Anoud’s story of a woman pledged to be married to Mullah Hashish, who attacks her would-be husband when he tries to rape her, escapes to the American Annex of Sulaymania and becomes poster-girl for the refugee women the war has left only to be cast aside and forgotten when the media had no further use for her, is the opening story of the anthology, and starts the book off on a remarkably down note. (It does have an Informative Footnote, though, and we know how much I love an informative footnote.)
This story is more prosaic than some in the collection; there is little about it that is either science fictional or fantastic, and the main speculative elements come from simply imagining that the world in 100 years isn’t all that much different from the world now. There is no clear setting, and except for a few sparse details that impact on the plot hardly at all, the story could be set contemporarily. The result of this is that one comes away from the story with the feeling that nothing ever really changes.
The narrative voice shifts from a bird’s eye, abstracted account, to a close personal telling from Kahramana’s point of view, to clips from reporters and interviews. Each is distinctive from the other and together they provide the reader with both close and far views of the world. But whichever view is taken, what is seen is not very hopeful. I’ve actually read this story twice now: Once when I first received the anthology, and then again now to review it. Between starting the anthology off with this story, and the one that follows it (“The Gardens of Babylon”), the first time around I did not get a very good picture of what the collection as a whole would be like — which is partly why I’m reviewing them out of order for SFFReviews.