Brandon's Reviews > In the Presence of Mine Enemies

In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove
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's review
Mar 16, 2008

it was ok
Read in March, 2008

This book seemed interesting. It wasn't. It had incredibly long passages of intricately detailed bridge games. (Yes, bridge games. And not "high stakes bridge" or anything like that. The book wasn't set at a bridge tournament. It was just two main characters and their wives getting together to play bridge. And, boy howdy!, did they play bridge. For instance:

Willi dealt the first hand. "And now to give myself thirteen diamonds," he said grandly.
"As long as you give me thirteen hearts, I don't mind," Heinrich said.
Reality returned as soon as he picked up his hand, which showed the usual mixture of suits and ten points. Willi opened with a club. Heinrich passed. Erika said, "Two clubs," which meant she had some support for Willi but not a great deal. He took it to three, after which everybody passed. And he made three clubs with no overtricks but without much trouble.
"A leg," he said as Erika wrote their sixty points under the line.
Heinrich gathered up the cards and started shuffling. "The only thing legs are good for is getting chopped off," he observed. He dealt out the next hand and opened with a spade. After a lively action, he and Lise got to four spades. Willi doubled. If they made it, they would take the game and wipe out the Dorsches' partial score. If they went down, it would get expensive above the line.
Erika led a heart; Willi had been bidding them. When Lise laid out the dummy, Heinrich got an unpleasant surprise. He had the ace, queen, ten, and nine of spades, plus a little one. His wife had four little spades to the eight. That left the king and jack conspicuously missing, along with two little ones to protect them. Considering the other problems he had in the hand, it also left him in trouble.
Willi took the trick with the king of hearts, then led the ace. When that went through without getting trumped, he grinned at Heinrich and said, "Got you."
"Maybe." Heinrich shrugged. He thought Willi had him, too, but he was damned if he'd admit it.
"No maybes about it." Willi led a diamond. That wasn't the way to finish Heinrich off. He had the ace in his hand, while the king was on the board. He decided he would rather be in the dummy, so he took the trick with the king. Then he led a small spade from the dummy. Willi played another one. Heinrich hesitated, but only for a moment. He set down the ten. Behind the cards of the dummy, Lise blinked.
He felt like shouting when Erika sluffed a club. That meant Willi had all the opposition's spades. No wonder he'd doubled. But it also meant... Happily, Heinrich said, "I'm going to finesse you right out of your shoes." (296-7)

And the point of all that? To show that Willi and Erika are having marital problems. Every chapter contained four pages of bridge playing, just so you could see how poorly Willi and Erika got along. Also, every chapter contained a scene where a woman who worked for a doctor tries to stop him from messing with the coffeemaker because he doesn't know how to use it. There's no point, there. The woman is a minor character and the doctor even more so. Both could be cut from the book with very, very few changes.
Also, as the book progressed it became more and more of a fictionalization of the fall of the Soviet Union. I expected some imagination, but all he did was give new names to Gorbachev (Buckliger) and Yeltsin (Stolle), then move the action to Berlin and, bam!, you've got a novel.
I can't finish without including this sentence, which is possibly the dumbest sentence I've ever read. "His hair stuck out from under his cap in all directions, like the hay in a stack made by somebody who didn't know how to stack hay" (218). What the hell?! He had to have been trying to give his editor the mickey, but she didn't realize it and now the dumbest sentence of all time is in print.
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07/03 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Oh my, thank you for the warning! I nearly added this to my to-read shelf, but you have saved me the time. It might be great for someone who loves bridge.

Bobby Obviously Brandon didn't get into the characters in the book.

Brandon Back off, Bobby! ;)

Bobby Bridge was only a minor point of the book. Too bad you didn't enjoy it. I wonder whether you read the whole book.

Brandon I did, actually. I hate quitting books. I'm a big believer in the sunk cost fallacy.

Bobby OK, Brandon. I guess we just don't agree on this book. Have you read Diane Moody's Of Windmills and War? It is historical fiction. I liked it so much, I suggested it for my book club. I'd love to hear your take on it.

Brandon I haven't. I'll look into that. Thanks for the tip.

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