The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z Hossain

Melek Khamar, the Lord of Tuesday, has been asleep for ~3000 years and wakes up to a world where humans have salted the earth (or more accurately, the air) and require nanotech implants to survive. It doesn’t take too long for Melek Khamar (note he always refers to himself using his full name, the first indications of his self-importance) to begin his plans to take over again – because why not? That’s what he does. This might be shallow reasoning elsewhere but the entire novella is so self-aware, the read and author are acutely aware that it’s the childish plan of a magnanimous ruler.

The Lord of Tuesday (a very prestigious title we’re told, there’s only seven days after all) receives help from the mysterious very disturbing outcast Bhan Gurung who likes nothing more than a good genocidal night out and a bag of pistachios. Together they try to take over Kathmandu which has become one of the most advanced cities worldwide. I really like that the story is set here rather than the traditional settings of London/Tokyo etc. It makes sense that a djinn would wake up in Southeast Asia. Too often an author will try to force the location to be their hometown (understandably so); it’s very cool to see a city be used more organically.

Kathmandu is ruled by an AI called Karma which freely provides basic needs (food, water, shelter etc) to everyone. Money has been abolished, replaced with a karma system – good deeds build up one’s karma count, letting them use it as a currency. It’s an interesting depiction of a utopian post-capitalist society while deconstructing why the concept didn’t work as perfectly as its designers intended. A serious critique of this situation a la Brave New World would be fascinating but it’s a mistake to think this book is that. Extremely tongue-in-cheek, The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday mocks the vain, hyper-masculine warrior god trope in a gonzo, crackpot, lightning fast story. It parodies and exaggerates sword-and-sorcery heroes, but does so affectionately.

With characters like Gurung, who keeps pushing towards the goal of conquering the city by playing on an immortal, all-powerful djinn’s insecurities pride, and ReGi, the teenage djinn who grants wishes (read: sells weed) and listens to classic kpop, the book is impossible to take seriously. 

It’s absurd, hectic, and hilarious while prodding the redaer along with just some light commentary on the dangers of utopian society and AI-controlled decision making. Immediately after finishing the book, Escape to Baghdad! jumped straight to the top of my TBR – and perhaps that’s the simplest and most effective endorsement of the book I can give.

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