Enemy, by K. Eason, read in May-June 2016 timeframe
This was available free on Amazon under the Kindle First program. As part of moving, I used mass transit for a time. This involved 3-4 hours per day. In the Bay Area, daily commutes of 4 hours by car are not unusual. Between switching from various modes of transport, I might get 30 minutes or so of uninterrupted time to read. I found light reading was best for this. A book that compelled note-taking or annotating or looking up terms was not a good candidate for me to plow through during this time. I could do a chapter maybe but then would want some time to digest and ponder what I had read, instead of just going straight into the next chapter.
Anyway, Enemy was a good candidate for reading during the ride to work. It apparently was the first book in the series, and was given away for free on Amazon Kindle to encourage readership in the entire series.
Some notes on Enemy. It was set in a fantasy world, in a style reminiscent of Glen Cook’s Black Company series, with gritty realism in the action and dialogue. Magic and the gods play a strong part, but this is not a formulaic Joseph Campbell monomyth hero story. A couple of the main characters are outsiders from their culture. The heroine, Snowdenaelikk (“Snow” for short, thankfully) seems derivative of a Forgotten Realms half-Drow, although I encountered no trademarked terms that anyone could be sued for using, in case any Wizards lawyers are reading this. Does Wizards still own D&D? I resisted the urge to look it up and continued working on this review. Veiko, the hero, is like an Inuit, who is also an outcast from his people. They are both compelling adult characters.
To me part of the fun of fantasy is learning about this alien world, so I enjoy strange terms, names, places, etc. Enemy had these in a proper dose for me to keep me questioning and interested.
I am writing months later, but recall feeling that there were some subtle allegorical elements. These were well-handled, I didn’t feel I was being beaten over the head with them or that it disrupted my enjoyment of the story. Maybe it instead helped me see the plight of these outsiders from a different viewpoint.
I think alienation is a part of the human condition that is common to everyone at some point or another. At certain times and places, I feel like I am the outsider, and at other times and places, I am the “us” against the “them”, doing to others what I would not want done to me.
Eason does well in depicting this world, with vivid sensory details of how it looks, smells, etc. It was great to escape into this world while commuting. I could see it portrayed in an anime. I eagerly flipped the pages on my Kindle app to find out what would happen to the characters next.
In summary, this book was good but nothing in it compelled me to read the next in the series. I will say something on why I generally don’t read Fantasy series here (endless series seem to be the norm in Fantasy (following Tolkien) and Mystery (following Holmes).)
I read some good advice from Gene Wolfe years ago for those who wanted to be writers. Don’t read endless series. And I’ve followed it pretty well. I mean, I didn’t even read the next book after finishing Frank Herbert’s Dune, and that book to me was mind-expanding at the time I read it in an intense way that is hard to replicate now that I’m older. I was afraid of being let down if I continued the series. Generally the best effort by the creator of the series is at the beginning and it deteriorates as it goes. A friend whose judgement I trusted in fiction was telling me about crazy things in the series and I didn’t feel like continuing down that path. I hadn’t heard of Gene Wolfe at the time, but that is probably why I considered his advice to be good; I was already following this rule on my own. Which is probably the best advice, someone telling you to do something that you know is right and maybe just giving you the validation you needed to keep doing it.
And now I hear that among all the other craziness of 2016, that J.K. Rowling wrote another Harry Potter book? Is this true, or is it “fake news” like the clickbait that most news websites scatter all around any of their presumably legitimate articles? What happened, did a lot of people write and say they would kill themselves if she didn’t write another one? That last book was such torture for me, twice as long as it needed to be, each book longer than the one before it, and pointlessly so with the case of the last one, it spoiled all the magic I had felt on first beginning the series. I understand that some people run marathons so they can say they accomplished it, and I can see the justification, it is an accomplishment. However, reading a series of books to completion is nowhere near the level of accomplishment. Yes, it is time-consuming, but if there are moments in reading for entertainment where you have the same feeling as someone who is about to puke from running, then maybe you should quit reading the book. There won’t be a quiz on it! Only binge-watching a TV show on Netflix is a lower level of achievement. Wait? Are there trophies for this stuff? If so, I’m missing out.
So, you’ve completed your “marathon” of reading, and now you have to read to completion again when the final, final book comes out! I mean, I finished the marathon of Harry Potter and now you tell me I have to run another 10 miles! Not gonna happen. I don’t even think I watched all the movies. (Same for Star Wars prequels and postquels, btw.)
So, I am probably done with Bones of Gods. I also didn’t continue The Malazan Book of the Fallen after reading Gardens of the Moon, so no knock on Eason’s Enemy. I apologize for interrupting my review with a rant on endless series. I will not even get started on Song of Ice and Fire. I suppose it is like buying art; wait until the painter is dead, then you know what possibilities you are dealing with before you get started. Oh wait, now series are completed or even resurrected after the author is dead. As the spiritualist told Houdini in the TV miniseries, “When you are dead we can make you say whatever we want.” That is a topic for another day.