I’ve had a pretty good year of discovery here on Cannonball Read. I’ve encountered new authors who wrote books that deeply touched me (Colleen Oakley, Emily St. John Mandel, Peter Heller, Frederick Backman), rediscovered old favorites, explored new worlds opened by trusted authors (Andy Weir and John Scalzi), and been forced to reconcile with my own failures and limitations (Columbine, Chimamanda Ngozi, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Alexander). But there are a handful of books that really stand out, and they aren’t always the best, despite the clarity of their after image (Out).
I think 14 might fall into this camp. This book isn’t revolutionary, but I absolutely fell in love with it.
Nate Tucker is a fairly young guy stuck in a going-nowhere data entry job, and hovering somewhere around the poverty line in California. Forced to find a new apartment, he has a low rent studio recommended to him that is in a building that’s, well, a little odd: padlocked doors, walls that enclose a mysteriously unnecessary amount of space, permanently empty apartments, an elevator that has never worked…..things don’t add up, and his new neighbors either don’t seem to notice, or don’t want to talk about it. Unraveling the secrets of his building becomes a new obsession for Nate.
I really liked the book. Like, it has great reviews (3.93 rating on Goodreads), but this was good enough to cause me to put on hold the new series I had started (and loved).
One of the great things about doing the Cannonball Read every year is the constant exposure to books and authors that I probably never would’ve read, otherwise. I mean, I read for pleasure before, but I wasn’t devoting a lot of time to it. I’d read maybe 5 or 10 books a year, and not think much of it. Making a concerted effort to read at least 52 books requires that I reach out and try new things. I never would’ve read Rainbow Rowell were it not for this community. I don’t know if I would’ve gotten to John Scalzi or Jim Butcher or Brandon Sanderson or David Wong or any number of other writers I’ve discovered. I think Peter Clines might get added to this list.
Especially after reading The Fold.
I didn’t love The Fold quite as much as 14, but it was still highly enjoyable. Mike Erikson is one of the smartest men in the country, but lives the unassuming life in a small town school teacher in Maine. He gets recruited by an old friend to investigate a secret project funded by DARPA, and finds himself surrounded by people hiding a big, possibly dangerous, secret.
On paper, the two books are fairly similar: a guy around 30 is confronted with a mystery that no one else seems able to crack, but through perseverance and intelligence, he connects the dots to uncover a terrifying reality that he didn’t expect. The characters, too, overlap quite a bit. In 14, one of the tenants of the building, Veek, is a sharp-tongued and brilliant woman who warms to the protagonist as he digs deeper into the mystery. One of the scientists in The Fold is a sharp-tongued and brilliant woman who warms to the protagonist as he digs deeper into the mystery. In both novels, the background characters are interesting, but not fully developed or particularly well-rounded. Reading the books so quickly after one another perhaps made this stand out more than it otherwise would have.
The thing that bothered me the most about The Fold, and is why I don’t rate it as highly, was the obsession with secrecy by the team of scientists being funded by DARPA. There was a repetitive insistence by the characters that got a little old. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it did slow the pace of the novel, I think.
All in all, though, these two books were a lot of fun, and scratched an itch I didn’t even know that I had. I don’t want to give too much away, obviously, but I found the mysteries at the heart of these books to be satisfying. But, as with anything, your mileage may vary. These books aren’t going to be for everyone, but they were exactly what I needed, apparently.