Although my favorite subgenre in science fiction is grand and glorious space opera, sf set in in our present day, with believable and (somewhat) possible science, is a close second favorite. For the former, I turn to Jack McDevitt and Star Trek (Silent Running is up there, too, despite a couple of story flaws); for the latter, I look at Fringe, Joe Haldeman, and X-Files (and the long-forgotten Questor Tapes by Gene Roddenberry).
Let’s add The Fold to the echelon of sf in a contemporary setting. Peter Clines has taken a Stargate idea to a different level, and I like where he goes with it.
There’s something going on at a secret research lab, and investigator Mike Erikson is tasked to find out what. The problem may not even be a problem; something just seems weird out at a DARPA lab in the California desert. The scientists there have built a teleporter—basically, a gateway—that leads to an identical gateway just yards away. The mystery is how they built it—they don’t really know—and exactly what it does. That they know: it lets you enter one gate and, theoretically, exit an identical gate located wherever it’s placed on earth.
But Mike figures a few things out, and that’s when it get interesting. The Fold goes from an SF mystery to an SF thriller once the works of a scientist—imagine Tesla crossed with Lovecraft—are read by the teleporter team, and the gateway is discovered to be much more than anyone ever thought. The team built it, but they’re completely wrong about everything it does.
I like Clines’ writing here, and I love the premise and his ideas. If I have any problem at all, it’s that a team of scientists have been working on the gateway for many months, and they couldn’t figure out what was going on right under their noses. It smacks of the Idiot Plot—any plot where the characters have to be sheer idiots, or everything would be solved in ten pages.
Without spoiling the novel, The Fold ends with a satisfactory and mind-opening conclusion, and may serve as the start of a possible new print series with Mike Erickson as an X-Files-type investigator. I’ll be there for the next installment, and I hope SyFy or one of the networks options this for a miniseries.