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Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I love science-fiction. I love reading it, and I love watching it. Star Trek is one of my favorite shows. So, when a novel appears on the New Releases shelf that explores the invention and discovery of transport technology, well, beam me up, Scotty.

"The Fold" by Peter Clines is a science-fiction novel that takes place in our very near future. It appears that instant teleportation has been invented, albeit over short distances at the start. The project overseer at the Department of Defense tasks a friend to audit what the scientists out in the desert are actually accomplishing.

Mike Erikson is a reclusive genius with an eidetic memory who is just trying to live a low-key life as a high school science teacher. When his former partner from DARPA approaches him with a job, Mike is initially reluctant. However, his curious mind leads him to take at least summer vacation to follow up on the project that is destined to change the world.

When he arrives at the project site, he is met with open hostility. The scientists on the ground are protective of their work and wary that Mike may be attempting to rip the project from their grasp to deliver it to the government. It is a struggle to earn their trust.

The group has discovered a way to fold space so that a person can be transported over long distances with only a single step. They each take turns walking through the portal, appearing in a building at the far end of the complex instantaneously. They seem none the worse for wear at the end of the journey.

Meanwhile, Mike is handed all the notes from the project in order to study what’s been happening in the progress of this new discovery. With his photographic memory, he is able to process the information extremely quickly and can recall any bit of the data when needed. Somehow, everything doesn’t add up and isn’t quite what it seems.

At the beginning of this book, this seems like a new, great adventure into the realm of hard science-fiction. For most of this book, the reader can enjoy this part of the genre in all its technological glory. Cline’s characters and plot are the embodiment of all that Arthur C. Clarke made famous.

Unfortunately, about three-quarters through this novel, everything changed. From the start, I really liked the plot as it developed. It was a thinker’s book that made you believe that the events could actually happen if people just sat down to develop it. The characters, while just a bit weak, played off each other well. And then the mystery is revealed.

Once Mike figures out what is going on, the plot starts to crumble and the characters begin to rely heavily on cliche. While Clines did not quite fall into the deadly grasp of deus ex machina, he does come very close. The conclusion of this book detours so drastically from the technological thriller it started out as, that it’s almost like it was written independently.

At the same time the plot begins to weaken, the characters go through a wholesale change. While part of this is due to the effects to the Fold itself, they stop developing and begin to lean heavily on cliches from late night science-fiction television. This drastic turn of events in both plot and character detract from an otherwise incredible story.

There are some redeeming qualities. For some people, Mike’s compartmentalization of all the data he gets can be confusing. I thought it was great. In using ants crawling through the colony to store “eggs” of information, and then scramble to piece it all back together, Clines has shown his literary genius. I loved the symbolism of how Mike’s brain worked in harmony with nature. It is one part of the book that should be read rather than explained. It is brilliant.

Peter Clines has a great idea with the initial story of The Fold. It is a brainy novel that rivals some of the greats. However, near the end when he delves into the fantastic, he loses steam and believability. If you can get past the horrors of the last 50 pages or so, this is a fantastic book. Clines writes very well. It is easy and enjoyable to read, and flows well to keep the reader engaged.

From looking at other books Clines has written, these last pages are more in line with his normal writing. If he can deliver a novel that sticks with the same style as the start of The Fold, I will be the first in line to read it. Until then, I will keep hoping for that he puts pen to paper and delivers a complete, hard science-fiction novel.

+Craig Bacon would make fun of Bones about transporters. With that and a holo-deck, he would be a very happy nerd. Beam over to @hippieboy73 on Twitter to check out 140 characters of nonsense.

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