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Literature / The Fold

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The gate is open

A novel by Peter Clines following up 14 in the same world, The Fold follows Leland "Mike" Erikson as he is recruited from teaching high school literature to auditing the Albuquerque Door: a DARPA research project in teleportation.

The project works (so everyone keeps saying) but the team keeps asking for more resources and refuses to explain or publish. Worse, the last auditor to inspect the project was immediately committed to a psych ward. Mike has one powerful tool on his side though: a perfect photographic memory.

The Fold moves from investigation to sci-fi horror as the story progresses. Readers are encouraged but not required to read 14 first.

The Fold contains examples of:

  • The Alleged Boss: Two clear examples.
    • Mike is dispatched by the DARPA review board to audit the Door project and report back. His report will be the deciding factor in whether they get funding or not. Naturally the whole team hates him and go out of their way to disrespect him and deprive him of the resources he needs to do his job.
    • Reggie Magnus specifically chose Mike for the position and expects regular progress reports back. The early ones are just Mike talking through his non-findings. As soon as Mike starts getting useful information he stops reporting it to Reggie and asks for more resources instead including military backup that will do exactly as he says and won't ask questions.
  • Animal Testing: Two rounds.
    • The Door team first attempted teleportation on Tramp, the lab mascot. It was a gruesome failure and is appropriately treated as a dire failure of judgment.
    • After developing fold technology instead the team tested extensively with hundreds of mice, six cats, and a chimpanzee. Two-thirds of the mice were dissected to check for physical effects, but all other subjects were sent to animal sanctuaries to live out their lives.
  • Another Dimension: The Door works by plotting a path through one to "fold" three-dimensional space and make two physical locations adjacent.
  • As You Know: Arthur, Olaf, and Jamie are called before the oversight board to justify whether they get another year of funding. Arthur explains the entire history of the project to a board that should have been aware of that already through their oversight, or else through pre-meeting background. Further, the board has scheduled a question-and-answer segment but cancels it when Arthur reveals that under their contract the Door team has absolute control over all their documentation and will not be releasing any at this time, thank you. Apparently they weren't aware of the terms of the contract either this or any previous year.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mike and Jamie. She's extremely hostile and makes cracks at him constantly while he struggles to flirt back until they develop into the tsundere side of her personality.
  • Black and Nerdy: Arthur Cross, leader of the Albuqueque Door project and one of the most recognizable scientists in the world.
  • Cassandra Truth: Koturovic's work documents how to effect transdimensional travel, but also claims that transdimensional travel will occur inevitably when human telepathic potential hits a critical mass which will enable monsters to eat everyone. History wrote him off as a crank.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Mike cannot get past the fact that Olaf looks like Humphrey Bogart.
  • Continuous Decompression: When the Door makes contact with a vacuum it starts sucking everything through. Jamie lampshades that it's not supposed to work like that.
  • Contrived Coincidence: This is how the Door actually works: by matching up two reasonably-close alternate dimensions that just happen to be conducting the same travel experiment from opposite ends.
  • Corporate Warfare: Reggie admits that the reason he picked Mike to audit the Door project was because Mike's photographic memory would allow him to smuggle out the project data that the team is refusing to share. Arthur puts this together himself but decides not to make an issue of it because Mike seems like a nice guy.
  • Covered with Scars: Jamie lost most of the skin on her back in a motorcycle crash. The body issues that ensued made her emotionally cold and repressed, though she credits that with her success as a software engineer.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: The patchwork man's fingers have seven long knuckles.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Before they got the fold technology working, the same research team was working on straight teleportation. They chose to do this on team mascot Tramp the dog without a functional proof of concept. This profoundly irresponsible decision was both messy and traumatizing.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The oversight board has been funding the Door for four years, without which the Door would not exist. The Door team believes that if the board cuts funding instead of a fourth extension, all their research will be lost. Yet Arthur still stonewalls the board and refuses to compromise with a released product or design schematics.
  • Extra Eyes: Both the seraphs and the patchwork man have one human-ish eye opposite a pair of small beady black eyes.
  • First-Name Basis: Everyone to Mike, apparently. Literally everyone is referred to in the text by their first name including celebrity scientist Arthur Cross. The exceptions are that Arthur is "Dr. Cross" to the review board and that Mike corrects to "Mr. Magnus" when discussing their shared boss with the team.
  • For Science!: It's a science fiction book about a research project, so this is a factor.
    • Averted by the military backers of the Door project who see specific applications of this technology.
    • Invoked by the actual Door research team, who are stalling on practical rollout while they try to document the underlying principles; they want the credit.
  • Giant Flyer: The alpha predator has a wingspan a thousand feet wide.
  • Hollywood Tactics: The Marines see the seraphs charging for the fold and take up defensive positions directly in front and thus subject to line-of-sight spear throws, without throwing up barriers or standing perpendicular to the charge. They don't start firing until the seraphs are already through it and in melee combat.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Mike took an IQ test at age thirteen and learned he was a supergenius. Then he researched supergeniuses and learned almost all of them suffered social maladjustment. Not wanting to be unhappy, he chose to feed his abilities as little as possible so he could have a normal-ish life.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Implied in Koturovic's research. He had correct information to guide transdimensional travel but none of the supporting documentation or proofs. Coupled with his bizarre claims of alien threats, he was easily dismissed by the scientific community for over a century.
  • Meaningful Name: Arthur Cross, leader of the Door project and designer of fold technology that allows transdimensional travel. Also "crosswalking", the term the team coins for said travel.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Mike counts nineteen deaths over the course of the book. Only two are female, and both were redshirts.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: It's not clear what the patchwork man started as, but it's added parts from multiple humans to extend its torso, limbs, and fingers well beyond the original anatomy.
  • The Multiverse: Mike theorizes that the Door is capable of contacting multiple alternate universes instead of merely different locations in one universe.
  • Mundane Utility: Mike's superintelligence is often used for such.
    • He puts himself to sleep by watching through his memories of movies he's seen.
    • He keeps perfect sense of time and knows exactly how much has passed between any two memories.
  • Nemean Skinning: The seraphs wear leather garments made from what they've killed.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Played intentionally by the Door team. They have contractual absolute control of all data, blueprints, and models of the Door and they're not releasing it to anyone.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Two major examples.
    • The Door team thinks Mike is one since he's making the call on whether they continue to get funding or not.
    • Arthur is the actual one, since he's holding the fold technology documentation hostage to buy time to explain it and claim credit.
  • Old Shame: In-universe, how everyone on the Albuquerque Door project views the death of Tramp.
  • Palette Swap: One of the ways that alternate-universe versions of items are differentiated.
  • Pointless Civic Project: The Albuquerque Door project is accused of this, given that it's absorbed four years of funding so far with no released product. Mike points out that the team is constantly replacing parts not in obvious need of replacing. Turns out Arthur is specifically assigning busywork to the team to generate reports back to the oversight committee while they try to document the mechanics of fold technology.
  • Power at a Price: Mike can perfectly recall everything he's ever experienced. That includes every trauma.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Everyone on the Door team has been through the Door dozens of times. Granted, they did animal trials first.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: Invoked mechanically if not by name. Koturovic cites the observer effect as key to transdimensional travel without using the term.
  • Reality Warper: Mike realizes that the presence of observing minds is a key component of the fold technology. He weaponizes this to draw hundreds of pounds of explosives into his reality immediately before the timer goes off.
  • Red Shirt: The Marines are called in for military backup late in the book. They don't last long.
  • Resigned to the Call: Bookends.
    • Reggie invites Mike to the oversight hearing to see if he's interested, then introduces him as if he's already taken the job. The cornered Mike reluctantly accepts.
    • At the end Mike is offered a job with the men in black. He plays coy initially but knows his brain won't let him miss the window.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Marines see the charging seraphs a few minutes out and take defensive positions with automatic weapons. The seraphs close to spear-throwing range and claim several kills before the bullets even start flying.
  • Sherlock Scan: Mike employs these against situations rather than individuals to find what's going wrong and what can be done to fix it.
  • Super-Intelligence: Mike specifically says he has a photographic memory that allows him to perfectly memorize everything he experiences. He also has the advanced reasoning and exceptional perception cited on the trope page to process said memory with blazing speed.
  • Telepathy: The alpha predator's mind brushes against Sasha's briefly. The only idea she understands is all-consuming hunger.
  • Temporal Duplication: When the fold's controls go haywire it stops allowing passage point-to-point and starts stacking duplicates from alternate dimensions. Mike notices when there's more than one identical toolbox plus another with a palette swap.
  • The Men in Black: They appear at the end of the book to offer Mike and Jamie jobs.
  • Tsundere: Due to her scars Jamie is extremely standoffish on first encounter. Over the course of the story she slides over to a deredere of enthusiastic sexuality. Turns out that's due to being replaced by her alternate-universe version that doesn't have said scars, but the experience of the character is still tsundere.
  • Twinmaker: Mike suggests this as a theoretical application of fold technology by pulling alternate-universe versions into the prime universe. Turns out that's the only way fold travel is possible, and by the end of the book one character is passing off her duplicate as her secret identical twin.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: The seraphs have a third arm - handy since they gallop on four limbs.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: As old friends Mike and Reggie are constantly throwing invectives at each other. It's also revealed that Mike is short for Mycroft Holmes, Reggie's jab that Mike wasn't using his talents to their potential.
  • World of Snark: Mike spends the entire book sniping with either the Door team or his boss Reggie to the point where it's dangerously unprofessional.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: In the climax those who travel through the fold experience time ten times slower than those who remained behind. This is the only time the effect is mentioned or experienced. Perhaps due to the presence of the reality-bending alpha predator. It's convenient since there's a ticking bomb.
  • You Owe Me: Reggie calls in a favor to get Mike rapid military backup. Both of them are clear that Mike owes big for this one.