**I received an advanced copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**
The Book Itself: The cover makes a lot of sense post-read. Both halves opening up on what they do…but pre-read it’s enough to understand that this is a book about something opening up to two different places. It’s a good color palette too. Very mysterious…
My Review: The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s just how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen may not be much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but Mike is content with his quiet and peaceful existence.
That is, until an old government friend presents him with an irresistible mystery–one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: it seems that a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device that could make teleportation a reality. But something is very wrong with the project. The personalities of the scientists who work on it are changing. People are dying. And reality itself seems to be…warping.
Mike soon learns that the machine is not at all what it appears to be–and that its creators may have opened a doorway to something horrible that lurks just outside our world’s borders.
The first installment of Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes series has been sitting in my nook queue for a while now. And after reading this, it might need to be bumped to the top of the list! This story was so immersive, a mystery and thriller all in one.
It was all set up to be moody and atmospheric: a top secret lab manufacturing a mysterious project. A group of scientists and engineers who keep everything under wraps, even when it seems like they should be speaking up about the pitfalls of their potentially world-altering product. Enter Mike. Mike is compared looks-wise to a young Alan Rickman several times throughout the novel. He also has an eidetic memory and a super high IQ. So try getting the image of Severus Snape crossed with Sheldon Cooper out of your head.
You can’t. It’s tough, huh? Mike’s ability to remember anything he’s ever seen, to read at a fast rate, and memorize something in the time it takes a person to glance across the room makes him perfectly suited to solve the mystery of the Albuquerque Door (the name given to this super secret project).
The first half of the novel builds up in perfectly pitched eerie suspense. The people working on the Albuquerque Door shut Mike out and they’re all clearly hiding something. It’s a puzzle for the reader too. The project is too good to be true, yet small, horrific incidences keep occurring. The road to discovering what’s up with the project is wonderfully layered. Each time you think you get a clue, Clines leads you somewhere else.
Of course, Mike figures out what’s going on. And when he does? The plot really picks up the pace. Things with the project start to go downhill at an alarming rate, at the same time that the whole team ramps up to stop something horrible from happening. Something horrible that will, in time, encompass the world, but not in the way they were all hoping for.
The book kept me up nights, and didn’t let me just stop at the end of a chapter. It was always just one more! I have to figure it out! And then later: how on earth are they going to stop this?
Mike is a great character, and his character quirks and struggles are made to seem very realistic. It sounds like an awesome superpower: remembering everything, ever. But remembering the loss of a loved one, as if it happened to you yesterday? Constantly struggling to relate and interact with people who don’t understand or appreciate your memory? Kinda sucks. The memory thing is described as “ants” let loose in his mind, bringing him information, formatting it so he can absorb it all. In fact, this “ants” thing is used so frequently that it gets a little old. I’d say it gets used upwards of five times every chapter. It’s a nice vehicle for describing his ability, but other metaphors could have been used sporadically to change it up a bit.
And once Mike figures out What’s Going On (capitalized, because, you know, it’s a Big Deal), the other people involved in the project just kind of…fess up. And they seem to just defer to Mike in all things from then on. He becomes the leader kind of…quickly. It seems a little out of character (for the other scientists and for Mike) for him to take the lead without more resistance (but of course, things start to slide to crap pretty fast…perhaps that accelerated his acceptance).
It’s a truly excellent read. It’s got a satisfying ending (that might lead to a second installment? Hopefully?), and it’s one hell of a ride. Please read it 🙂
My Grade: A