A to Z Challenge: E is for “Enemy Mine”

EFor my A to Z Challenge, I’m going back to books that influenced me in some way or left an unforgettable impression, and for letter E I struggled to pick one title out of the three that readily came to mind. The decision turned out to be quite tough, but once I realized I might mention two of the titles in my other posts, I was left with just one book, or rather a novella, which I’ve read only once. And it was over twenty years ago.

These were my teenage times, when I only started dipping my toes into the big pool of fantasy and science-fiction, and my dear friend lend me issues of “Nowa Fantastyka”, Polish oldest (and I believe longest-running too) speculative fiction magazine.

Every issue contained both Polish and foreign fiction, and in one of them I came across Barry B. Longyear’s novella, “Enemy Mine”. I leaned more towards fantasy fiction back then, but as an avid reader, I couldn’t just skip the part of the magazine without even trying, and before I even noticed, I was biting my nails following the story of a human pilot and an alien, stranded on a desolate planet.

Nowa Fantastyka 3/1996 where the first part of "Enemy Mine" was published.
Nowa Fantastyka 3/1996 where the first part of “Enemy Mine” was published.

I might have exaggerated a bit in the top paragraph, I might have read the story several times before I gave the magazine back, but the twenty years since my last contact with it still stands. And I still remember it, maybe not in detail, but in the images the story brought, and in the memory of tears its last sentence brought. Because “Enemy Mine” told a beautiful story of friendship formed between to completely different beings. Both Willis Davidge and Jeriba Shigan (yes, I had to look their names up) need to overcome their hostility toward each another, and learn to work together to survive, and in the process, as you can imagine, they learn to understand the other one’s culture and the way of thinking.

In a way, it’s a simple story with simple message, that those who are different or follow different paths don’t have to be fought against, and that understanding and communication can bring peace. But the way it is told, not from the perspective of waring races, but on a very personal level, had a lasting impression on me.

Nowa Fantastyka 4/1996 where the second part of "Enemy Mine" was published.
Nowa Fantastyka 4/1996 where the second part of “Enemy Mine” was published.

Over the years, I made several attempts of getting my own copy of the magazine, but the circumstances always prevented me of acquiring one, and I might not have been persistent enough. I also bought a DVD with the movie adaptation, but I never brought myself to watch it. Why? Because twenty years after the first read, and that story is still vivid in my memory, still rings with emotions, even if I can’t recall the exact wording.

And do you have such a book? The one you’ve read only once, but it was enough for years?

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. sjhigbee

    I generally don’t reread stories and books for that very reason – and so have a handful of these gems, but the one that comes to mind is the emotion I felt reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed’. It is a beautiful, disturbing story about the fate of Earth colonists who settle on Mars. Thank you for your enjoyable article and reminding me of a lovely holiday, connected to a cracking read:).

    1. melfka

      Oh, that one sounds very interesting.
      I’ll have to put it on my TBR list.

  2. Siv

    I’m trying to think up a book I’ve only read once that had such an impression on me… but no, I can’t drag one up. I think that books that impress me I have read more than once. I do remember reading “Enemy Mine” (but in Swedish) a long time ago. Not sure if I’ve read it more than once, but I do remember it.
    Com to think of it, there’s another story, with the same message. It’s set in viking times, where a chief’s son and a slave boy survive after their village is burned by invaders. They’re left alone and has to learn to cooperate to survive until autumn when grown-ups will return. That story made about the same impression on me that this made on you – I read it when I was maybe 10 – but I have reread it later….

    1. melfka

      Do you remember the title of the story, Siv? It sounds really interesting.

  3. portiabridget

    I kind of remember watching the movie based on this story 🙂

    1. melfka

      Well, you’re ahead of me, I haven’t watched it yet.
      Sadly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a way to purchase Enemy Mine (the story, not the movie): unless, of course, one feels like hunting down past issues of Nowa Fantastyka.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.