The Fold | Peter Clines | Broadway Books | Hb 2015, Pb 2016 | 375p | Bought copy | Buy the book
Leland ‘Mike’ Erikson is a school teacher (one who happens to look like Severus Snape) in New England. It’s an undemanding but easy life for a man who could easily be one of the most intelligent human beings on the planet. With an immeasurable IQ, Mike has the unfailing ability to remember and recall every single thing that he sees, in the most minute detail and clarity. Mike feels as if his brain is alive with ants that he can control to a greater or lesser extent – when they escape, or he opens the hatch, they capture every little piece of information, just waiting for the moment when they can re-release it into Mike’s consciousness. Mike can never forget a childhood tragedy, his feelings return as raw as they were the first time, and nothing ever escapes him. It’s far better that he dulls his mind in a 9 to 5 teaching job.
But one day Mike’s closest friend Reggie, a government agent with influence, invites Mike to head to San Diego to join a team of DARPA scientists, led by Arthur Cross, who are working on a mysterious secret project they have named the Albuquerque Door. More precisely, Reggie wants Mike to investigate the project and find out exactly what it is that Arthur and his team have found and whether it is worth the investment. All Reggie knows is that the Door is a device that folds dimensions. A person can walk through one door and exit another in an instant, with just one step, however far apart the doors might be. Mike doesn’t have to be a genius to work out what a leap for mankind teleportation would represent.
Reggie suspects, though, that Arthur is hiding something from him, that he is reluctant either to explain the technology or to release its benefits into the world despite its great successes. Mike can’t resist the challenge and soon finds himself observing the team as they send each other to and fro between the doors placed on either side of the facility.
I’m no expert on quantum physics (or if I am, I keep it hidden) but that didn’t matter at all with The Fold. Mike might be a genius but he too has to learn what’s going on and, as he observes, he becomes our eyes, explaining what has happened in an unobtrusive but fascinating way. Mike falls for the Star Trekkingly fabulous wonder of it all and his enthusiasm for it is catching. But he’s also suspicious of how it works, particularly as he realises that Arthur and the others may actually be as much in the dark as he is. Something is going on, the behaviour of the team, likeable though they may be, is inconsistent, and, as he digs, Mike discovers that not all of the experiments were quite as successful as he’d been led to believe.
I gobbled The Fold up. I loved the writing, I loved the fun of it, full of references to pop culture, and yet so brilliantly fascinating and, as we headed into the second half, utterly thrilling, horrifying, jawdropping and marvellous! Peter Clines has the most amazing imagination and he made me want to believe it could all happen. The first half is sciencey while the second half delves deep into horror and I surprised myself to discover that I enjoyed the two equally. One reason for this is the unifying figure of Mike – I really, really liked this man. I loved the way his brain works and he manages to be both human and superhuman at the same time. The other scientists all have their unique personalities and the setting itself is so well depicted – it’s like some strange science camp in the middle of nowhere for people who don’t quite fit in elsewhere.
I’d been longing to read The Fold for such a long time. It came out in the US ages before it was released over here and I suffered with my impatience. With all that anticipation going on, I’m so happy to report that it didn’t just match my expectations, it far exceeded them and gave me one of the best times I’ve had reading a science fiction thriller in such a long time. It’s one of those rare books that I wish I hadn’t read just so I could have the pleasure of reading it for the first time again. All the stars to this one.