I think by now I’ve made my huge admiration for Saad Z. Hossain and his djinn meets cyberpunk books. After finding his two novellas, I’ve decided to make my way back through the rest of his work, starting with Cyber Mage, which exists in very similar territory, probably because those two novellas are best seen as loose sequels.
To everyone who has been tricked into reading a series out of sequence by me and my relentless promotion of The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday – I am not remotely sorry.
Reading Cyber Mage with a pretty darn good idea of what was going to happen in some arcs was really fascinating though, but then I found Cyber Mage fascinating regardless.
Cyber Mage revolves around two men. The fist is the eponymous hero, Murzak, a teenager who just wants to play games, hack interesting things, and get with the hottest girl at school – even to the point of actually going to school. Then there’s Djibrel, a street merc with a bad attitude, a sharp machete, and usually a severed head. Gotta sever their heads to start all the nanotech doing funky things with allegedly dead people. Although you get the feeling Djibrel would do that anyway.
Revolving around them is a cast of hackers, djinn in orbit, Russian mobsters, school bullies, technological geniuses, and really powerful AIs. It all adds up to awful news and Murzak and Djibrel bounce from disaster to disaster like a rave in a heavily mined bouncy castle.
It’s probably easier for me to list the things I didn’t like about Cyber Mage. There was a lot of exposition – the state of this world, the power of djinn and technology, the computer game Murzak played, and so on. There were times I thought to myself “I’m sure this paragraph could be cut in half somehow”. I might be wrong about this. This world does genuinely need its exposition. But I still thought it.
Everything else was splendid. The characters were as colourful as pollution’s brightest sunset. The twists involved in the plotting were uncannily good. I don’t want to live in Hossain’s version of the future but I want to visit and then get thoroughly drunk enough that I don’t notice the similarities to our own when I get bad.
Cyber Mage only confirmed my belief I should tout Hossain to all my friends. Now I’ve just got to go read the others so I stop recommending books out of order…