Review of Hassan Abdulrazzak, “The Standard of Ur”, Apex Magazine 113 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
Adam has been sent from the British Museum to determine whether newly-stable Baghdad is safe enough to regain custody of a priceless artifact from their country, the Standard of Ur. His desire to see the recently discovered first city for himself leads him to take a detour that he may not live long enough to regret.
In this near future, climate change has ravaged the Middle East to the point that Adam and his guides can only go outside wearing special sun suits. To do otherwise risks almost immediate burns. Adam’s home in England, of course, has not been so strongly effected yet. It’s a prescient, chilling detail that highlights exactly who will suffer first from climate change.
The story weaves an engaging plot with some serious considerations of western imperialism, both its impact on the political situation in the Middle East and the theft of cultural artifacts from myriad countries, without ever getting bogged down. These are simply facts with the world of the narrative, facts which are deeply meaningful to two of the main characters for different reasons. The political awareness is deftly woven into the fabric of the narrative, and I appreciate the skill that takes.
If you like antiquities, ancient cultures, and politically aware writing, this story is not to be missed.