In his novels, Peter Clines likes to dwell in the overlap of genre niches. With his Ex-Heroes series, Clines has created a world where super heroes are a thing, but so is the zombie apocalypse. In 14, he keeps things apocalyptic in flavor, but adds a healthy dose of building-based horror. With his latest, Clines seems to have shifted course a few degrees once more.
The Fold begins and spends much of its time as a pretty straightforward sci-fi-flavored mystery. Mike Erikson has that Holy Grail of a trait for any protagonist in a mystery—an eidetic memory, or the ability to retain a complete, fresh-as-if-it-just-happened record of anything he sees. He also has an I.Q. to match his gift, which is useful, since remembering all the dots doesn’t mean much if one cannot actually connect them. As The Fold begins, we see what Erikson has decided to do with his gift—basically nothing. He’s teaching high school English in a small town and striving to lead a low-key existence. That all ends when an old friend persuades Erikson to help him vet the progress of a particularly interesting, government-funded project.
Once he arrives at the San Diego facility where a group of scientists are conducting research that’s potentially world-changing, both Erikson and the reader assume a familiar and fun position—trying to figure out exactly what is going on. (The clues are there, and whether the reader will guess the truth before Erikson is just a matter of how well he or she connects the dots.)
When the initial mystery is solved, though, it’s as if Clines has just been waiting for it as a cue to make a much sharper genre turn than the reader will expect. Revealing exactly which genre that may be would risk unnecessarily spoiling the denouement for which Clines has spent so much time preparing. Suffice to say that for some, it will be jarring and perhaps even off-putting. For others, well, it’ll still be a bit jarring, but also very satisfying.