Good news can wait til morning. Only bad news comes at night. A phone call is one thing, but the washes of headlights over the dark walls of your house foretell something really disruptive and irrevocable that will probably change your life forever. A phone call is much easier to ignore than a knock at your door.
Junior and Henrietta--Hen, for short--live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by canola fields. "We don't get visitors," Junior tells us. "Never have. Not out here." Any car that noses into their drive is usually just turning around back onto the road. Not this one, though, that wakes Junior from a daze with its distinct green-tinted lights.
The briefcase-totting driver introduces himself as a representative of OuterMore, the corporation in Foe's near-future that perfected the driverless car before expanding into aerospace, exploration, and development. Now they're working on "the next phase of transition." Junior and Hen's visitor, Terrance, has come to give them the good news--it's daytime news, he suggests, delivered at night only because he got a little lost--that Junior, and only Junior, has made the longlist of those who'll be included in OuterMore's next phase: The Installation, the first wave of temporary resettlement.
The arrival of Terrence is a stone tossed into Junior and Hen's placid lives. Left alone with the news, assured that Terrence will return with more when more is announced, Junior bobs on the waves of the impact. Something's up with Hen, but he can't quite indentify what. She doesn't seem herself. And even when their waters settle again, over the two years between Terrence's visits, the surface of Junior and Hen's life settles into something unfamiliar.
When Terrence returns, it's for good, to both prepare Junior for his winning place on The Installation and prepare for a replacement to keep Hen company while her husband's away. The preparation involves constant observation and interrogation, a process that opens up for Junior a new level of introspection. As Terrence scrounges around into Junior's world, the chosen volunteer attempts to stay a few steps ahead in his own grasp of his life, his past, and present, and future, as well as his understanding of and life with Hen. He'll need a firm grip on himself for when Terrence really begins to tug.
Iain Reid isn't an outwardly shocking or disturbing author, but he does welling dread like few else. Like his breakthrough first novel, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Foe features a small cast, a simple scenario, and a mostly static setting, all animated by clear, thoughtful language. On their face, these books don't seem like they'll be so disquieting, but Reid manages to imbue his work with something like those sound waves that vibrate just below our aural range, the "fear frequency" that's increasingly being attributed to haunted feelings. Things seem increasingly not-right, out of place, but you'd be hard-pressed to put a finger on exactly what's wrong. The only thing you can be sure of is no one knocks on a door at night with good news to deliver.