Foe, Iain Reid second novel and, by chance, the second novel I read from the author. Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.
As soon as I had finished I’m Thinking of Ending Things I couldn’t wait to read a second novel by Reid. After researching, Foe, his lesser known novel came up. I didn’t even need to read the snyposis, I saw the author and instantly purchased it. His prior book felt so original and covered an array of visceral topics on top of an absurd narrative, I didn’t need to think twice. I’m glad I didn’t.
Foe endorses a much more sci-fi approach than its predecessor, yet is extremely personal in the topics it explores. The narrative is intentionally elusive, questioning the integrity of the narrator throughout. For me, this plays out in a much more introspective style, and works really well building empathy for the main character, some the previous book did really well. As the material progresses , the book quickly turns into a paranoid thriller which lays foundation after foundation, questioning the integrity of each memory, each action, until reaching its heart-in-mouth crescendo.
Throughout the story it expands and seeks to explore to deep rooted philosophical questions, in particular, what does it mean to be human? And what does it mean to love? This is a question all masterful scifi books and films alike have tried to answer. Although the book never tries to answer this directly, it expands on it ethically and portrays both the questions in a mature fashion. There are times when this book can be labelled as a horror, similar to I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but never oversteps it’s mark and effectively blurs the line between horror and mystery.
The book excels in its personal attachment to the narrator and only features three characters. This choice lends itself to strong character development, empathy and an attachment to the characters.
The downside to this book is that it is quite slow, and although it tries to be a blend of Sci-fi and mystery, it never excels at either. The voice actor for me was quite monotone and the way it was read never truly immersed me into the book, but did enough to grip my attention. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book, it definitely felt original and kept me captivated until the end, but the narrative was grounded.
Both books (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) have a sense of isolation, yet a deep rooted fascination with the importance of companionship. These are both abstract themes and both thrive on the readers subjective experiences. Reid’s understanding and portrayal of these themes is masterful and equally terrifying. Due to its philosophic narrative, and ere of mysetery, I preferred this over Reid’s other novel and would recommend to all readers.