Short Fiction Review: Enemy Mine

I’ll admit, this review isn’t as inspired as some of my other reviews. I suppose it’s because I simply wasn’t inspired by the story. I think my initial reaction after finishing was: “Wow that was a really long story”. And I suppose that fifty pages isn’t all that long as far as page counts go, but it wasn’t the amount of pages that made the story feel long. It was the span of time within the story. I think something like six years pass from when Davidge first crash lands on the island and fights Jeriba (man what names) to the end. I might have aged six years just reading it. But between the pain/anguish, mourning, religion, parenthood, philosophy,  existential crisis, racism . . .

It was exhausting!

The Enemy PapersAfter reading Enemy Mine (by Barry B. Longyear) I did a little Google search just to see if I could get some context. It seemed that a story this . . . saturated wouldn’t  exist in a vacuum. I was right. Enemy Mine is apparently the first story in something of a trilogy. All of the three stories (Enemy Mine, The Tomorrow Testament, and The Last Enemy) have been gathered into an anthology called The Enemy Papers. The anthology also contains a bunch of letters from the author discussing different themes of the work and some of his motives for writing. Included in the work, is a copy of The Talman which is a religious text (fictional of course) that they reference throughout the story.

A few days ago I was thinking I would read these other stories and decide at that point whether or not I enjoyed the experience. Evaluate the entire work as a whole. I don’t think I will. Some authors get better as you read them. Some don’t.

I suppose I really want to put myself in the mind of the people voting for Hugo Awards. Why did this story make the cut? It didn’t seem particularly revolutionary in any sense. One of the major themes in the story appears to be racism. I think Science fiction in general lends itself well to discussing this issue. Must have something to do with the prevalence of new species interacting with one another. No way that could go badly right?

All of that being said however, I don’t know that Enemy Mine contributed any new commentary on that issue. Just rehashed a lot that we are already familiar with. It did give me a good deal to think about in terms of single parenting. The aliens, or Dracs, are asexual (not a lot of fun there) and do not require a mate to reproduce. Their children are pretty much ‘ready-made’ and don’t require much assistance to survive after the first few months. It seems the only thing they do require is companionship. I haven’t decided whether or not this was intended for purposes of the story’s message or if the author wrote himself into a corner and this was the most convenient solution to the problem of having a human be able to care for, raise and parent a child of another species.

Anyway, if we suspend disbelief long enough to accept the rapidity of these creature’s maturation, it begs the question of whether they need companionship at all. For humans, I feel like part of this need is evolutionary. We need other people to survive. However, it doesn’t seem like the Dracs do . . . It isn’t necessary for them to procreate, and they seem pretty capable on their own. Would ‘society’ as we know it, and as the Dracs seem to have within the story, ever truly form. Also, how does a species evolve with only one set of genes? I guess I need to take another science course.

If you have the time, go ahead and give Enemy Mine a read through but I wouldn’t drop anything of your list to get it done.

See you next week!

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