All and all these stories were both strange and wonderful. Being that I’m an American, who while I didn’t support the Iraq war, I still feel a strong burden of regret and sorrow to have invaded and virtually destroyed a nation that has such a rich culture.
I feel that I know Iraq a little bit better through these stories, written by Iraqi natives and ex-pats. Each had a strong flavor of their own while embodying the storytelling mode that I’ve often found in writers from the Middle-East. They are a rich pleasure to read, even if some of the finer notes are lost on me, being so far removed from that country and culture. The anthology itself felt more literary then science fiction and even the elements of sci-fi felt more watered down with fantastical qualities.
The forward and afterword that editor, Hassan Blasim, uses to introduce and close out the anthology were helpful to readers not familiar with the “Iraqi expreience” and eases the reader in. The pacing of the stories was slow and it took me some time to get through some of the stories, but the concepts were all interesting and rather inventive. I wouldn’t expect to find these on Western bookshelves. Everything from talking statues, time-traveling spirits, and tiger droids, it was widespread.
I recommend it to readers looking for something “different” to read as well as understand the mark foreboding cloud that seems to hang over all of these stories. The reality of war isn’t gone from any of these stories. If anything, I believe I appreciate this collection more by intention and message than content. I’m glad the writers are grappling with the meaning of their country after all this war. I hope that they eventually find peace and hope from it.