Hello hello! It’s time for me to highlight my favourite reads of the past month and for March three Novellas really stood out for me. The first two were set in an alternate steampunk Cairo and follow investigators for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities as they look into disturbances throughout the city, and the third is set in a dystopian version of Earth where a Monk meets a Robot who asks him ‘ what do humans need.’ They were all unique and quirky reads, and even though shorter than full length still managed to pack a punch. What were your favourite March reads? Let me know in the comments.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo & The Haunting of Tram Car 015.
Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.
“When I was in school in Luxor I would see these photographs of Englishmen and Frenchmen who visited Egypt, before the djinn came. Mostly they were in suits. But sometimes they’d put on a jellabiya and headscarf. I found out they called it ‘going native.’ To look exotic, they said…’
‘Anyway, when I bought my first suit, the English tailor asked me why I wanted it. I told him I wanted to look exotic.”
“Even now, you fail to grasp the strength of my conviction.” And with those last words, he plunged the three blades through his body—one stabbing into his chest, a second ripping apart the armor surrounding his heart, and a third sliding through the metallic links of his neck. Bright fluid like the blood of a star poured from the wounds. He swayed, then toppled to crash upon the ground and was still.
“Well, that was unexpected,” Siti remarked.”
“Except,” Hamed put in, “if what you say is possible, women could have thought up the al just as easily.” Abla shook her head sternly. “No woman would ever think up something so ridiculous.”
I picked these up because I have an arc of the full length novel follow on and I am so glad I did, we got a fantastic introduction to the world and characters that I’m sure will play a large part in the book. They were funny, but also poignant and I absolutely flew through them.
A Psalm for the Wild Built
It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
“You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to just exist in this world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.”
“I’d say you’re more than just an object,’ Dex said. The robot looked a touch offended. ‘I would never call you just an animal, Sibling Dex.’ It turned it’s gaze to the road, head held high. ‘We don’t have to fall into the same category to be of equal value.”
This book was hilarious, quirky and also heartwarming, I would definitely pick up anything else Chambers chose to write in this ‘world’ and would love to go on some more adventure with Sibling Dex Splendid Speckles Mosscap!