This is a tremendously well-written and well-edited book, by an undoubted professional at the peak of his potential, though its narrative feels a touch obscure at times, perhaps abstract or even metaphorical in places. Whether it is set in a utopian or dystopian far-future is perhaps a matter of opinion at times, depending on what your ideal society looks like; I would veer more toward the latter, as there are touches of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Island about this one, particularly in the way selective reproduction and elitist eugenics are concerned. Of course, set many years after the third and so far the last nuclear war, the only living humans left in a completely decimated population are already the wealthiest, the strongest or the fittest, their fortunate fate sealed by their ancestors’ ability to make it into the tunnels and bunkers when the bombs dropped. The vast majority of this book’s content is really just to explain the social, political and military mechanics and covenants of this new world, many sown many years in our own past.
It sounds bleak, but in fact that isn't altogether the case, necessarily. Aly Brisha – who is eloquent and very sophisticated in his writing – portrays some of the advantages of this utopia/dystopia in favourable terms; for example, the population has tired of war, and the greed and hatred which caused them have all but become pointless and obsolete. There is also a very emphatic focus on the conservation of wildlife, as many of the remaining populace work in reserves. But the enslavement of children, coerced impregnation of women, forced amputations for a more productive body and the torture and execution of those not conducive to a successful society, I think, remove any ambiguity that the author is well and truly in the dystopia camp. Furthermore, for reasons perhaps not entirely explored, Aly seems to suggest that the majority (at least) of the surviving population are either ruled by Caliphates or belong to the sultans’ Mamluks; apologies if I am wrong, but I don’t recall any meaningful reference to surviving individuals outside of these ancient Arab cultures. This may not appeal to some readers, yet ironically I feel this may be somewhat closer to the true fate than any other post-apocalyptic future-Earth books I have read to date.
But the real benefit of this narrative is, of course, that the author shares his superb research and expertise into the ancient, somewhat under-reported Mamluk people, which were very much real. Additionally, even within the God-fearing societies, even the enslaved have achieved status in a world which has become, undeniably, far less problematic than our own present one; the only choice on Thunder Island (where most of the Earth’s population has migrated to, to be ruled) is whether or not you will comply. Of course, in the spirit of all good, bleak future books, there is actually no choice at all.
Like I said, I may have struggled a little at times to keep traction on a slippery narrative; the real star of this book is the author, Aly. He is tremendously good. I would be very interested to read more from him, perhaps more committal to the overall objective. But a great book, worth a read. If you like this exceptionally popular genre, you won’t find many as vivid and thought-provoking.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: aly-brisha arab-culture future post-apocalyptic nuclear-war bleak dystopian fiction drama caliphate mamluk social