A schoolteacher with unusual gifts is recruited by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects division to investigate a troubled project.
There’s a great big bait and switch in the middle of this sci-fi thriller by Clines (Ex-Purgatory, 2014, etc.), but it’s unlikely to deter readers intrigued by its full-on Michael Crichton–esque premise. Our hero is Leland “Mike” Erikson, whom we meet quietly teaching the last day of a high school English class in Maine. We soon learn that Mike is one of those gifted people who's chosen to walk away from his talents, but his gifts are particularly thorny. Not only is he a certified genius, but he also got a bonus: an eidetic memory. “I’ve got...complete, instantaneous recall of anything I’ve ever seen or heard,” he explains. Mike is intrigued by an offer from his childhood friend Reggie Magnus, who's now the head honcho for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. A team of six DARPA scientists working on a small campus near San Diego appears to have created a working teleportation device dubbed “The Albuquerque Door,” and Reggie asks Mike to see if it’s bogus or not. There’s definitely Weird Stuff going on. One team member returns from the portal convinced that his wife has been replaced with a stranger. Another comes through the portal with fatal wounds and massive radiation burns. Mike discovers that the team’s math is largely based on the work of an obscure, possibly insane Russian scientist named Aleksander Koturovic. There are some leaps of faith to be made—why would the government limit access to a universe-changing technology to six scientists and a schoolteacher? But fans of Clines’ colorful fantasy novels will happily follow him into the Lovecraft-ian nightmare that follows.
Fans of the author’s popular novel 14 (2012) will want to pay particular attention, as these shared universes share other horrors as well.