-the-charts IQ, and total recall. This combination makes him an effective investigator. Mike tries to make friends with the Door team, but they are suspicious, one or two outright hostile. As Mike settles in, he sees that they are not only distrustful and suspicious of him, but of each other. It is clear that more than one set of secrets is being kept. In short order things go from uncomfortable-and-twitchy to dangerous-and-deadly. Mike must not only use all of his own abilities, he must win the trust of the other scientists — and soon — if they are going to survive.

Every element of this story flows together. Mike is super-hero smart, but the Door team is smart too, and they don’t just sit at his feet while he pontificates. The action unrolls just fast enough. Clines is a master of dialogue and uses it for humor, for pacing and to show us the different mindsets of the various characters. There is a recurring reference to Sherlock Holmes and another original fictional late-Victorian character, which creates a theme of the contrast between the cool, observational, “rationalist” Victorian mind and the morbid, seething id of that time period. Mike may be a genius, and his perfect memory may have some real benefits (early in the book, he relaxes by “replaying” in his mind the movie he saw on the flight out), but it carries a price, as he explains to Jaime as they are drinking and mourning the death of a colleague. She asks him,

“Why is Leland ‘Mike’ Erickson, sometime decent guy, such a bastard?”

“My dog, Batman, was hit by a car when I was six,” said Mike, “and I cried for four hours. I lost my granddad on my mom’s side when I was nine, and my nana on my dad’s when I was eleven. We had to put down our cat, Jake, the morning of my sixteenth birthday. My mom died my junior year of college, and I was there in the hospital with her. And every single one of them could have happened a minute ago… I remember every second of them all dying with perfect, crystal clarity. Everything’s always raw. It’s always ‘too soon.’”

Pop culture references throughout The Fold not only provide humor. One of them, from the original Star Trek, is a plot point. That was just sheer good fun.

Clines has a knack for the new descriptions, choosing metaphors and analogies that demonstrate Mike’s observational abilities, such as

Bob’s skin was yellow, the color of Post-it Notes or old pencils.

Another story-teller might say that Bob was jaundiced; the visual of “Post-in Notes” sticks in the mind, snapping Bob’s face into focus.

One safety warning: don’t lean your full weight on the quantum physics part of this story; that part’s a bit spindly. This really only bothered me in one spot; Mike carefully draws a diagram explaining about multiverses (basically, some graceful hand-waving). The explanation he gives explains why none of these bright people have noticed one thing that’s been happening, but seems to contradict events in the first chapter. It’s not a big problem, but it left me thinking, “But then why…?” and having to consciously suspend disbelief.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Fold. Except for quantum physicists, hard-science fiction fans will enjoy this for its scientific foundation. People who like smart characters, snappy dialogue and action will like it; dyed-in-the-wool horror fans will be pleased with the terrifying scenes towards the end. Fans of the BBC show Sherlock will lift their pint glasses to Mike, recognizing his kinship with their idol. The Fold is, simply, fun for everyone.

~Marion Deeds


The Fold by Peter Clines speculative fiction book reviewsThis was a fun one. Leland Erikson, called “Mike” for an intriguing reason that I won’t spoil for you, is a high school English teacher. He has a genius level IQ as well as an eidetic (photographic) memory, but he wants to live a normal life, so he takes only low-profile jobs. Mike’s quiet life is periodically invaded by his old friend, Reggie Magnus, who now works for the government and is keen to get Mike to take on various high tech projects for him. But Mike has never before been tempted to interrupt his small-town life to agree to Reggie’s pleas.

Reggie manages to rope him into this latest one, though. There’s a top-secret project called the Albuquerque Door: an instant teleportation device developed by a small group of scientists, who are receiving millions in government funding but are stubbornly insisting on keeping their science behind their device secret, even from their government funders. And Reggie can’t shake the feeling that there’s a problem with this project:

“You know when you’re in a rush and you put a T-shirt on backward? Even if there’s no tag in it, you don’t have to look in the mirror to know it’s on wrong. You can just feel it.”

“That’s all you’ve got for me?”

“It’s just wrong,” he replied with a shrug. “That’s all I can tell you. There’s something so wrong out there that you can almost feel it in the air. And you know what’s the weirdest part?”

“What?”

“I think everyone out there feels the same way.”

So Mike is sent off to live in the compound with these scientists for a few weeks, on the government’s nickel, to see if he can figure out what’s going on with this project and what exactly the problem is.

The Fold was an easy book to read: it moves along quickly, the dialogue is snappy, the “science” was intriguing and the tension builds continually. The pseudo-science was plausible enough for me to work with, and although my ability to suspend disbelief got a little stretched at the end, it never snapped. And there are a few cool geeky Star Trek references that add to the fun.

I enjoyed Mike as the main character: he’s been afraid to turn his brain power loose, scared of how it will change his life. He repeatedly compares the way his brain works to a swarm of ants, carrying out a series of photographs and images and sounds for him to mentally flip through. The ants simile is used so often that about the 6th time I actually wrote down a note: “Recommend not referring to the ants in Mike’s brain so often.” But it soon became clear that I was going to be stuck with this metaphor as it resurfaced every few pages, and I went through the tolerate-accept-embrace process, so that by the end of the novel I was actually enjoying it when they put in another appearance: “Cool! There are black and red ants now!”

Some of the secondary characters stood out, especially Olaf, the grumpy Humphrey Bogart look-alike scientist, and Jamie, a programmer with some hidden issues, but most of the rest of the cast were not particularly memorable; I tended to get them confused with each other.

A lot of the enjoyment in this story comes from the element of surprise and the tension that builds when you’re not sure what’s wrong or where the plot is headed, so I recommend that you avoid spoilers and grab a copy of The Fold when you’re in the mood for a techno-thriller.

~Tadiana Jones

Publication Date: June 2, 2015. STEP INTO THE FOLD. IT’S PERFECTLY SAFE. The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence. That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step. The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, traveling through the Door is completely safe. Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems—and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret. As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there’s only one answer that makes sense. And if he’s right, it may only be a matter of time before the project destroys…everything. A cunningly inventive mystery featuring a hero worthy of Sherlock Holmes and a terrifying final twist you’ll never see coming, The Fold is that rarest of things: a genuinely page-turning science-fiction thriller. Step inside its pages and learn why author Peter Clines has already won legions of loyal fans.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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5 comments

  1. Sounds like fun! And the pile grows . . .

  2. This sounds like a book written for me. (Anything with DARPA and quantum physics probably is.)

  3. I’m supposed to get this book in the mail soon, and thanks to your review I’m even more excited to read it! :)

  4. Brandon Macintyre /
    Reader rating - 4 stars

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