Thursday, February 20, 2003
Author: Jon Courntenay Grimwood
Publisher: Pocket Books
Effendi is the second Arabesk, the second in a series of books by the author Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Pashazade introduced us to the character of Ashraf Bey. Raf found himself part of the hierarchy of the free city of El Iskandryia, having been broken out of a Seattle prison. Once there he found himself accused of murder, with his attempts to clear his name finding him raised to the rank of Chief Of Detectives as we start Effendi.
Hamzah Effendi is the cities leading industrialist, owning clubs and refineries, having come from nothing to be an Effendi. However it seems that the nothing in question involved Hamzah being a child soldier in one of many of the wars that have taken place across North Africa in the last several decades. With this revelation comes the one that he may also be a mass murderer. The role of El Iskandryia in the world is a fragile one, Berlin, Paris and Washington all wanting to increase their power there. With the importance of Hamzah and the damage his crimes could do this looks like an opportunity for power plays to come into force.
As Effendi progresses there are increasing problems within the city. Clubs burnt down, tourists murdered and mutilated, electro pulse bombings that wipe out all the city's electronics. Throughout this, Raf is trying to retain control and deal with the situation with Hamzah, and how he feels for Hamzah's daughter. Though the more significant actions are perhaps taken by Raf's 9 year old nice Hani and Hamzah's bastard son Avatar - both free to do what they want compared to the bound Pashazade.
Grimwood is working in a variety of genres, as he has done since his first book neoAddix. Part alternate history, where he explored a future which stemmed from a Napoleonic France in his first series, he concentrates here on a future extended from a surviving Ottoman empire. Technology and violence were more heavily present in the environment of the Napoleonic sequence than here, though they are both present here. Technology and violence are more integrated, more subtle, more mature in the Arabesk. Which for me at least, makes them more interesting reading. There is also a certain element of crime involved in these novels, Raf being forced to play detective in Pashazade and actually being chief detective in Effendi. With murders and politics for him to get caught in the midst of in each.
The one negative aspect of the book was the way it starts. Effendi follows on close from Pashazade, to the degree that much of the first 50 pages actually seems to retread previous ground from a different point of view. To a certain extent this serves as contextualization, setting up the idea that Hamzah had been having problems anyway. Still the manner in which it is done feels like a disorientated déjà vu, distracting the reader rather than bringing them into the narrative. The likelihood is that this renders Effendi less readable to someone who hasn't read Pashazade already; there are certainly comments which could be considered to be spoilers. Though the joy of a continuity is following it and watching things fall into place, so that helps to negate some of those issues. Once the reader is in and past that early section the pacing is solid leaving Grimwood with another page turner on his hands.