Foe
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Foe

Iain Reid

You think you know everything about your life.

Long-married couple Junior and Henrietta live a quiet, solitary life on their farm, where they work at the local feed mill and raise chickens. Their lives are simple, straightforward, uncomplicated.

Until everything you think you know collapses.

Until the day a stranger arrives at their door with alarming news: Junior has been chosen to take an extraordinary journey, a journey across both time and distance, while Hen remains at home. Junior will be gone for years. But Hen won’t be left alone.

Who can you trust if you can’t even trust yourself?

As the time for his departure draws nearer, Junior finds himself questioning everything about his life - even whether it’s really his life at all.

An eerily entrancing page-turner, Foe churns with unease and suspense from the first words to its shocking finale. Perfect for fans of Humans, Westworld and Black Mirror, Foe is a book you will never forget.

Review

Living in isolation amid farming land predominantly owned by big industry and the government, Hen and Junior receive a late-night visitor. Terrance is an employee of Outermore; an organisation originally specialising in self-driving cars but who are now preparing for resettlement in space. The first stage of this process is known as the ‘instillation’ and Junior has been selected via a lottery to join the longlist as a participant. Junior’s wife, Hen, will remain on Earth but, should Junior make the final cut, Outermore will ensure her life will continue as before. In fact, she won’t even notice that Junior has gone.

I cherish reading experiences like Foe. It is a perfect example of a high-concept novel that does not sacrifice character or themes. By keeping the scope small (the book hardly ever moves beyond the three central characters or the physical location of Hen and Junior’s property), Iain Reid has created a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere further enhanced by deliberate omissions. How far in the future is Foe set? And where exactly in the world do Hen and Junior live? By keeping these details vague, the focus moves to the relationship between Hen and Junior and the way they each respond to Junior’s impending mission and the increasingly intrusive presence of Terrance.

Reid’s pacing is superb. Grabbing my attention right from the start, I was riveted for the entire duration of the novel. Predominantly short chapters maintain the momentum, and the revelations are beautifully timed. The author is always just that one beat ahead and just when I thought I had caught up, I was floored by one final twist.

Foe has been suggested for fans of Black Mirror and Stranger Things and while these are apt comparisons, I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys immersive and intelligent fiction.


Amanda Rayner is the returns officer at Readings Carlton.

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