At other times, the plot feels predictable because of its rushedness. For instance, when streetwise smuggler Ashraf and tough-but-principled special forces soldier Tova meet, you instantly think "gee, I wonder if these two are going to fall in love despite the vast differences that separate them."
(Cairo came out in like 2007, so a) it is obviously set in a very different Egypt, and b) the consensus seems to be that Wilson has tackled those problems.)
So Cairo the actual story is not as good as Cairo the modern 1,001-Nights fantasy concept. But that's OK! It was still a fun read, and on this blog we have a very special place for books that are full of good ideas but don't necessarily cohere as single works of art. And that place is: The Swipe File! Let's do this:
- People grow an intoxicating drug in the wilderness. Animals graze on it and wander around high.
- "The jinn have a right to the empty places."
- A wounded soldier accidentally strays into enemy(?) territory.
- "How is life as a wandering mystic?"
- "There is another river beneath the Nile and it flows backwards."
- A randomly-looted item turns out to be the important McGuffin.
- Water drips upward (fine, Prince of Darkness, but it's still cool).
- Jinn can fuck with probability, but they can't make anything because that's God's deal.
- A door within a labyrinth is visible only to some.
- "I am Nar, well-dressed drug lord and magician."
- Knowledge of mythology and tradition allows explorers to intuit the dungeon map.
- "The wanderer who knocks in the cold hour before dawn, keeper of small horrors and subduer of great ones." That is a pretty good demon name.
So there you go. Inspiration is everywhere, and I definitely got my £1.95 worth out of this book. And even though I wasn't totally thrilled with it, I will definitely check out that Ms Marvel run to see how the author tackles a superhero character.