#Wormhole_Adventure With a Twist in This #ScienceFictionBook

Fold

I don’t like the cover much – but since I picked it up I guess it worked.

I tore through 340 pages in two days and stayed up past my bedtime. The main character, Mike, has a rare eidetic memory – he notices and remembers an amazing amount of detail about everything. Since the book is mostly from his point of view, Clines writes all that detail down. An eidetic memory is annoying at times.

At first, I was worried I needed to remember all that detail, too, but not so – Clines reminded me of anything I really needed to enjoy the story.

Mike – protagonist
I loved the vision Mike has of his own mind as swarms of black ants and red ants carrying bright bits of memories and thoughts, arranging them, seeking patterns, and drawing conclusions. Since Mike is also off-the-scale high IQ, he doesn’t simply remember – his ants figure things out. His mind exists and functions outside his core notion of who he is, and feels very real.

Premise
His job, for a lifetime friend who manages projects for DARPA, is to find out what’s going on at a top secret project. Once you accept that the American government would agree to allow scientists they fund to keep everything a secret from them – everything except the claim that “it works” – the story is off.

At first the technology seems to be generating a wormhole SciFi readers will recognize. A pair of devices, drawing enormous electrical power, transports people between them instantaneously. But there’s a wonderful twist that fits well with real-world hypotheses in physics – at least, as far as I can tell from the popular media.

Story’s opening
The book opens with a government agent returning home from a business trip, apparently psychotic. The two characters in that chapter never appear again. It’s the kind of exciting opening considered vital to hooking readers.

The story begins in Chapter Two where we meet Mike. The significance of that first chapter does tie into the story in about twenty pages. Great. I hate teases that hang out there forever.

What the story offers
Every story’s “gotta have” a love interest. In this story, the love interest actually relates to the plot and allows Mike to discover something important. Nicely done.

There are references to popular culture – for example, to Harry Potter and Star Trek. One character looks like Bogart in Casablanca. Some of this is used to reveal the plot – I won’t write any spoilers. But even if you’re not a Trekkie, I think the way it’s presented will work.

The story builds slowly at first – Mike finds things that are odd and unsettling.
About a third of the way through there’s a gruesome incident. In the second half, the situation grows increasingly fantastic. The origin of the technology is a bit hard to swallow, and the story leaves science behind.

There’s one nitpick that nagged me. Clines has something happen regarding liquid nitrogen – in the “real” portion of his world – that I don’t think could. He mentions it a few times, so I actually stopped reading to look it up on the Internet. But I kept reading because… what the heck. It’s a fun story about an engaging character.

What’s not to like?
People on Amazon who rated The Fold below 4 stars found the eidetic memory annoying after a while or thought the build-up was more fun than the conclusion of the book. Some felt the “superman” intelligence of Mike should have figured out what was going on sooner.

I haven’t read Clines’ other books, but apparently the ending of The Fold is similar to the ending of another book.

Oddly enough, since readers supposedly love action, some reviewers preferred the build up to the action-packed conclusion, even saying the ending felt like a different story.

But 80% love it…
And me, too. It’s a fun read, great for a vacation or a plane trip. If you start it on a weeknight you may be tired at work the next day, because you’ll stay up way too late reading.

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“The #moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason” #FridayReads

sevenevesWhat a great first sentence.

Neal Stephenson offers a suggestion for why the moon broke up, initially into seven pieces, but his novel Seveneves is about the aftermath. It’s really two stories.

The first, about 447 pages in my Epub edition, follows the horrific couple years after the moon blows up and the pieces continue to collide, shatter, and fall to Earth. This first book takes place in our near-future, mentioning Twitter, #hashtags, and Batman. The book provides a tour of the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station – though an expanded ISS with an asteroid attached at one end and a rotating torus section at the other. There are familiar cell phones: As the moon breaks up, people call each other and “a large number of telephones were singing their little electronic songs. Including his. The birth cry of a new age.”

The second story, 232 pages, is about the distant aftermath, 5,000 years in the future, with a new set of characters, technologies, and problems. The book’s title is realized in this story.

This is not a book I could sit down and read straight through, it’s just too long and the descriptions require attention. But, science fiction fans, take it on vacation or a couple long plane trips. Or stage it on your bedside table over the rest of the summer.

972 reviews for the hardcover edition on Amazon, 73% four and five star ratings. NOTE: Any SPOILERS that follow are no worse than what you’ll find on the back of the book and the first few dozen pages of either story.

This epic takes its time, shows us the moon’s explosion through the eyes of five different characters, and offers discussions of orbital dynamics, ham radio, space stations, robotic swarms, etc. – be prepared for mini-seminars, tales of preparing for doomsday, and where and how humanity will survive.

My favorite character is an astronomer who popularizes science. I can’t even recall how Stephenson described him because I’ve got the image of Neil deGrasse Tyson stuck firmly in my mind – I can hear Tyson’s voice as the character explains the coming apocalypse to the US President: trillions of pieces of the rubblizing moon will, in two years’ time, rain annihilation on the Earth. (I went back and looked – I think Stephenson had Tyson in mind, too.)

Stephenson never gets maudlin about the billions of deaths in his story – some people will find that a bit cold.

With the destruction of life on Earth as its driver and familiar characters, the first story (divided into two parts) feels more exciting. The portion set in space can be read independently of the portion set on Earth. The second story builds a new world, and hypothesizing the future a decimated humanity might create is interesting. You could easily read one story or the other by itself, depending on your tastes. Personally, I skimmed quite a few sections. An Ebook edition, where you can search for a name, makes it possible to track the story of a favorite character if you get impatient with Stephenson. If you really get impatient, there’s a plot summary on Wikipedia. The summary won’t hurt your reading experience and may help you decide which parts to read in full, because the point of the book is Stephenson’s broad and deep descriptions. If you can’t get enough of Seveneves, you can buy a Summary and Analysis and unofficial fan sidekicks.