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The Self-Avowed Geek
A Miscellany of Stuff and Stuff
Mosque among the Stars: A Rambling Not-Review 
25th-Apr-2009 08:43 am
Willie Nelson
Mosque among the Stars,edited by Ahmed A. Khan and Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, is a thick anthology at 250 pages.  Nearly the first half of the TOC is comprised of reprints and, like SF Waxes Philosophical, contains a brief introductory author bio along with some snippet of story background for your reading pleasure.

From the outset when Ahmed first proposed the idea--what seems a long time ago on his LJ and at the Asimov’s forum--I thought it’d be a good idea.  The main reason was equal parts under-representation, if you want to put it one way, and under-exploration, to put it another; I’m always down for pushing myself to read outside my comfort zones, be they artistic, philosophical, religious, whatever.  I went through a period several years ago where it was to sit down and read Lao Tzu, Confucius, The Bhagavad-Gita, The Upanishads, Zen Buddhist sword strategy texts.  Although I had to return the copy to a colleague, I also started reading the Koran several years ago.  You get the idea.  I just hadn’t read much science fiction with any Muslim or Arabic characters or perspectives unless you count some far-flung, far-future works like Frank Herbert’s Dune or Greg Bear’s Hegira.

Well, everything.  It’s not about tossing in a Muslim/Arabic character and calling it Muslim/Arabic-oriented science fiction no more than my just throwing in a Southern character in a story makes it Southern-oriented.  It’s about texture, and the TOC is a well-winnowed presentation of textures.  From the religious motifs to the scientific to the mathematical to the mythological, Ahmed and Muhammad have carefully chosen a buffet to present the reader.

A Few Personal Faves fer Ya

Andrew Ferguson’s “Organic Geometry” is a tight little story where I enjoyed the intersection of math and cricket and a character who came across as a figure striving for some order (see the reference to geometry).

My hands-down favorite was the time-travel adventure, “Cultural Clashes in Cadiz,” by Jetse de Vries.  He handles multiple settings and points of view quite well and weaves them together for a satisfying conclusion with a bit of a twist I thought I would’ve seen coming and didn’t, so my hat’s off to Jetse for the pleasant surprise.

As a rarity, I’m also posting perhaps my favorite line of dialogue from one story, “Servant of Iblis,” by Howard Jones.  It’s a character’s reaction to another character’s reaction involving an encounter with the mythical efreet: “’Efreet are notoriously difficult to control, and not given to subtley.  An efreet would not patiently leave messages, or steal monkeys.  At best it would have dismembered half the household as a warning.’”  See?  That’s good stuff, especially just mentioning a monkey.  

Camille Alexa’s story, “The Weight of Space and Metal,” involves the rigors of traveling to Mars and the mixing of crew by gender and cultural backgroung--the complications naturally arising from that--and she handles it in what I’ve come to expect as a trademark Camille Alexa ™ production of smooth-paced plotting, tightly accrued characterization, and just plain ol’ good writing.  I particularly loved the juxtaposition of the macro with space and the micro of the spaceship and Mars colony scenes.

And for a dose of humor, look no further than G.W. Thomas’s “Emissary.”

A Brief Word about Structure . . .

Now I pause to say that I am a sucker for well-structured stories, though, and among the ones I enjoyed for both content and structure were the offings by Lucius Shepherd, Ahmed himself, C. June Wolf (’cause I‘m even more a sucker for epistolary elements in storytelling), and Tom Ligon.

Honorable Mentions in The Self-Avowed Geek’s Book

The stories from McMahon, Taylor, and Miller are fine stories, too.  I hope to see some more of their work in future antho offerings from and know that Ahmed is cool about inviting or soliciting anthology alums back for another round.  

* A moment of disclosure and crow-eating.  My life and work have been busy enough that I forgot myself on being more prompt in delivering this review.  Initially, I wanted to do it two weeks ago (!!!), but began playing triage with other projects and letting myself get distracted to boot on other things.  So, I wanted to offer Ahmed an apology for dragging my feet.

25th-Apr-2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks for the nice review! And absolutely no need to apologize. You are not the last reviewer by far. About 4 more reviews yet to come.
25th-Apr-2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
You're quite welcome, and my pleasure.

Well, I appreciate the other bit, Ahmed. Really. I did feel the need to extend the courtesy.

I hope the other reviews are favorable, too.
25th-Apr-2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
I am, indeed, glad and grateful that all the reviews so far have been very encouraging. You can find links to these reviews here: http://ahmedakhan.livejournal.com/35608.html
25th-Apr-2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Sounds like we liked some of the same stories :-)

I've become a real Camille Alexa fan!
26th-Apr-2009 11:04 pm (UTC) - Thanks!
Thanks for your kind words on my blog. If you are interested in reading more of my stories you can find a whole bunch of them in my collection _Finding Creatures & Other Stories_. Now a moment of mild embarrassment after my, what do we call it? Oh, yes, shameless self-promotion. Cheers, and thanks for reviewing these deserving anthologies. Great to hear other people's thoughts on the stories.

26th-Apr-2009 11:17 pm (UTC) - Re: Thanks!
Hi, Casey. It's nice to meet you. You're quite welcome; it really was a pleasure reading both your stories.

And, hey, what's a little shameless self-promotion of the writerly kind among fellow writers/bloggers/etc.?
28th-Apr-2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
I'm a trademark!?!? Thanks, SAvG(copyright pending)!
28th-Apr-2009 08:17 pm (UTC) - 'cause I said so!
Yes, you *are* a trademark.

Can't wait to get me some copyright love!
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