The Green Book, by Amal El-Mohtar.
This story suffered and through no fault of its own. I see a story with a book of forbidden and ancient writings and I think, ‘Oh, FFS, another Lovecraft story?’ The Green Book has nothing to do with Lovecraft. It’s poetical and startlingly original, and left a longing in my heart like the echo of a A-minor chord. This is a story for anyone who’s ever fallen in love with a book.
50 Fatwas for the Virtuous Vampire, by Pamela K. Taylor.
Ah! A vampire story! Vampires are so entwined with the Western–well, Victorian–idea of the sexual predator in our culture it’s almost impossible for me to come to a vampire story without bringing that baggage. The interest in this story is the fatwas which allow the vampire to live a righteous life in keeping with Allah’s teachings. They’re interesting, and create a world far larger than the small confines of the story. My problem with it is that the female who attracts the vampire’s interest is objectively ‘pure’ and entirely dis-empowered. She’s an object to be traded by the empowered men. But maybe I’m missing the point; maybe the point is to highlight the dis-empowerment of women in Egyptian law and society. Maybe the virtuous vampire is the benevolent despot who presumes to know what’s best for their people without ever listening to them.
The Faithful Soldier, Prompted, by Saladin Ahmed.
There’s something I don’t like about wetware stories, and I think it’s the fact that the author assumes transhumanist computer technology will work the same way our computer technology works today. I mean, when has the future ever looked the way the past thought it would? We have the ‘robotic domestic assistants’ the sixties was so enamoured with, but they’re not bipedal, clunky robots like the maids there were going to replace. They’re self-guided vacuums, CPU controlled central heating, Internet shopping… That aside, the idea driving this story was worth the words. An old soldier is prompted by his malfunctioning wetware OS to travel the dangerous roads to try and save the love of his life. The writing felt like it was missing something, though, like a gear trying to turn without enough teeth.
Kamer-taj the Moon-horse from Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales, compiled by Dr. Ignácz Kúnos.
I’m not going to review what appears to be a traditional Turkish fairy tale. It’s a wonderful story with a magical horse who is, by all accounts, awesome. Great to see it in Apex.
Me and Rumi’s Ghost, by Samer Rabadi.
Love poems–poems about love–should read like this. It’s gentle and fills the whole world.
Tur Disaala, by Jawad Elhusuni
I can appreciate how attractive the idea of the New World being discovered and by someone other than the Europeans must be if other people, but rewriting the US’s history has no emotional resonance for me, no matter who’s doing the rewriting.
Al Manara Dirge, by Sara Saab
This prose-poem lost me. Beautiful words, but no idea what the story is.
So, this Home Counties boy living in Wales judges this issue to be a success! The Green Book is the story which makes it worth it, but Me and Rumi’s Ghost and Kamer-taj the Moon-horse are pieces I enjoyed and am glad to have read, and 50 Fatwas for the Virtuous Vampire has enough world-building and implied questions to hold its head up high.
Am I any more enlightened about the Arabic/Islamic world? Well, no. But I’m a bit more enlightened about the worlds of six more writers.