I love, love, love me some djinn. Whether they’re good, or bad, or a bit of both, I love djinn. Possessing people, living in a lamp, or granting wishes- It is allllll good. So, of course when I learned that there was an anthology coming that was full of djinn stories, well, I jumped all over it. I pre-ordered it, in fact. So, I started reading it on release day.
So, that said, I’m kind of ashamed at how long it took me to read, especially since I did really, really enjoy it! But, on the other hand, I read anthologies story by story in between other books/life/when I don’t want something longer. To me, that’s what they are for. Sometimes, I’ll get in the bath and read a story, or a story over lunch break every now and then. So, you could say that I took my time and savored this one! 🙂
A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.
Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.
Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.
They are the Djinn. They are among us.
With stories from: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Helene Wecker, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North, E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.
A djinn I am.
My fetters may be broke but
still they wrap round wrist and ankle:
every djinn’s possessed.
It’s not often that I find an anthology in which I truly enjoy every story presented. I mean, it’s hard to please someone 100% of the time, amirite? That said, I didn’t dislike any of these stories, and that’s quite an achievement. I had only heard of 4 of the authors before, and only read 3 of them, so this was a lovely dive into a new an exciting world. I especially liked that this group of authors was really diverse, and I loved seeing the djinn from all these different points of view. Many different cultures come together to tell stories here, and it was awesome.
My favorite story of the bunch was Helene Wecker’s Majnun, partially because I just loved the story itself, but I think the fact that her novel The Golem and the Jinni is one of my favorite books of all time influences this somewhat, and therefore when I saw the name Helene Wecker correspond to a story about djinn in an anthology about djinn, well… I squeed. I squeed myself. It was a great story, that even within the 10 or so minutes it took to read, made me really like its characters.
I had other favorite stories in here as well. The story Reap by Sami Shah was really interesting in that it told the story from the point of view of American soldiers using drone technology to watch a small village in Pakistan, so you see this whole story and its (in this case, quite terrifying) djinn in a different way. The people being watched seem to know what is happening, what is terrorizing them, but the people watching have no idea what’s happening, and when strange things begin to happen to them too, it takes it to a legitimately scary level. It’s really quite interesting to think of what an outsider would think in that situation.
The story Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley was also really interesting to me because the djinn takes the form of a gun, and the whole story has a bit of a western… or perhaps almost a post-apocalyptic western feel to it. It had not one by two of my favorite quotes from this whole anthology in it: ‘A hunter is always looking for wishes to come true, and if it takes blood and rending to get them, then it does.’ and ‘Wishing for love is like wishing for more wishes.’ Just fantastic!
Kuzhali Manickavel’s How We Remember You was nice and short, and also beautifully written. The story just pulled me in. It was a lament, or an apology, or a bit of both. It was nostalgic, and sad. Very well done. Also, and this is a bit of an aside, this is a piece of work that I can show people that shows how a story can be beautifully written, while at the same time, have the word ‘fuck’ in it (because yes, I have had this argument).
A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar was another beautifully and cleverly told story which is, as the title suggests, told in birds. The djinn in this tale changes shapes as the story progresses, from one type of bird to the next to the next until they are, what can only be described as the ultimate bird. Because, when you’re just trying to survive in a crazy world of birds, one needs to become the bird to end all birds.
There is included in this lovely anthology one of my favorite parts of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which is named here Somewhere in America, which follows the (rather unexpected at times) exploits of Salim, a traveling salesman from Oman, and his encounter with a jinn in New York City.
In the end, this covers just some of the stories in this anthology, and as I said, I enjoyed all of them. I really enjoyed most of them. As far as anthologies go, it’s a win!