Foe is my second novel by Canadian writer Iain Reid. I read I’m Thinking of Ending Things a couple of summers ago. I found that book deeply unsettling. And clever. Foe is well… deeply unsettling and clever.
Junior and his wife, Henrietta, Hen for short, live a sort of isolated existence out in the country. It’s just the two of them, so the arrival of a man, Terrance, is strange because as Junior remarks: “We don’t get visitors. Never have. Not out here.”
Terrance has come to tell Junior that he’s made OuterMore’s long list.
We’re an organization formed more than six decades ago. We started in the driverless automobile sector. Our fleet of self-driving cars was the most efficient and safest in the world. Our mandate changed over the years, and today it is very specific. We’ve moved out of the auto sector and into aerospace, exploration, and development. We’re working toward the next phase of transition.
Junior has been selected to go to space as part of The Installation, “the first wave of temporary resettlement.” Junior isn’t all that chuffed, but Terrance is pretty excited on his behalf. It’s not a done deal yet, of course, and Terrance will have to make several visits over the coming months because if he is chosen, Hen will be provided with a companion – someone who looks and talks and acts just like Junior; someone who is 3D printed just for her – to stay with her while her husband is gone.
When Terrance actually moves into their house to collect data (although even that is vague enough to cause Junior unease), Junior starts to feel his marriage unraveling. Hen is distant and secretive. The structure of their very ordered lives starts to crumble. Junior becomes more paranoid. It won’t be long before you, too, will be wondering just what in the heck is going on.
You’ll be swept along by Reid’s unfussy prose and metaphysical questions. Junior tries to remember his life before Hen, but his life “was unremarkable, unmemorable.”
We only get so much mental space in which to store our memories, and there’s no reason for me to waste it on what came before.
Reid builds on these questions of identity and memory, while also creating an ominous atmosphere. I love unreliable narrators, and Reid is especially good at writing them. Reid is definitely an author to keep your eye on.