Book Review: Foe
Foe was published in Canada on August 7th, 2018 by Simon & Schuster, and will be available in the US on September 4th, 2018 (Gallery/Scout Press). Although NetGalley provided me with an e-book copy, all thoughts are my own.
A taut, philosophical mind-bender from the bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
We don’t get visitors. Not out here. We never have.
In 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.
Told in Reid’s sharp and evocative style, Foe examines the nature of domestic relationships, self-determination, and what it means to be (or not to be) a person. An eerily entrancing page-turner, it churns with unease and suspense from the first words to its shocking finale.
Technology, exploration, marriage and identity are all at the forefront of Foe, a story that, in Iain Reid fashion, upholds feelings of unease and surprise right up to the end.
Junior and Hen – a married couple – live on their rural farm, happily and simply. One day, a government agent shows up with news that intrudes on their simple way of living, as individuals and as a pair. Set in a variant of the world we know, there is a definite air of unease from the first pages of this book, offering further evidence of Iain Reid’s excellence in psychological and speculative fiction.
As in his novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, there is a first person narrator – in this case, Junior – who is used not only to shape the psychological mystery of the plot, but to shape and develop certainties and doubts in the mind of the reader. With a pretty straightforward tone, Foe describes the potential of technological advancement while alluding to its downfalls, including intrusiveness and distinguishing the difference between natural change and unnatural progress.
Looking at it on the surface, the conclusion is a little too neat and tidy. However, with a deeper analysis of the story as a whole, of Junior and Hen from beginning to end, the significance of the conclusion is magnified tenfold. Sure, it leaves some questions, but if you don’t overlook the details it’s ultimately quite satisfying and deliciously shocking at the same time. Iain Reid has once again pulled the rug out from under us; Foe is unexpected, eye-widening, and truly enjoyable.
“The only constant quality of humanness is that we adapt. Always.”