Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: 'The Enemy of My Enemy' by Avram Davidson


2 / 5 Stars

'The Enemy of My Enemy’(160 pp) was published in December 1966 by Berkley Medallion; the cover artwork is by Richard Powers.

On the planet Orinel, in the overpopulated, stinking, polluted land called Pemath, Jerrod Northi enjoys a successful career as a pirate and thief. However, as the novel opens, Northi finds himself the target of an assassination attempt by persons unknown.

Northi decides to flee Pemath. His preferred destination is Tarnis, a country located elsewhere on Orinel. 


Idyllic and uncrowded, Tarnis is where everyone on Orinel would prefer to live. But the Tarnisi are very particular about who comes into their country, and for how long they are allowed to stay.

For Jerrod Northi, permanent residency in Tarnis can only come about through an exceedingly expensive transformation, courtesy of plastic surgery. The end result will give him the Seven Signs that identify one as a legitimate member of the Tarnisi race: green eyes, long fingers, long ears, hairless bodies, full mouths, slender feet, and melodious voices.

In due course Jerrod Northi finds himself transformed, renamed, given a plausible backstory, and a permanent resident in the promised land of Tarnis. There he settles into a life of ease and repose as a member of the aristocracy.

But as Northi becomes more aware of the internal politics of his adopted home, he also comes to a dismayed awareness that all might not be right with Tarnis….or its people….

When viewed as an SF novel originating in the mid-60s, just before the advent of the New Wave Movement, ‘Enemy’ is not particularly bad, but neither is it particularly memorable.

With ‘Enemy’, Davidson’s prose skills certainly are superior to those of Blish, Asimov, and Clarke, who tended to dominate the sf publishing arena of that time.

However, Davidson was not as accomplished in his plotting as those authors. ‘Enemy’ suffers from too-slow pacing, and its emphasis on wordplay quickly grows tiring. At its halfway point the novel does gain some energy through incidents of violence and brutality communicated in a surprisingly explicit manner for an sf novel of its time.

Unfortunately, however, the momentum from this device is soon dissipated, and the plot settles back into its rut. I have observed this to be a major weakness in other of Davidson’s lengthier works ('The Kar-Chee Reign' and 'Rogue Dragon' come to mind).

While hardcore Davidson fans may find ‘Enemy’ worthwhile, I suspect all others probably will find it rather dull; these I direct to Davidson’s short story collections, which are more rewarding.

No comments: