Teleportation is a staple of speculative fiction whether in short stories, novels, films or television. It also crosses the boundaries between fantasy and science fiction. In fantasy, it is generally accomplished by magic (which, as any good reader of speculative fiction knows from Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws of prediction, is indistinguishable from any sufficiently advanced technology) although, there may be some limitations. In the Harry Potter series, teleportation is referred to as apparation or disapparation, and you have to secure a license before you can perform the spell to ensure you will not leave body parts behind, known as splinching. If you do splinch while apparating, the damage generally can be magically repaired by another wave of the wand. In The Fly, both the 1958 original film and the 1986 remake, experiments with a teleportation device mix up the DNA of a human scientist and a common housefly with catastrophic results. Splinching indeed!! On the original Star Trek television series, the Transporter was created as a cost cutting measure for the SFX budget because it was cheaper to “beam” the crew down to a planet than land the ship each week! But whether accomplished by magic, science, or the stroke of a Hollywood accountant’s pen, the idea of being able to instantaneously move from one location to another across great distances is one that has become a recurring theme in SF books and movies. In The Fold, author Peter Clines returns to this SF standard to explore it from a 21st century perspective with an injection of some contemporary physics and a dose of traditional horror.
Mike Erickson is a high school English teacher in a small town in Maine. He has an IQ of 180+ and an eidetic memory, which allows him to recall anything he has ever seen. He forgets nothing. The combination of his high IQ and memory allows him to recognize patterns most of us miss, and make sense of what most of us see as chaos. He is estimated to be one of the three smartest people living in the US. Mike is also a classic underachiever. His childhood friend Reggie Magnus, who works with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), knows this and has been attempting to lure Mike from his safe and mundane existence for years. He has finally found an assignment that Mike simply cannot refuse: in a lab just outside of San Diego, a group of scientists have created a device capable of teleportation.
The scientists working on the project, known as the Albuquerque Door (so named for “taking a left turn at Albuquerque” and ending up somewhere unexpected from Looney Tunes cartoons) are hesitant to hand over their research until they are assured of the credit they feel they deserve for creating such a world-changing technology. So no one outside of the project knows anything about the technology, or how it is applied to make the Albuquerque Door operational. While their tests, and the limited data they have released, show a remarkably good track record, Reggie has the sense that the scientists are hiding something, and he wants Mike to find out what that something is . . .
In The Fold, Peter Clines, the author of the Ex Series (Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication and Ex-Purgatory) combines elements of a golden age science fiction tale with a classic whodunit mystery and a dash of police procedural as Mike attempts to figure out what is wrong with the Albuquerque Door. Clines has assembled a memorable cast of scientists, each with a different background, specialty and level of geekiness (allowing for a number of amusing cultural references throughout the novel). The ways that the characters act and interact, a high point in the Ex series, is one of The Fold’s strongest points as well, especially as the mystery of the project is uncovered. The secret of the Albuquerque Door incorporates elements from one of Clines’ earlier novels, 14, some quantum mechanics and some David Cronenberg inspired imagery. Everything that happens is just within the range of believability, and the story moves along at a great pace.
The Fold is an enduring SF idea given a classic SF treatment. It is a captivating and enjoyable read and while the mystery is solved satisfactorily, Clines has left enough bread crumbs to create a trail into another story, should he decide to write one.