Review: The Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold

I could not put this book down. The Fold by Peter Clines is absolutely riveting. It’s also everything I love in a book: weird science, great characters, snappy dialogue, a slowly developing mystery and edge of your seat action. There’s even a touch of romance!

I don’t actually need weird science in every book, but it really suits this one.

Leland ‘Mike’ Erickson is a high school English teacher. You couldn’t say he’s over-qualified for the job. He’s made sure of that. But with an IQ of 180 or higher and an eidetic memory, Mike is going to be overqualified for just about anything he does, even when he’s not trying. An old friend has wanted to recruit Mike to one project or another for over a decade. Mike has a ready excuse for turning him down until this latest project.

A team of scientists has developed a method for instantaneous travel. They call it the Albuquerque Door. The project began as an attempt to instantaneously transport matter from one point to another. It can’t be done. The team’s failures are an illustration of fantasy or science fiction outstripping reality. Until they design a computer powerful enough to not only track disassembling but reassembling the traveller, and figure out how to power it all, transporters will remain the property of Star Trek.

Dr. Arthur Cross and his team have succeeded in developing instantaneous travel, however. Instead of pulling matter apart and putting it back together in a new location, the Albuquerque Door shortens the distance between two points by folding space. In nearly two hundred live tests with human subjects, they’ve only had one incident. One of the crosswalkers (a play on Dr. Cross’s name and the quick walk from one Door to another) apparently went insane after his first trip. Got home and didn’t recognize his wife. Dr. Cross insists the Door played no part and that the subject, Benjamin Miles, was perfectly healthy when he left the facility.

The project is about to run out of funding and Dr. Cross and his team have asked for an extension. The committee reviewing the request wants to know why. If the Door works, why not publicize and reap the rewards. Why are they still testing? What are they hiding? Mike accepts the assignment to visit the facility and evaluate the project. His findings will help determine whether the Door is ready for release or actually does need more funding. From his first hour on site, it’s apparent the team is hiding something. But the central question in this book isn’t ‘what don’t we know?’, it’s ‘what don’t we know we don’t know?’

Outside the mystery surrounding the science of the Door, this book delves deeply into a few of the characters integral to the project, particularly Mike. We learn why he’s an underachiever and this is central to his role! His involvement with the Albuquerque Door is going to change his life, and not just because seriously weird shit is happening around the fold. I loved the descriptions of how his memory worked and how profoundly his abilities affect his outlook and his life. The supporting characters are equally interesting with even the smallest roles filled personality rather than cardboard cut-outs.

There’s also a lot of truly speculative science. The truth about the door is the key to the mystery and the whole book. What’s really on the other side is frightening and fascinating. Rounding out this exciting story, we have an element of horror and a climax full of monsters and mayhem.

It’s clear from the outset that Clines is both a fan of science and science fiction. References abound, from praise for the scientists helping us understand the possible, to the mad men who dare to dream the impossible. The story also includes enough pop culture references to hit geeky buttons. All in all, The Fold is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I read the book in one day, giggling at the humour and gasping at the surprises. I also enjoyed the author’s afterword where he talked about the genesis of the story and the journey from idea to book.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

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