Foe by Iain Reid
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.