REVIEW: “Kuszib” by Hassan Abdulrazzak

Review of Hassan Abdulrazzak, “Kuszib”, Iraq+100, edited by Hassan Blasim (Comma Press, 2016): 115-138 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Of all the stories in this anthology that I’ve read so far, this one is by far the most strange. Abdulrazzak imagines a world a century from now where aliens have taken over and humans are reduced to the status of farm animals, and it is from the point of view of the aliens that the story is told (this confused me at first when wine-drinking was mentioned, but was cleared up quite quickly). Through their eyes, we are given a picture of humanity which picks up on all our flaws, our hubris, and our lack of civilization. When the aliens land at Centre Point, which used to be called “Baggy-Dad” in the archaic human language of “Arabaic”, they laugh at the fact that the people of “Newey Pork”, “Lindon”, and “Beige-inn” are all insulted that their cities were not the ones chosen as the invasion site. But “humans were never that good at logic”, the aliens are all taught, and they are uncivilized too, whatever they think. It is easy for those newly arrived conquerors to conclude that their technological superiority translates into superiority in all contexts. From there, it is an easy step to the hunting, herding, and farming of human beings, a thread running through the story whose treatment is just casual enough to make it entirely unsettling.

The story contains more erotic elements than others in the book — fair warning for anyone who would prefer to avoid anything explicit — but these elements are handled with a good measure of humor. It is refreshing to see that alien sex is amusing not because it is alien but because it is sex.

This is the first story in the collection where I have noticed some editorial issues. There is a distinct lack of commas setting off the addressee of speech, and two typos — one “it’s” for “its” on p. 124 and one “pour” for “pore” on p. 123.