Medium-future love story from the author of Mission Child (1998), etc. In an alternate world, in a country named Morocco, plain, unassuming servant Hariba has been “jessed,” bonded chemically and neurologically to her employer/owner. Another member of the household is handsome, calm Akhmim, a harni (android) whose genes are part human, part artificial and whose loyalty to his owner is inbred. At first wary—harni are regarded as anathema by traditional Moroccans—Hariba comes to admire and then love Akhmim. But she also earns the enmity of her owner's wife; this becomes intolerable, so Hariba is sold. Her new owner is a kindly woman, but Hariba can't forget Akhmim; she visits him on her days off, and soon he bonds to her in a process akin to love. They run away to live in Nekropolis, a city of tombs where many poor folk make their home. Hariba, though, unable to evade the jessing, grows dangerously ill while Akhmim works as a prostitute and tour guide. With Hariba apparently dying, Akhmim seeks out her mother; she takes Hariba in but, being very traditional, drives Akhmim away. With help, Hariba makes a temporary recovery; the couple decide to try and run away to Spain, where no slavery is permitted. But, as Hariba will discover, running away merely exchanges one set of problems for another.
Beautifully rendered, but banal and thin despite the distracting multiple first-person narrators. McHugh raises some substantial issues but doesn't trouble to explore them.