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.
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.
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.