“Mike Erikson is one of the smartest people in America. And yet—for reasons nobody around him quite understands—he’s chosen to let the potential of his amazing intellect go untapped, instead spending his days as a high school English teacher in a small New England town. Just as school lets out for the summer, however, an old friend presents Mike with a mystery he can’t help but be intrigued by—and one that he is uniquely qualified to solve.
Far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device called the Albuquerque Door. The machine uses a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to effectively “fold” dimensions, shrinking the distance between them so that a traveler can simply step through a portal to a different location. The invention—teleportation made real!—seems like one of mankind’s oldest dreams come true. But something, it seems, is going wrong. The personalities of the scientists who work on the device are changing. People are dying. Even reality itself seems to be . . . warping.
Soon Mike finds himself the unwelcome guest of an eccentric physicist and his hostile research team, all of whom seem convinced that he’s there to steal their secrets. But it’s Mike who figures out that the Albuquerque Door is not what it appears to be—and that its creators don’t have as much control over their project as they’ve led him to believe. As Mike and the other scientists use everything they’ve learned to solve a seemingly impossible technological mystery, their dream of changing the world rapidly turns into a horror story.”
Thoughts on the Novel: In The Fold, Mr. Clines capitalizes on the popularity of the geek subculture to create a mesmerizing and yet horrifying novel about the consequences of messing with time and space. The scientific elements of the story are easy to understand as basic concepts, which is all that is necessary for readers to grasp because this is a novel not about the science but about the costs associated with it. The characters are also rather generic, but again readers will find them perfectly acceptable given the parameters of the story. For, in spite of the focus on science and experiments in teleportation, The Fold is an action story and not a character-driven one. Readers will not mind the distinction, for it makes a compelling novel that is difficult to set aside.
Mr. Clines does a great job of making Mike sympathetic in spite of his unusual skill set and brusque manners. It could be very easy to dismiss Mike’s gifts as utterly impossible and therefore ridiculous. Instead, readers get a character with problems most people could never fathom but with whom it becomes easy to empathize. Through Mike, readers see the positive and mostly negative aspects of off-the-charts intelligence. While most people think they want a better memory, Mike shows readers just how dangerous such a wish can be. One cannot ignore the tongue-in-cheek nod to the improbability of someone have Mike’s gifts, but it does not lessen their impressiveness or danger to Mike’s mental stability. Readers will find themselves studying his actions and thought processes clinically and in much the same way he views his surroundings.
Like most science fiction novels, there comes a time in The Fold where readers must suspend their disbelief in favor of the story. Some readers may find that they must do so at the mere idea of a suspicious Door that allows a person to cross a long distance by stepping through a set of rings. Other readers may find that switch when they discover there is very little science associated with this Door. Yet for others, this will come towards the end as the story evolves into a horror story. Whenever it happens however, readers will not care that it does, for the story immediately engages a reader’s imagination. Whether it is about Mike and his skills or the Door itself or the mystery occurring within the complex, readers will want to continue to read long after the point at which the story becomes slightly silly.
The Fold is a strong science fiction novel with elements of horror as the consequences of the Door reveal themselves. The characters are every bit as eclectic and geeky as one would expect in a novel about teleportation (hello, Trekkies), but they do their job as secondary characters. Mike, as the lead character, is surprisingly empathetic and quite fascinating to watch as his brain processes are so very different from anyone else. Better yet, it ends with enough closure for it to be a standalone novel but has the fantastic potential for future stories should Mr. Clines so choose. Either way, it’s a mind-bending novel of physics, alternate realities, and a very serious cause-and-effect scenario with world-ending consequences. In other words, it’s just a kick-ass story for those who like science and fantasy and the implausible come to life.