September 12, 2015

Show, Memory: The Fold by Peter Clines

The basic premise is that the main character is one of the smartest guys ever, and he has a photographic memory that he can easily access.

The main guy has a friend who works for DARPA, and the friend has been trying for years to get the main guy to help him on some projects. The main guy says no because because he’s happy being a single high school history in the northeast. Clines tries to explain this in that the main guy is like Sherlock Holmes’s less ambitious brother, Mycroft. It feels like a hand-wave, but the framing device is used through the book, it is in fact why the main guy is called “Mike” in the book.

So though he keeps saying “No,” in the book the friend has a project so cool that it cannot be refused. The project is that one of the world’s most famous scientist is working on a teleportation project. Actually the thought is that they are folding reality so that different parts of space time are close and allows someone just to walk through these gates. MIke is signed up to observe and see if these people should continue receiving funds from DARPA.

Cool premise, and needless to say, there are complications. It becomes a well-told, nicely paced thriller thing after 150 pages of exposition. Then it wraps up.

Then there’s one more section that takes what had previously happened and sets it up for a sequel, and it is really annoying because the add-on at the end cheapens everything that came before it. It looked like the book would be a self-contained arc, then these new mysterious characters are introduced and Mike has to make a choice (along with his unrealistically portrayed lover interest - why is that necessary?) to join this mysterious group and you know that there’s going to be more to this story. Why can’t authors keep a world in one book?

Couple of things. This is the first book of Clines I have read, and it is well done enough I will seek out others. I stayed up too late reading it more than once, so he can tell a story. But he does lean on some devices and descriptors too much. The main guy gets hurt at the end of the book, and his pain is described as “hooks” in his body an infinity too many times. There’s also how he describes his main character’s photographic or “eidetic” memory. He uses the imagery of ants carrying photos for him to review. It gets to be too much and  a distraction from the story itself. The device of the photographic memory is well done for the most part. Though I’m skeptical of the actual existence of memory working as Clines described it, it does not make the character too robotic. There are also places where it is used to humanize the character, so it works. It was basically background like if someone was in a book that has a mech suit with cameras and a powerful computer. Same thing basically. I wish I had marked the page, but I like that they lampshaded the whole thing in a conversation. Mike is explaining his mind, and another character says something to the effect of “I thought that was only in science fiction stories”.