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Star Gate meets Lovecraft with an assist from some odd, green cockroaches
Reviewed by Peter Sean Bradley
Peter Clines is beginning to develop into one of my favorite writers. It’s not that his books are great works of literature, but they are consistently entertaining, and these days, I am looking for a fun read by an author I can rely on. I have found Cline’s previous books to be really entertaining, although they have been kind of a “guilty pleasure, with all the all the mashing up of cliches that they engage in. For example, I was amused by the “Superheroes v. Zombies” plot line in Ex-Heroes”, and in 14 the plot was a “haunted house meets Lovecraft” that put me in mind of a couple of stories by Fritz Leiber.
Clines continues his modus operandi in The Fold. The book starts as hard core science fiction with an experiment – The Albuquerque Door – that seems to “fold” space so that a person stepping through one side of a gate exists out the other side of a gate 100s of feet away. This is obviously a significant advance in science, except the scientists working on the Door are paranoid in the refusal to share any information about how the door works and a government inspector who walked through the Door started raving about how he wasn’t married to someone other than the woman he married.
If you have ever been a science fiction reader, you know what’s going on in the first chapter, but if you’re not, I will let you wait for the big reveal around 70% of the way through the book. Although I saw where the book was going – and I have been reading science fiction for 40 years – I was still intrigued by the development of the story as Clines trotted out the next clue to the inevitable revelation.
What made the book work for me was definitely the main character Leland “Mike” Erikson. Mike is a high school English teacher who is sought out by his friend, a major player in DARPA, as the one person capable of unravelling the mystery of the Albuquerque Door, because of two facts: (a) Mike has the third highest IQ ever recorded and (b) Mike has “eidetic memory,” i.e., he remembers everything. Clines makes his really cool superpower work in this story, particularly as Mike is developed as a quirky, humorous and self-effacing everyman, who is just smarter than everyone else and can remember everything he’s ever seen, heard or felt.
The story works as standard science fiction story until about 80% of the way into the book when it veered into H.P.Lovecraft territory. Normally, I would cry foul, but I actually enjoyed this development, particularly since Cline connected the events of this book with his previous book, 14, and tossed in some cameos from characters in that book. (Frankly, when characters started noticing the “green cockroaches,” I should have made the connection, but I do not have “eidetic memory.”) Since I like that story and those characters, my “willing suspension of disbelief” meter was particularly tolerant. If you haven’t read 14, you might want to do that, but this is definitely a stand-alone book.
So, bottom line, this is a fun book; you don’t get preached at, you don’t get hectored, you get a bit of the gosh-wow fun of science fiction, and you get money’s worth in entertainment.