Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald

October 10, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Be My Enemy by Ian McDonaldBe My Enemy (Everness #2) by Ian McDonald
Published: August 1st 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher
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4.5 Stars

Everett Singh has escaped from his enemies with the Infundibulum – the key to all the parallel worlds. But his freedom has come at a price: the loss of his father to one of the billions of parallel universes in the Panopoly.

E1 was the first Earth to create the Heisenberg Gate, the means to jump between worlds, but it was quarantined long ago. No one goes in... and nothing comes out. But E1 has something that Everett needs: the means to find his father.

It's lucky that he has the support of Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her daughter Sen and the unique crew of the airship Everness, because Everett is about to discover the horrifying secret of E1 and, with it, his deadliest enemy.

Taking up soon after Planesrunner, Be My Enemy follows Everett Singh as he jumps across parallel universes to rescue his father, with the help of the crew of the airship Everness. I really enjoyed this novel and feel it’s even better than the first in terms of action and world-building. The author has delivered an amazing sequel.

The plot of Be My Enemy is clever and well executed, with the author taking the opportunity the jump gun provides to show readers some new parallel universes. Each version of London presented is unique, with an interesting history, architecture and culture. I enjoy learning about how those worlds diverged from out own; I think it’s interesting to find out the main points of difference between their histories and ours. We also finally find out more about E1, the first world to ever create a gate between worlds, and why it’s so mysterious and no one likes talking about it.

All my favourite characters make appearances in this book, including the vivacious and unknowable Sen Sixsmyth (navigator on the Everness) and her adoptive mother Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth. I liked the range of female characters McDonald wrote in the previous book, and continue to admire them now. One of my favourite aspects of this book is the focus on the relationship Everett and Dr. Singh have. Their father-son bond has always been mentioned, but it was great seeing it in action.

Everett’s intelligence, goodness and general lack of flaws hadn’t bothered me much in Planesrunner, but have to admit that he’s just too perfect in Be My Enemy. Where are his insecurities, his self-doubt? His unrealistic nature is contrasted with that of his interworld doppelgänger, who struggles with his identity and purpose, and has a particularly emotive scene where he realises just now un-special he is. It’s saddening that the Everett Singh we’ve been reading about doesn’t suffer from this: he’s well versed in how awesome he is, and never hesitates to remind us; “It was not just this London spread at his feet. It was all the Londons, all the worlds. He had mastery of them all. His enemies were many, and they were subtle, powerful, and clever and Everett did not doubt that he had only seen a fraction of what they could achieve, but he had a thing they did not: he had the Infundibulum, the jump gate, and the ability to work them both. He was the Planesrunner.

Ian McDonald introduced us to the idea of different versions of the same person; called alters, in the previous book, but Be My Enemy allows for a deeper exploration of this concept. Since I felt this consequence of inter-world travel had been neglected in Planesrunner, I was glad that it takes center-stage in this book. In particular, when faced early on with two versions of Everett Singh, the reader is forced to consider how (seemingly) small changes in one’s life can drastically alter a person’s personality and outlook. We are reminded that while physical traits may remain unchanged, the underlying psychology of a person can be very different. I think it’s a clever way to ask what, exactly, makes us us.

The romance in this novel, in the whole series, is one of the most unconventional dalliances that I have ever read. While Sen obviously fascinates Everett, she also intimidates him quite a bit. Their interactions are largely stilted, hampered by the fact that they are often running for their lives, and I was gratified to find that the romance never overshadows the action packed plot of the novel. But I can’t deny that I would have liked more resolution on the romance, and would have liked to see things progress a bit more than near-violent kissing just before Everett gears up for a mission.

I enjoyed Be My Enemy a lot and think that McDonald has written a solid follow-up to Planesrunner. These books are perfect for those looking to read a little science fiction but are unsure of a suitable starting point. I am looking forward to the next book, Empress of the Sun, which will be published next year.

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