Back in 2017 I found myself in the unenviable position of driving back and forth looking for work two states away from where I lived, while also driving for a horrible ride share company that I won’t name (but trust me, you’re über-familiar with how terrible they are…) to try to help make ends meet in the meantime.
Ergo, I was spending a butt-ton of time in my car, and I mean a British/Imperial/long butt-ton of time. Thankfully I had a very kind friend who gifted me six Audible credits to help me pass the time in the car.
One of the books I picked up was a novel called The Fold, from an author I had never read before named Peter Clines. Total honesty – I picked the book based 100% on the cover art and the title. It’s nothing particularly special, either. It’s not a great pun like Mage Against the Machine, it’s not especially provocative, I just liked it. And ultimately, I really liked the book.
The Fold’s Polarizing Reviews
Now, I wouldn’t normally do this at this point in a review, but something weird happened when I was looking at other reviews of The Fold, and I think in this case it’s worth mentioning that this book seems to be extremely divisive among people who have read it and/or listened to the audiobook. Based on other reviews that I looked at in preparation for this article, the people who (like me) love the book, love the book.
But the people who don’t like it, absolutely lose their minds over how much they don’t like it.
I lost a good 90 minutes or so down the rabbit hole of very lengthy reviews that had literally nothing good to say about The Fold. One in particular was from a Goodreads.com user who is the #1 rated reviewer in Spain on Goodreads, so it’s not even like these are just reviews from some jabroni with nothing better to do… These people have:
- a) taken the time to read the book, and
- b) then taken enough time to write sometimes extremely lengthy reviews filled with nothing but vitriol towards the book and its author.
Maybe it’s just me, but I do not understand devoting that much time to something you hated so much. If I ever even took the time to write a review about a book I hated, it wouldn’t be much more than, “I really hated this book. Would not recommend.”
But I probably would never even take the time to do that much, because what’s the point? Don’t spend your life harping on the things you don’t like – be like the Nerds here at NoE and just celebrate the things that you do like! /end_soapbox
Back to The Fold…
The Fold: Plot Synopsis
The book follows Leland “Mike” Erikson, a small-town english teacher with an eidetic memory and a genius level IQ. “Mike” is short for “Mycroft,” as in Mycroft Holmes, a nickname given to him by his childhood friend Reggie, who is now a DARPA bigwig. Reggie talks Mike into traveling to San Diego to consult on a ground-breaking, world-changing project he is running there.
The project is known as “The Albuquerque Door,” and involves a working prototype of a machine that allows for teleportation of physical matter, including organic matter. However, there are some odd irregularities surrounding the project and some of its members, and Reggie wants Mike and his amazing brain on site to observe and report.
Upon arrival, Mike finds the project team members cold and suspicious. That all changes, though, after an accident leaves one team member dead and the rest badly shaken. The group is forced to work together to figure out the cause of the accident… and that is where things take a major turn.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who might read The Fold, but let’s just say that there’s a pretty substantial shift in tone, pacing, and possibly genre at this point.
Seriously – well over half of the 1- and 2-star reviews that I saw for The Fold said something like, “The first two thirds (or half, or three quarters…) of the book is smart, tense, and mysterious, but then it completely changes and I hated it.” The other portion of bad reviews were the ones I mentioned earlier that were crazy long and hopelessly negative…
The Fold: What Worked (and What Didn’t)
I went into The Fold with absolutely no expectations since, as I mentioned at the top, I literally chose this book based on its cover. And, as I mentioned already, I loved it. Here’s what I particularly liked:
- The Pacing – This book starts slow, almost too slow, and slowly ramps up the pace and intensity in something like an exponential curve. That sort of slow beginning that lays some character groundwork, followed by a seemingly minor inciting action, that leads to a furiously paced crescendo… It was very Crichton-esque, which is high praise indeed coming from me.
- The Twist – Some people hated it; some loved it. I loved it, and I think it’s because I wasn’t expecting The Fold to be a rigorous, hard sci-fi sort of story. It seems like a lot of people who didn’t like it, didn’t like it because it turned into something they weren’t expecting and/or don’t have a high view of.
- The Tone – There is something in Peter Clines’ writing style that keeps me in a mental space where I can fully and honestly accept The Fold in its hard sci-fi moments, as well as in its bonkers-third-act moments. I’ve read or listened to four other Peter Clines books at this point (the two other books in this series, as well as a standalone book and the first in a different series he writes), and I find that to generally be his style – sci-fi with a small bent towards realism and world-building, but ready to party at a moment’s notice.
And, to show you that I’m not a mindless fanboy of The Fold and Peter Clines, here is one element I didn’t particularly like:
- The Characters – They’re not great, and there’s not a lot of effort put into fully fleshing them out as human beings. I’m not sure this story needs fully fleshed out humans characters to work, but a couple of them were thiiiiiiiis close to just being one-dimensional stereotypes. I think it would have behooved Clines to spend a little bit more time on the interpersonal relationship moments between Mike and the Albuquerque Door team, especially since some of those moments factor so prominently into the plot of the book.
PS: As I only discovered after reading another of Clines’ novels, The Fold is actually the second book in what is known as the Threshold Series. The first book in that series, 14, will be my next review.