Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh (Crown, Jan. 13th, 2015)-Adam Sternbergh follows up Shovel Ready with another crackerjack near future noir. This time, assassin for hire Spademan is called to arm himself once again with his trusty box cutter and take out a bed-hopper named Lesser, who likes to spy on other people’s fantasies in the limnosphere, but Spademan is in for a bit of a shock when Lesser awakes from his latest outing visibly terrified, and explains to Spademan that he just witnessed someone being assassinated in the limn. But that’s not possible, right? You can die in the limn, but it certainly doesn’t mean you die in real life. Based on this news, Spademan is moved to spare Lesser, and with the news that terrorists might be planning another attack on New York, he’s determined to get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile, Persephone is hiding out from her family in a remote location, and Spademan does his best to look out for her, but her family has plenty of reach, and keeping Persephone safe from not only them, but other dark forces, may be easier said than done.
As with Shovel Ready, Near Enemy is told in Spademan’s staccato voice, in spare sentences, and paints a picture of a New York still reeling from terrorist devastation that killed his wife. More destruction would be unthinkable, and he’ll do just about anything to stop it. The thought that someone has found a way to actually kill someone in the limn is too horrible to contemplate, but after he finds out that Lesser has disappeared, he’s further convinced of the danger. With the help of a nurse who makes her living tending to those that choose life in the limn over reality, and of course a few old friends, Spademan must navigate a treacherous maze full of sinister politics, murder, and danger that may soon hit very close to home, threatening to destroy the only people he cares about.
Spademan is still his determined self, but the melancholy that clung to him in Shovel Ready has lifted a bit with the addition of a few friends in his life that he actually has come to consider family. It hasn’t made him any less dangerous, though. Sternbergh doesn’t waste space, or words, and has managed to create a blitzed New York that’s simultaneously hanging by a thread yet yearning to bloom again into its former greatness. This is a perfect mix of crime noir and near future SF, and is punctuated with the same sort of creepy scenes within the limn that made the first book so unique, as well as fascinating, eclectic characters. While I don’t think it would be too hard to get into this without having read the first book, you’ll certainly benefit from reading them in order. The ending hints strongly at another installment, and I can’t wait.