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Effendi: The Second Arabesk
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Simon & Schuster Earthlight, 384 pages

Effendi: The Second Arabesk
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta, and grew up in Malta, England, the Far East and Norway. He has worked as a publisher and a journalist. His novels include neoAddix, Lucifer's Dragon, reMix and redRobe. He lives in Winchester.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
SF Site Excerpt: Effendi
SF Site Excerpt: Pashazade
SF Site Review: Pashazade
Extract from redRobe
Extract from reMix
Extract from Lucifer's Dragon

Pasha-Movie by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

Ashraf al-Mansur aka Ashraf Bey is the chief of police of El Iskandryia. It is not an enviable position, given that someone is butchering the city's tourists and the political elite wants him to stop the attacks or else. Although the alternatives aren't clearly spelled out for him, he knows that the city's future as a quasi-free city state hinges on the outcome. Added to his woes are the new charges of crimes against humanity levelled against Hamzah Effendi. He is the father of Zara, the woman offered to him in marriage, and perhaps the richest man in the city. Ashraf Bey turned down the offer, much to her family's shame and embarrassment, but found he couldn't keep away from her.

Effendi is set in the mid-east of a different 21st century world where the Ottoman Empire rules and Germany didn't lose WWI. All are beholden to the Kaiser and Berlin is its centre. As Ashraf Bey enters the city governor's office, he figures he's going to be chided for his lack of success solving the cities woes and finds himself promoted to running the city and the governor. Earlier, he thought he was in over his head; now he isn't sure which way is up. All he has is bluff and bluster plus his AI-augmented brain to keep him going. Now his AI, nicknamed Fox, is short-circuiting and won't answer his calls for assistance. Things are swirling out of control.

Pashazade: The First Arabesk introduced us to Ashraf Bey, his family and those central to his life. It started with him incarcerated in a U.S. prison serving a sentence for a murder he didn't commit. He is kidnapped and spirited away to El Iskandryia by those who think he is the bastard of a North African leader, the Emir of Tunis, who keeps tabs on all of his children. There, he learns what it means to be an adult; to be responsible for family (his niece, in this case), to be responsible for himself (he must solve a murder he is accused of committing) and to be responsible for others (city denizens powerless in the face of the corruption and abuse by those who rule them). By the end of the book, he thinks he's got this adult thing pretty well figured out. Foolish boy.

During the beginning chapters of Effendi, events are happening in synch with those in the latter stages of Pashazade. But Jon Courtenay Grimwood doesn't just rehash them; rather he uses an alternative point of view. Now, I've read many series where the second book blends in the end of the first to give readers a sense of what has happened and to give events a sense of context. This is expected; writers don't want the reader to wonder who are these people and why are they doing what they are doing. They do it for readers who haven't read the first book. The flow of these pages in Effendi so startled me, that I paused and asked what is this guy doing? Rather than using memories and flashbacks, Jon Courtenay Grimwood tells us of familiar Pashazade events from another character's point of view. Smiling, I thought this guy is good. He's got a grizzled reader pausing in amazement at the dexterity of his dazzling prose.

Through each chapter of Effendi, we follow the steps of Ashraf Bey as he tries to keep control of an ever-disintegrating situation controlled partially by others who want him to fail and for the city to fall under a stranglehold by Berlin, the steps of Zara who is striving to understand the charges against her father, the steps of Hani, the talented yet odd niece of Ashraf, who is culling the city's history for clues to who may be stage-managing the downfall of her uncle's city and the steps of Hamzah Effendi who is flashing back to the days of his youth as a child-fighter in the loosely organized war-crew of Colonel Abad. Jon Courtenay Grimwood has woven them together with flair and panache that makes it one of the finest novels I've read in some time. No hand puppets here with fingers waggling. It takes talent to startle and surprise me after reading so many thousands of books. I just never could figure out what was coming next. Such a treat.

Let me take a moment and tell you about the effect Jon Courtenay Grimwood's words had on me. I was lost in the story when I came upon the following:

"Adults might labour upstream against their grief but children step in and out of sadness, trailing it after them in damp footprints."
My breath stopped, my throat closed, my irises dilated and a tingling ran up my spine. It was one of those epiphany-like moments. It is why I read and what I look for. I found it within the covers of Effendi: The Second Arabesk.

Copyright © 2002 Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."

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