Peter Clines’ 14 was one of those books that I randomly picked up as an Audible Daily Deal that ended up totally rocking my world. The slow build from realistic psychological thriller to full-on Lovecraftian horror was incredibly unique, fresh, and well done. The book was incredibly well-written, but it also benefited from a great fusion of cool concepts.
So I picked up The Fold with great anticipation, but the entire time I read the book I kept thinking to myself, “This is basically the same book as 14.” We start with an outsider / loser male protagonist (although in this case he’s also a super-genius slacker) who is introduced to an insular, initially hostile social group (tenants of a mysterious building in 14, scientists on a mysterious project in The Fold), one of whom is a very attractive young lady who is initially unapproachable but who he will eventually start sleeping with. Add a series of escalating mysterious events involving 7-legged, green cockroaches (in both books the cockroaches have 7 legs), until there is a breach in reality, a portal to a desert world populated by Lovecraftian horror that the hero enters, and from which he must be rescued by a military man who has a lot of weapons, bravery, and know-how but dies saving the hero and his arm-candy.
Now, I can forgive the overlapping details that ended up being there for story reasons. It turns out that The Fold is a sequel to 14 (or at least set in the same universe), and so that explains both the 7-legged cockroaches and also the portal to an alien, desert world.
But 14 ultimately worked because the central mystery was cool and hard to guess and because the insular little community was lovably oddball and ultimately welcoming and warm. You were interested in the mystery, and you cared about the people trying to solve it.
The Fold falls short on both counts. Even if you’ve never read 14, the central mystery is really, really obvious and therefore not at all interesting. (The only thing you will wonder is: Is it really this obvious? Yes, it is.) Additionally, the insular little community remains fractious and cold. So you are bored by the mystery and you don’t care about the people trying to solve it. And it’s also weird that they are the same book, not just in terms of sharing a setting, but of having such close parallels between the characters, plot, and overall structure.
I liked 14 so much that I am very likely to read the third book in this series (I’m assuming there will be a third), but I can’t really recommend The Fold.