Genre: Alternate Future
Published: Earthlight, 2003
Purchased: Freebie, Concourse, Blackpool
ISBN: 0-7434-6117-7 (HB)
This is the third Arabesk novel (following Pashazade and Effendi), and it relies to a large extent on the reader having read those. The setting is somewhere in the near future, in a world where things when slightly differently in the early 20th Century, with the result that El Iskandriya (Alexandria) is a free city, pullulating with agents and smugglers, and rich with life. Ashraf Bey - Raf for short - is the hero. He's been the police chief. He's got interesting political connections due to apparently being the son of the Emir. He's got an artificial intelligence embedded in his skull. And life is getting interesting again.
The great part of this is that Grimwood has invented a society that is full of detail. It's strongly based, of course, on the real North African society, and that gives it depth, but it strongly differs as well, due to the different political events that have lead to it.
If you've not read the preceding novels, then you've missed a treat. If you have, then you'll need no urging to read this. I was waiting for this to arrive in paperback with a certain amount of impatience, but the 2004 Eastercon committee had managed to get a large number of copies available, free to attendees. Whoohoo.