The Fold is a hugely entertaining science fiction novel in the tradition of Michael Crichton’s Sphere as well as the Lincoln Child novel Deep Storm. Centering around scientists and very smart people being forced to deal with something beyond science is always a fertile ground to mine for drama and Peter Clines hits the premise hard.
Leland “Mike” Erikson has an eidetic memory and an IQ over 180. What this means is Mike has perfect recall for anything he has read or seen, and extremely good memory for touch, taste, and smell. The high IQ means he can take that input and analyze it quickly and efficiently, making connections and seeing patterns few others can. Rather than capitalize on this ability, Mike works as a high school teacher in Maine. One day his old friend Reggie, a Director at the government agency DARPA, comes calling with a job offer that requires Mike’s rare skill. Scientists working on a top secret project have created what they call the “Albuquerque Door”, a gate that allows matter to pass instantaneously from one point to another. It’s not a teleporter but a fold in space. Everything seems to work fine, yet the scientists insist on further testing. Reggie wants to know what the scientists are hiding and convinces Mike to take the assignment.
If you are a fan of techno-thrillers you are going to love The Fold, at least most of it. For the first 300 pages the book moves like a rocket, a steadily growing sense of tension and unease that doesn’t let up as things get worse and worse and the reader is kept guessing. It’s only in the finale where the story takes a distinct turn from science-fiction to Lovecraftian horror that the drama gives way to action and other worldly terror. The good news is by that point you are so invested in the story that you can forgive the chaotic ending because the rest of the tale is so good.
Not so good is the portrayal of the women in the story. The love interest (this could be considered a spoiler so I’m leaving the name off) starts out disliking Mike but then seems to fall for him. This is explained in the plot but the problem is Clines seems to have a lot easier time portraying the women like Bond-girls rather than fully fleshed out characters. There’s the angry but beautiful programmer, the beautiful Star Trek nerd, and the beautiful receptionist. I wish there had been a little bit more to them but to be honest the male characters other than Mike aren’t given a lot of complex traits either.
What really elevates The Fold is the character of Mike. The way Clines describes the use of Mike’s memory, the way he sees things, can replay them (sometimes against his will) over and over again is fascinating. When the big twist is revealed you can absolutely believe that no one other than Mike would have been able to figure it out. The amount of data needed to see the patterns and suss out the only logical conclusion is vast and varied and no one but Mike would have seen it. Clines does a lot with the pros and cons of having eidetic memory (you never have to watch a movie more than once for starters) but you also can never forget anything no matter how much you may want to. For Mike, the deaths of his loved ones is a wound that can never heal because his memory never fades. It’s a fascinating idea and makes The Fold unique and standing out from other “scientists create/investigate something that gets out of control” stories.
If you are looking for a science-fiction story that will keep you riveted and up late with one-more-chapter syndrome, The Fold will more than do the trick. It builds steadily until it is revealed what the door really is and from that point moves like a roller coaster all the way to the last page.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this unbiased review.