Review: “Near Enemy,” Adam Sternbergh

Pros: Fascinating world-building
Cons: Potentially off-putting style
Rating: 4 out of 5

Near Enemy is book two in Adam Sternbergh’s “Spademan” novels. Despite having missed the first novel, I didn’t feel particularly lost. You miss some character/relationship background, but there’s enough info here for you to figure it out.

Spademan is a killer for hire, and he’s been sent to kill a ‘bedhopper’–a voyeur who spies on others’ activities in the virtual reality (“limnosphere”). Instead he ends up talking to the young man and then sending him on his way. He gets wrapped up in a plot involving the police, that virtual reality, and most tantalizingly, a death that supposedly happened when a person’s virtual reality avatar was killed. This isn’t supposed to be possible. There are elements of terrorism, blackmail, people who proselytize against using the virtual reality, and more. Meanwhile, Spademan has also taken responsibility for keeping a woman and her baby safe from her family and the baby’s father, which proves to be increasingly difficult–and dangerous for him.

 

There are two structural elements to the narrative that will work great for some readers and will drive others crazy. First, the percentage of sentence fragments is mind-boggling:

Now everyone’s escaped.
Courtyard’s a ghost town.
Lobby left wide open.
Waltz right in.

Thankfully, there are plenty of actual, non-one-liner paragraphs.

The second oddity is that there are no quotation marks for any of the dialogue; it’s just part of the narrative:

What’s the first rule of the limnosphere, Spademan?
Mark says this like he’s talking to a child.
You tell me, Mark.
You can’t be killed through the limn. That’s the first and only rule. Not even a rule, really. More like a law. Like gravity.

The real strangeness here is that once I got used to those elements of the style, it felt very appropriate to Spademan’s mind. I felt like it added to the story instead of detracting from it, and even aided in the suspension of disbelief. It certainly gave me a sense of how Spademan’s mind worked.

There’s plenty going on, with Spademan poking his nose into everything and being manipulated, threatened, or coerced from every angle. There’s danger both inside and outside the limn, and of course, not all is as it seems. If it sounds like something you might enjoy, then I recommend reading it. I have a feeling the style will cause most readers to love it or hate it, without many in between.

 

This book was provided free for review by Blogging for Books.

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