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by Bina Shah

Pub Date: May 16th, 2023
ISBN: 9781953002235
Publisher: Delphinium

A women’s fighting force becomes embroiled in a war to liberate their country from an oppressive patriarchal regime.

In this sequel to Shah’s Before She Sleeps (2018), readers return to Mazun, a Middle Eastern country formed after a nuclear war between Pakistan and India. In the long aftermath of that “Final War”—due partly to fallout and partly to “the Virus,” a cancer mutation that killed only women—society was left with a surplus of men. Thus, the women in Mazun are forced to take multiple husbands and bear as many children as possible. Some women take refuge in the Panah, an urban underground network of companions to wealthy men, as told in Shah’s first Mazun novel. Here, Shah offers a wider view of collective resistances. There is Alia, a rural wife in a rugged mountain village who appears a dutiful member of the system but who resists by raising her daughters as boys (lest they be plucked up by “Collectors” and married away) and by serving as an Ababeel: “a secret spy and helper of the Hamiyat”—a band of female insurgents that has existed since the time of the war. Alia’s contact in the Hamiyat is Katy Azadeh, a young fighter currently being nursed back to health in Semitria, a utopian neighboring country, after an attack. Katy herself is under the command of Fatima Kara, though she soon discovers that Kara, and the entire Hamiyat, is in the hands of powers larger than she could have ever guessed. Shah moves through multiple women’s perspectives, each playing different roles as resistors, and though the story may contain familiar tropes, the result is a cinematic mashup of spy tale, geopolitical SF, and war epic.

Shah ups the action and the stakes in this second foray into a feminist dystopia.