|Bosom Enemies: Losing Our Bearings. By Donna Barr. Bremerton, WA: A Fine Line Press, 2000. 64p. $6.00. ISBN 1-892253-08-9.|
Soon more Tudans rope and capture the two unfortunate former humans with the help of another Turb, Blackharrow, a former Russian who enjoys subduing Nazi Turbs. Stephan resists fiercely at every turn, ultimately throwing his rider. Stu comes in to help, and there is a general melee until an officer, the stable-sergeant, mounted on "Snowcat," a female Trac (a "horse" born in this world) calls a halt to the Tudans' efforts, and Snowcat calms the two Turbs down. At least, they leave off physical fighting and start screaming at each other about the definition of "freedom." They are ultimately led away. Stephan is assigned to Captain Kyin, and Troop-Sergeant Alahan takes a liking to Stu.
The rest of the book deals with how Stu ultimately comes to accept his situation, but Stephan has to be broken. Issues such as gelding, hatred of the bit, escaping only to be captured again, the danger of resisting when they could easily be shot and made into glue, and high-class vs. low-class horses are all explored and dealt with with varying degrees of pain and anguish.
The drawings of the "horses" are very disturbing and unnatural--humans shouldn't bend in those ways, their backs shouldn't be so straight, and their arms shouldn't be so long. But of course, as "horses," they have to be shaped that way in the front. Still, it's jarring to look at them, which gives the book a lot of power. Are they men? Are they horses? Something more or less than either?
One small objection I have to this book is that the two soldiers don't spend any time wondering how they became Turbs. Though there are a few Tudans who speak "horse," as well as some Tracs and other Turbs who can speak English, neither Stu nor Stephan ask anyone what's going on. This behavior (or lack thereof) could be explained by mental changes that came with the physical ones, but with no attempt at explanation we are left with speculation. Hopefully, Barr will address this issue in future books.
This offbeat, intriguing book would be suitable for adults and teenagers, though it might be disturbing to some people. But Bosom Enemies does an excellent job of shaking up our preconceptions about many things. And isn't that what good literature is supposed to do?
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