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Book News

Reviewer: 'Fold' a delectable and truly novel story

'A Fold in the Tent of the Sky'
by Michael Hale

William Morrow and Co., $25

Review by L.D. Meagher

(CNN) -- A good chef can make a memorable meal from the most modest of ingredients. A good writer can do something of the same sort. "A Fold in the Tent of the Sky" demonstrates Michael Hale is a good writer.

The ingredients of the story seem improbable at best, and downright silly at worst. He starts with a batch of psychics. He adds a dash of intrigue and a generous portion of questionable motivations. He lets them simmer in an exotic setting. The result is a delectable book that is, for want of a better term, truly novel.

Hearing a description of the plot for "A Fold in the Tent of the Sky" might be less satisfying than reading the recipe for an exquisite dessert. Suffice it to say that the psychics are hired to be a sort of remote control intelligence agency. During the course of their employment, it becomes apparent that they can observe events happening far away. In space and in time. One of them realizes that manipulation of time can be quite profitable, and goes to great lengths to prevent his colleagues from finding out.

Hale suggests a way to commit the perfect crime: commit it in the past. If you prevent a rival from being born, you never have to worry about him (or her) causing you trouble later in life. Of course, tampering with the past can have unintended consequences in the present. The psychic named Simon doesn't mind that, at least not until one of the manipulations erases all traces of The Beatles. He can live with wiping out his colleagues. But he can't live without "The White Album."

As Simon picks off his targets one by one, only his colleague Peter can even remember their existence. Perhaps it's because Peter was an actor and relied on his memory more than the others. Whatever the reason, Peter does remember his colleagues after they've vanished. He comes to realize that Simon is behind their disappearances, and that he is now the only one left who might be considered a threat. The time tripping comes hot and heavy as Simon and Peter parry and thrust their way toward a final confrontation.

"A Fold in the Tent of the Sky" could have been the kind of pseudo-science fiction potboiler that gets turned into a cable TV movie of the week. That it isn't is a testament to Hale's storytelling abilities. The book has a very human texture. Rather than focus on the more outlandish attributes of his characters, Hale keeps the narrative on a human scale. At the same time, the story unfolds at a page-turning pace that sweeps the reader along.

In less capable hands, "A Fold in the Tent of the Sky" might have been instantly forgettable. In the hands of Michael Hale, it is a memorable adventure that gives the reader something to chew on.

L.D. Meagher is a senior writer at CNN Headline News. He has worked in broadcasting for 30 years.

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