Salman Rushdie’s most famous book, Midnight’s Children earnt him the Booker Prize and The Satanic Verses earnt him a fatwa, with people calling for his assassination. As such I always felt he was probably a bit too thinky for me. But this new one looked fun and had a big friendly half price sticker on the front so here we are.
It was my summer holiday read, on the plane and trains and I felt like I whizzed through it. The story is weird. Our narrator is 1000 or so years in the future looking back on the great war of the worlds of our time. Not the Wellsian war of the worlds but the opening of slits between our world and Fairyland. And the entry into our world by the Jinn, smokeless fire creatures from the upper world.
Some of us call it a Fairytale. But on this we agree: that to tell a story about the past is to tell a story about the present.
Around 1000 years prior a Jinn princess had masqueraded herself as a young woman and had an affair with a disgraced philosopher. She had given birth to scores of half Jinn and half human children. Her lover eventually spurned her and she returned to Fairyland. Her descendants spread across the world. Now the Jinn are back and the evil Jinn are waging war against the human race and the Jinn princess must bring some of her descendants together to enact vengeance.
Well that’s a simplified plot synopsis! It reminded me of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell which I kind of liked but wasn’t sure if the fantasy stuff worked in it. This is much more out and out fantastical but I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it.
In Fairyland we do not speak of religion and our daily life there is utterly alien to life on earth, and, if I may say so, far superior.
There’s a lot in here on religion. The War between the Worlds is prompted and encouraged by a feud between two philosophers (the one from earlier and his rival) one who argues that ‘in God’s universe the only law is what God wills’ and the other who tried to reconcile reason and logic, and God and faith. All of the philosophy and religion was a bit heavy for me and a bit of a slog to get through. And the tone of the book is a bit all over the place. Some of it is really dense and full on, and other bits are chatty and casual.
I’m not sure the book totally ‘worked’ for me, it felt uneven (in tone), I also, occasionally, found it hard to keep track of who everyone was. And the narrator is from 1000 years into the future and keeps saying we can’t be sure what happened when describing events but then somehow knows what sexual position two of characters chose to use. Also I didn’t need Rushdie and his narrator to tell me quite so many times that, despite taking place in the past, future, Fairyland etc, its all really about us now. That seemed kinda obvious, even to me who usually needs to be hit in the face with these things.