28 July 2015

Books: The Fold By Peter Clines (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".

As I was reading The Fold, I could not get over the feeling that I was reading A). A fan fic story that blends Star Trek and Doctor Who and B) A teleplay for a pilot of a TV series. Then at the end, in Peter Clines Afterword, the author notes this novel began as a short story when he was in a college literary class (and notes how the teacher seemed to be upset that he was writing this story versus something with more heft). And that it took years of rewrites, being stored away and then more rewrites for its publication this year. Leland "Mike" Erikson, described as Mycroft more than Sherlock Holmes by Clines, is really those two literary characters melded with Gene Roddenberry's Spock. While there are people who are like Erickson - he has an eidetic memory, which means he remembers everything he's exposed to with great detail- I kind of felt that Clines created a human supercomputer that may not truly exist (I don't know, never met a person with that type of capabilities). 

For Star Trek fans -and which gave me the feeling Clines was writing fan-fic- the plot is full of nods to the The Original Series. Of course the whole idea of the multiverse comes from comic books, but even Doctor Who and Star Trek have used this device for selling their drama. And Clines does out of his way to explain the idea of the possible real science behind the Albuquerque Door (which is a reference to Bugs Bunny and which I find ironic  because this week the animated character is celebrating it's 75th anniversary), but resorts to "magic" as it were to avoid really explaining the whole way it could work. Meanwhile, I kind of hated all the scientists working on the project. While we get a reasonable explanation of their attitudes about what they're doing and why they hate the "government" (who is of course paying for it)  for interfering in their project (much like David Marcus whined about Starfleet taking Genesis in Wrath of Khan), they're all kind of unlikable. Clines sort of paints the scientists as anti-social, secretive, and distrustful of everyone, including their fellow scientists. 

Another problem I had with the book was the last hundred or so pages, when the plot devolves from theoretical science to "Attack of the Creatures From Galileo Seven Episode of Star Trek". I felt this was so out of place with the rest of the plot, which for the most part was stuck in this "reality". Again, the idea that this novel started out as a short story some decade and half ago explains why Clines resorted to this pulpy style after pages and pages of character building; he got painted into a corner, really. And then the book ends with the arrival of a secrect governmental agents (Scully and Mulder?) who offer the surviving folks jobs dealing with the "weird." 

Finally, the prose is sparse (it reads, at times, like a teleplay), the F word gets thrown about like grenades, and the book reads like Clines is trying to get a certain cable network interested in a series based on the book -or is thinking he can take his super smart, super eidetic memory man and create an new book series. 

Funny, I did like The Fold (the concept is cool), but I found the execution a bit pedantic. Still, if this book went through the many iterations as Clines describes in his Afterword, perhaps while the idea was interesting, perhaps a short story or novella would have served the approach better? 

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