Thursday, March 26, 2009
A Mosque Among the Stars
A MOSQUE AMONG THE STARS
Edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmed and Ahmed A. Khan, this anthology features 12 SF stories (originals and reprints) that portray Islam or Muslim characters in a friendly light.
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ISBN 978 -0-9783057-1-0
Cover art by Lee Kuruganti
Mr. Khan and Mr. Ahmad have gathered eleven short stories and one novella into a sharp, thought-provoking anthology featuring Islamic or Moslem characters and/or themes that show us their world in a positive light. I found it a quick read. Many of the stories stayed with me long after putting the book down. To mention a few,
Lucius Shepard’s “A Walk through the Garden” is intelligent, with strong characterization and a graphically drawn setting. It explores not only the possibility of a literal Islamic Hell, but the minds and souls of the U.S. soldiers who find themselves trapped in a surreal situation. I loved the discussions of faith and religions and the depictions of the landscapes and dangers of this hell. The main character is Wilson, a combat veteran who at first doesn’t question his role in life. By the end of the story Wilson’s character has gone through loss, disillusionment and Hell itself, and we care what becomes of him. No wonder Mr. Shepard won the Hugo award, among others. He knows how to take the reader into the depths of the human mind, which may be an even more fantastic realm than Hell itself.
Donna McMahon’s “Squat” introduces a society where cruelty, death and injustice are everyday occurrences. The plight of a young boy is described and his fate hangs in the balance. A dilemma presents itself when Mike, a guard at an interstellar prison, is called on to witness the execution of young “Pajit”, the only name we are given for the innocent boy who is to be killed. Governmental red tape has condemned him to die, yet Mike wishes to save him. Khalifa, the executioner, begins as an adversary but by the end of the tale we find that the one Mike expected to fight him has been a true friend.This story has much to say about social prejudices. It's a solid read.
The rest of the stories are wonderfully written, with tight plotting, sympathetic characterization and close attention to internal logic. The settings are descriptive. The suspense is chilling.
This is a must read for anyone who appreciates great fiction.