Be My Enemy

Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald, Everness #2

Everett Singh had escaped with the Infundibulum - the key to all the parallel worlds - from the clutches of his enemy. But his freedom has come at a terrible price: the loss of his father to one of the billions of parallel universes in the Panoploy.

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.

Be My Enemy is the second book in the Everness series written by Ian McDonald, last week I read Planesrunner, the first book and really left my with an urge to pick up it's sequel ASAP. I got that young boyish delight after finishing Planesrunner, all the cool high tech gadgets to which I was introduced to combined with the way it was shown and how it was written and above all the concept of multiversing. It makes this series not only suited for the intended young adult audience but for adults as well! 

The ending of Planesrunner somehow steered the book in a direction of how the story should be picked up but also left a lot of ground still to be explored. Just in short a bit about what transpired in Planesrunner. Everett's father was kidnapped by The Order. The Order is a sinister organization who wants to get their hands on the Infundibulum, which features as the map of all the parallel universes. Now that it is in possession of Everett he is on the run avoiding on one hand The Order and on the other hand finding out in which universe his father is currently staying in order to get him back. The whole story in Planesrunner was accompanied by a great and if you can say it realistic feel, even though it is pure science fiction. Ian McDonald set up the storyline smartly and broke down several crucial aspects of the storyline into bite size chunks that gave a good grip on the story.

Honestly when I first read the introducing chapter of Be My Enemy I went back to Planesrunner. I thought I recognized something, but then later continuing it's was different but didn't make since, well at that point anyway, and then it all fell into place because "There is not one you. There are many yous.". This was one aspect I was eager to see explored, the alters (alternate version of the same characters). I already had my guesses that Charlotte and Charles were one and the same but now (yes this is a small spoiler) Everett has one. This is the Be My Enemy part, Everett now another enemy looking just like him... I have to admit that I did have a few reservations to start with the alter part, it can be quite complicated when writing multiple universes and to top it off with a same set of characters therein with them being slightly different. However this fear was totally uncalled for as Ian McDonald introduces only a few "alter" characters in a way neat manner. Take for example the alter of Everett, first I thought that it was the real one, but there are those little tweaks in the character that make him different and the alter is really given it's own personality and feel in one way like a new character but in another way with the roots still in the original characters still quite similar. And one aspect I was pleased about was that the alter Everett isn't just used to hunt down the real Everett but also used to "infiltrate" into the E10 world... combined with how evil the alter Everett is gives this scary feeling... 

Next to the new character via the alters, there are quite a few recurrent characters as well. For starters there is our main protagonist and hero Everett, his character will inspire a lot of young kids to become just as adventurous and confident as him. Though Everett's character doesn't go through a lot development, he is still an amazing lead for this story and he doesn't lack any confidence in doing anything or voicing his opinions. Another great addition in Planesrunner, was Sen. Sen now set herself apart even more. Her character is easily recognizable and quite unique to say the least (in a good way that is!) her whole attitude somehow full of adventure and action taken together with a more “motherly” and caring approach, especially towards Everett make her just great. Whether there is some romancing going on from her side of the story remains to be seen, it’s hard to tell, because at one moment she can be quite happy and open and on a different moment closed like a book. But their relation does add a something special to the story. I mentioned in the Planesrunner review that I had a hard time pinning down Sharkey with his biblical texts and didn’t know he was in for good or bad, but his character is a bit further explored and there are some nice dialogues between him and the other crew that let Sharkey come out of the gray area in which he was. But still after this I do have some doubts, he can say all he wants, but given his background you just never know!

As for the bad guys of The Order. They were shown in this sinister setting in the first book, especially Charlotte, but now their plans are making a turn to the more darker side again. Being able to still travel to other universes, they employ a weapon to their task of one that will be Everett’s deadliest enemy. Though there were already quite a few heavy Science-Fiction elements in the first book. In creating the deadliest enemy for Everett, even more of Science-Fiction is explored, and its all pretty cool stuff. This is a great interplay between the parallel worlds and how several parallel world are way more advanced than the “current” Earth. I liked the whole Madam Moon part and the armor in the end, when I read about those blaster I though Iron Man, and later Ian McDonald does mention it in his storyline, it just comes to show for me at least and probably a lot more that Ian McDonald knows how to write an exciting and engaging story. With the actions that The Order is undertaking, the story of Be My Enemy turns techno-thriller, which is further bolstered by the part I am going to mention below.

NANOTECHNOLOGY! YES, there you have it! (sorry for this if it is to spoilery but I just have to mention it) Talking about more cool stuff. I have some knowledge of nanotechnology and it has already been quite often used in technological thrillers, this is the stuff that inspires on one part fear in me and on the other part a high coolness factor. But how is this nanotechnology linked to the story? In Planesrunner we learned there was one planet quarantined, E1, because it has a horrifying secret. However Everett has to face the parallel universe of E1 to retrieve one particular item. Soon you learn what went wrong and how it went wrong and this is the part that inspires the fear. I liked how Ian McDonald introduced us to the nanotechnology and how he uses it in his story, creating a sentient being that comes to show in the encounter with the alter Everett, it’s nasty (meaning the plotting of the events that surround it and how it possibly can be picked up later). It’s cool to read about that the nanobots were able to make whole new “constructs” like birds, dogs and others, even so far as being able to commune, it just adds this whole new level to the story. When there is this encounter on E1 between the real Everett and the nanobots, they have to make haste and flee, Ian McDonald managed to grasp and show the action in a tight and controlled way, really creating that edge of your seat moment!

Be My Enemy had a lot to live up to after the magnificent start in Planesrunner and for me it has done it. With giving the introduction to the multiversing in the first book, it was now up to Ian McDonald to show what else was possible in the Everness series and take his story further, he does it in a spectacular manner. Highlighting in particular the alters (alternate version of the same character living in the parallel universes) and introducing the threat of nanotechnology that decimated the Earth of E1. Though they are heavy subjects, they are all introduced along the way and don’t feel as an information dump, more on the contrary they feel natural as they were meant to be. This I think is owed to the way the story was set-up and combined with the excellent writing style of Ian McDonald. Be My Enemy introduced a lot of new threats to Everett with his alter and The Order, and will make his journey through the parallel universe even that more precarious. In the end of Be My Enemy it seems that there is now an even bigger threat on the loose that could mean the end of all the Panoploy... Everness is a series to watch out for: it’s turning into an excellent techno-thriller, it has a lot of action, cool science fiction stuff, it's a lot of fun to read and is one big unparalleled adventure!

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