Though Peter Clines has been on my list for years, this is the first book of his I’ve ever read. And I have to say, if the rest of his novels are anything like The Fold, I’m gonna have to make time for them.
Our protagonist, Leland “Mike” Erikson isn’t superhuman, but his superpower is very much real. Perfect eidetic memory and recall—meaning he has never forgotten anything he’s learned in his life. Now that’s such a cool ability, if one that’s been overused in fiction. But Mike takes time to point out that this blessing isn’t necessarily always a blessing. It can easily be a curse.
Mike imagines his eidetic memory as a hive of ants; each carrying a scrap of information. The ants move in an endless cycle, retrieving and organizing the info in his head, cataloguing it before moving on to the next subject. When he needs them, the ants organize in a heartbeat, marching the information to the forefront of his mind, often laying it out in a relative and often complex manner depending on what the situation calls for. He can create a graph or a scatterplot composed of pieces of data collected days or even years apart. He can replay any movie, reread any book so long as he had seen it sometime in his life. He can overlap places atop one another—images or scenes of the same locale taken from different times, recreating each in gory detail to compare for differences. He can remember where he left that important thing, you know, the one I always seem to lose.
But along with the blessing, his gift can also be a curse. Since he can never forget anything, every death, every trauma is a raw wound. He can picture it in perfect detail hours, days, even years after it has occurred. Every horrible, pain instilling moment we normal folk endure once—even those particularly scarring memories that haunt us for weeks or months after they occur—he carries with him for the rest of his life. They are with him always, and in perfect clarity. It’s the kind of thing that when others portray eidetic memory, they usually gloss over or skip it entirely. It’s but a cliff note to the plot, really a footnote, but it puts everything in perspective. An infallible man with perfect recall and no trauma doesn’t make an interesting or realistic story. Mike is human—it makes all the difference in the story.
When we enter The Fold, Mike is teaching high school English in Maine. A simple life, for someone whose talents demand so much more. An old friend, Reggie, drops in on him for something of a surprise. But this isn’t the social call it seems. Instead, Reggie, a DARPA bigwig in charge of a super secret project, has a problem. He isn’t sure what is wrong exactly, but something is. And he needs Mike to help.
The perfect eidetic memory aside, this is quite a compelling plot. One that engrossed me in mere minutes. That said, it took me three days to get past the first part. I don’t remember what was going on at the time, but I remember being around page 50 after the first three days. The rest I read in one night. But luckily by then the kicker is revealed.
The Fold is like Stargate meets Fringe. Wormholes and parallel universes and some problem that always arises from dealing with one and two. “The Albuquerque Door” is a portal that folds over time and space twice—first once and then back—allowing a person, an object, a… hamster, to travel from Point A to Point B in a fraction of a second, no matter what that distance is. But there’s a problem. There always is. Reggie isn’t sure what it is, but there’s a problem. Something off. Something… wrong.
As scifi thrillers involving wormholes go, The Fold is pretty good. There were questions I had later in the story, questions I couldn’t reason out at three in the morning, questions that bugged me for the next few days. Unfortunately, it’s taken me nearly a year to write this review and, well, I ain’t Mike. It’d be helpful sometimes… okay, most of the time, but I wouldn’t be… me. Right, yeah. I can’t recall my problems with the science. But I remember the gist. ‘Try not to dig too deeply, not all the explanations are there’. So long as you don’t dive too deep, The Fold is an amazing read. The best part is the story doesn’t get weighed down by the heavy science that affects some other stories. It toes the line between light and heavy, coming out somewhere in the gold. At least, I liked it. In terms of relating it… I’d put the science more in-depth than Time Salvager or Hollow World, but not anywhere near Peter F. Hamilton level. A nice middle ground, like Becky Chambers manages.
The book is no work of art; the prose isn’t sublime, the text isn’t chiseled from gold, the characters aren’t gods made men. But the plot goes together pretty well and the story flows along well. Mike has a distinctly human element to him that tethers the tale to reality. While it wasn’t my favorite book ever, there’s really nothing for me to poke holes in.
4.5 / 5 stars. And I added the rest of Peter Clines work to my ‘to-read’ list.