A newly awakened djinn seeks to disrupt the calm of a seemingly utopian Kathmandu and falls in with company who may be even more dangerous to the orderly city than anyone realizes.
When Melek Ahmar, the Lord of Mars, the Red King, the Lord of Tuesday, Most August Rajah of Djinn, stumbles down from a mountain in the heart of the Himalayas, he’s peckish, crabby, and confused. Luckily, the first human he runs into, a Gurkha—or soldier—named Bhan Gurung, gives him food and explains the new world order to him: Society is now run by Karma, an artificial intelligence system which disseminates points to its citizens: “Points for service, points for good works…[with] mathematical prescience that would have beggared the Oracle of Delphi.” People communicate telepathically thanks to implants in their brains; nanotech cleans the environment and people's bodies of toxins. Gurung confides in the djinn that he has skirted this system by removing his implants, and he’s a “zero,” completely outside the system of Karma. The Falstaffian djinn thinks this means Gurung can find him a merry band of fellow zeroes to eat, drink, and carouse with. But Gurung’s motivations are as sinister as his past, and as agents working on behalf of Karma try to track down the soldier and the djinn, they head for a showdown that threatens everything the city is built on. Hossain (Djinn City, 2017, etc.) is a maximalist: In the space of this slim novel are elements of buddy comedy, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, and philosophy. But somehow it all comes together in an entertainingly madcap story that asks what it means to be a citizen and what equality really looks like.
A rollicking genre mashup that should appeal to SF/F fans and well beyond.