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Pashazade Paperback – March 1, 2005
A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at beyond the speed of light. The beacons are built to be robust. They never fail. At least, they aren't supposed to. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
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“A mature balance between sensibility and action in what's essentially a rite of passage story allied with a detective thriller—deftly told and laced with neat ideas.” —Time Out
“Near perfect.” —Murder One
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Top Customer Reviews
But other than that, Pashazade's overly ambitious, impossibly complicated--it wants to be too many things: alt-history, cyberpunk, a whodunit, a hardboiled noir escapade, and a coming of age story.
Nobody could accomplish all that in 360 pages, and while Mr. Grimwood comes closer than you'd ever expect, he doesn't entirely succeed.
The alt-hist (the Ottoman Empire survived into the 21st century) is just laid out, and not developed at all (the book could have been set in Alexandria 20 years from now and it wouldn't have made much difference); the cyberpunk is faux Gibson, right down to the product placements (and it's amazing how many of the products are the same in this world, despite the radical changes a brokered WWI, leaving the Kaiser and the Austro-Hungarian intact, would have been); there aren't enough good clues for a good whodunit, so in the end the mystery is solved because the author says it is, not on account of any internal logic; the noir is acceptable, but no more (i.e., about what you'd expect); and the coming of age might have been handled better if the book weren't so danged flashbacky (one of the flashbacks, which ought to have been the book's prologue) actually interrupts the grand finale.
Still in all, the book never bores; it just frustrates.
Aunt Nafisa introduces Ashraf to her niece nine year old Hani and his future wife Zara daughter of wealth; both hate him because the fuss made over him interferes with their respective lives. However, before his aunt can complete arrangements for his entrance into the elite of Ottoman society, she is killed. As a newcomer and the sole heir to her fortune, the police suspect Ashraf murdered his aunt. Based on his American experience with Chinese employers, Ashraf knows he must prove his innocence or be railroaded into prison or worse. His only help comes from two females who loath him.
PASHAZADE is a fabulous futuristic amateur sleuth tale built on an alternate historical foundation to include Germany winning World War I and the Ottoman Empire thriving in the early twenty-first century. The who-done-it is cleverly handled so that mystery buffs have a solid investigative tale with some intriguing police procedural elements. The cast is terrific. Ashraf also known as ZeeZee struggles with what he has learned about his patriarchal ancestry (his mother could not provide two consistent responses as her version of the truth kept wavering) and with his aunt's death. Hani and Zara add depth to Ashraf's character. However, the star is the city of El Iskandryia where fundamentalist Islamic and western hedonists share a troubled past and shop at Wal-Mart.
Grimwood's story is a fairly off-the-rack "reluctant hero" tale about Ashraf, a small time hoodlum unexpectedly sprung from jail in the U.S. and brought to Alexandria/Iskandriya by an aunt he didn't know he had. Apparently he's the son of the Bey of Tunis, and therefore a very important young man with carte blanche and legal immunity to almost anything. However, it's clear that he's also got all kinds of genetic modifications, the source of which is left deliberately murky. He's also got some kind of invisible advisor fox (in D&D days, we would have called it a familiar), and a whole host of issues. Soon after his arrival in "Isk", his aunt is killed and the police seem to think he did it. So naturally, he must carry out his own investigation in order to clear his name -- with the help of a ponytailed ex-American Chief of Police. At the same time, Ashraf's past -- from lonely boarding school upbringing, to working for Seattle Chinese gangster Mu San -- is measured out in italicized flashbacks.
Actually, the entire first third of the book is rather confusingly arranged, with chapters in reverse chronological sequence and shifting points of view.Read more ›
Pashazade is nominally sf - it's set in an alternate universe in 2106 or so, one in which President Wilson, rather than intervening in World War I, negotiated a settlement that left the old empires intact. The setting, al-Iskandriah under 21st Century Ottoman rule, is the star of the book as Los Angeles in the 40s starred in classic noir.
And sun-baked, redolent, languid noir it is. Pashazade reminded me of a blend of first-season Veronica Mars and Chinatown - the hero with a personal stake in a killing rooted in local politics, intrigue and corruption. Add a post-cyberpunk, quite broken reluctant hero, an utterly annoyance-free precocious kid and a lovely billionaire's daughter, and you've got ultramodern noir at its finest.
But more than just a fine example of a genre updated - I've fallen in love with al-Iskanriah in a way I have with very, very few story settings: the Rome of the early Falco novels, the city of Amber, the Federation, the beach in front of Troy - it's a very short list of places for a lifetime of reading. Al-Iskandriah is that vivid, that intriguing, that layered and nuanced and real.
And Grimwood can turn a phrase, too - there are a lot of subtle gems of prose, nothing too garish for someone who does *not* like an obtrusive or mannered style.
At last year's ComiCon, I was given an Advance Reading Copy of the sequel, Effendi. I'm headed back to the Ottoman Empire's greatest free port...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Arabesque trilogy is a cyberpunk detective novel that takes place in an alternate timeline in which the Ottoman Empire held together indefinitely. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Jay
The cover was what entranced me and I was soon lost in a later 20th century revived Ottoman Empire with a fascinating hero/anti-hero Raf. Human, shell-shocked?, robot?, superman? Read morePublished on June 14, 2013 by Lockett F. Ballard
If you think that murder mysteries need vicars or tortuous plots, where the last chapter reveals all then put the kettle and I'll finish before you come back. Read morePublished on July 13, 2008 by John
Jon Courtenay Grimwood is not well known in the USA, I was recommended this book by a fan from Australia. Read morePublished on April 6, 2008 by Sean Riley
This is a murder mystery set in Alexandria, Egypt in a slightly futuristic but nearly contemporary time. Read morePublished on January 5, 2008 by Book Reviewer 2009
As a big fan of 'alternate reality' fiction and sci-fi, I figured that 'Pashazade' would be a perfect fit for me.
Unfortunately, I'm alsa a fan of 'good' fiction. Read more
An ex-low level triad involved gangster ends up back in his native Arabic city, that is pro free trade and a little more cosmopolitan than your usual Islamic joint, not that that... Read morePublished on September 3, 2007 by average
Pashazade is a novel with a unique premise that fails to fulfill its potential. It is a cyberpunk mystery set in an alternate future wherein the Ottoman Empire was not destroyed as... Read morePublished on March 27, 2006 by Rich Gubitosi