Today marks the publication of Be My Enemy, the absolutely triumphant sequel to Ian McDonald's pulse-pounding young-adult science fiction novel Planesrunner.
Planesrunner -- a rollicking, multidimensional tale of a young boy who holds the key to infinite universes, seeking to rescue his physicist father from sinister powers -- finished on a brutal cliffhanger, leaving its readers gasping and cursing for more. Now we have it.
In Enemy, there's a lot more of what made Planesrunner great -- tremendous action scenes, cunning escapes, genius attacks on the ways that multidimensional travel might be weaponized, horrific glimpses of shadowy powers and sinister technologies.
But Enemy also has more of what makes McDonald's adult fiction some of the best work I've ever read: a gifted ear for poesie that makes the English language sing, the unapologetic presumption of the reader's ability to understand what's going on without a lot of hand-holding, and a technological mysticism that never explicitly says when the literal stops and the fantasy starts.
In Enemy, Everett, the young hero of Planesrunner, is confronted with multiple versions of himself from different worlds, all facing different versions of his crisis, and some not on his side. McDonald's handling of this is deft, going beyond the good Spock/evil Spock cliches and showing us how two "good" kids could start as multidimensional twins and end as mortal enemies.
If you held off on reading Planesrunner because you didn't want to commit to a series without knowing if the author could keep up the quality, have no fear. McDonald has proven himself handily. And if you read Planesrunner like me and have been slavering for the sequel ever since, rejoice -- the time is at hand!
Here are the first five chapters, courtesy of the kind folks at Pyr!
Be My Enemy
Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park invented modern crypto and computers in the course of breaking Enigma ciphers, the codes that Axis powers created with repurposed Enigma Machines — sophisticated (for the day) encryption tools invented for the banking industry — to keep the Allies from listening in on their communications.
In 1948, the Institute of Applied Science commissioned an unknown illustrator to depict a fistful of squirming, terrified criminals caught in an authoritative fist, under the headline “CAUGHT BY THEIR FINGERTIPS” — they were advertising a home Criminal Investigation and Identification course.
Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid […]
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