Thursday, 11 March 2021

Foe

Finished March 6
Foe by Iain Reid


This novel is full of suspense, and it just keeps building. The narrator here is Junior, a man who lives with his wife Hen in an old farmhouse in the country. As the book begins a visitor arrives unexpectedly late in the evening, and Junior is told that he has been chosen to go somewhere as part of an initial test for a colony of people to live away from the earth. Junior isn't really interested in this and wants to just live his life as he has been.
He works in the nearby feed mill, and, although most of the farmland around them is now farmed by corporations, he has a few chickens that he looks after, and gets satisfaction from.
The visit by this representative, Terrance, from a government-affiliated organization called OuterMore seems to unsettle both Junior and Hen. He doesn't stay long, only to tell them about the project, called The Installation, which is a temporary resettlement of people in space on a man-made planet that orbits the earth, and that there has been a lottery and Junior was chosen to be part of the project.  He doesn't have any say in the matter. 
This is where it started to get seriously creepy for me. Terrance talks about the microphones on the screens being always on, and how they don't exactly do active listening, but they pay attention to words of interest. In this case, it is any talk of space, travel, planets, etc. 
After the visit it takes a while for the couple to get back to normal to feel comfortable again, but they do and days and then weeks, and then months go by. Until two years later Terrance is back, and he is taking all kinds of measurements of Junior, fitting him with sensors and such. 
There is a growing feeling of menace of disbelief that this is happening, that Junior and Hen have such little control of their own lives. And Junior doesn't trust Terrance. He feels that there is information that is being hidden from him, that there is another agenda. There are times that Terrance talks to Hen by herself and Junior feels jealous and concerned. 
This novel moves slowly, but has a growing feeling of unease of low-level suspense that something is going to happen beyond what already has. There is a lack of background to the situation, to where exactly they are, to how they ended up there, to how Junior and Hen came together. This book gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach of dread, of wariness. 
An amazing read, and so well done. Understated. 

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