Book Review | The Fold by Peter Clines

Peter-Clines-The-Fold-coverA high school English teacher on the last day of school before summer break, Mike Erikson is looking forward to a quiet summer in his Maine town, where he knows everyone and everyone knows him, and life is pleasantly boring. That is, until an old friend shows up, reminding Erickson of abilities he’s repressed for most of his life and inviting him to investigate a mystery that is baffling government scientists. At a lab in desert near San Diego, a lab funded by DARPA funds has discovered a way fold space and jump over distances instantly. It would be a discovery that would transform human civilization.

Something is wrong, though, and only Erikson’s unique talents can uncover what’s going on before something goes wrong, that the researchers are keeping a secret. As Mike starts to investigate, things are not as they seem. Is it already too late?

It doesn’t take long to fall completely into The Fold. Peter Clines builds a mystery that gripped me from the first pages and didn’t let go until the very last pages. For every clue that he reveals and question he answers, there’s another deeper mystery waiting just around the corner. The text is tightly written and I couldn’t help but look at each detail and wonder if I wasn’t examining a clue that would be relevant a few pages later. It’s a thriller disguised as science fiction–or science fiction with thriller attributes?–and that makes it a fast and exciting read.

Clines doesn’t do a bad job with his characters, either. The guys over at the Writing Excuses podcast like to talk about how well a character is developed in terms of three things: Competence, Proactivity, and Sympathy. The degree to which a writer can build each of these–and Brandon Sanderson and the Writing Excuses crew like to refer to them as sliders or faders on a mixing console–makes the character more or less strong. Clines knows this, and he turns up the dial on Mike Erikson’s Competence and Proactivity to the top, with Sympathy just a notch behind (he describes Mike as a “teenaged Severus Snape,” tapping into a whole generation who grew up hating the Hogwarts teacher only to find out that Snape was one of the heroes of the whole Harry Potter and making Mike Erikson into this awkward, but sympathetically heroic character).  Mike really is the best at what he is, and he becomes more and more proactive throughout the book to use his skills to solve the mystery.

That said, at times Cline does resort to tropes for short hand with characters in The Fold so that he can keep things moving. One character’s vocabulary eventually descends into variations of the F-bomb, repeatedly, as the action and danger increases, leaving her quirky, but thin and annoying.

Clines’ story is not original, but I didn’t see the ending coming…almost at all. It’s clever, exciting, and a page turner to keep you awake at night. Heck, I give him credit for keeping me up late on a “school night” to finish the book. The lost sleep was worth it.

The Fold Book Cover The Fold
Peter Clines
Science fiction
June 2, 2015

The folks in Mike Erikson's small New England town would say he's just your average, everyday guy. And that's exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he's chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence.

That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step.

The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, traveling through the Door is completely safe.

Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems—and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret.

As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there’s only one answer that makes sense. And if he’s right, it may only be a matter of time before the project destroys…everything.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.