Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
This novel, according to Rushdie's website, is "a wonder tale about the way we live now, a rich and multifaceted work that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story to bring alive a world – our world – that has been plunged into an age of unreason. Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling tradition yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment ...." This retrospective tale of the events that happened in the 21st century, when a huge storm sparked what historians a thousand years later would call the "strangenesses." When that happened, it opened cracks closed for over eight hundred years between earth and the realm ruled by the jinni. After one thousand and one nights of the strangenesses, came the War between the Worlds. That war, seeded in the 12th century, grew from the vastly different views of the theologian Ghazali and the philosopher Ibn Rushd. In addition, the many progeny and multitudes of their descendants from the jinnia princess Dunia, who came down to earth and fell in love with Ibn Rushd, will play instrumental parts in that war.
Imagine if you will, a novel that looks at all of the ills in society today, and takes each and every one of them on, weighing them against the forces of good and evil, as well as looks at them through both the lenses of reason and faith (or religion). That is exactly what this book does, while mixing fantasy and magic, with reality, history, legends, philosophy, religion and a vision for the future together with handfuls of humor and pop culture tossed in for good measure. Sounds like a whole lot, doesn't it? To tell the truth, I have to admit that this is hardly a simple story, however despite this, I didn't find it difficult to follow (which is often a problem I have with fantasy and some recent sci-fi novels). This is probably because of how deeply compelling the story was. What was the most fascinating was watching how Rushdie took on each societal issue in turn.
Rushdie does this through a myriad of characters. For example, the threat of danger from religious fundamentalism starts with Ghazali, who believes that instilling fear into humans will make them turn to God, which will bring about redemption. One of the jinni uses this to help fight his side of the War between the Worlds, and goes about trying to strike down the godless. Another is the treatment of women, which Rushdie hands over to one of Dunia's descendants, who starts killing off rapists and all types of other misogynists. Adding to that, Rushdie puts forth the idea that some types of violence could actually be the result of sexual frustration, particularly those acts against women and the LGBT community. Then there's the huge storm that brings on the "strangenesses," which is possibly Rushdie's nod to the problem of global climate change. Rushdie even goes after corrupt politicians and the greed of the financial machine, including how they feed off each other.
With absolutely nothing taboo, and everything open to criticism, the story can unfold with every ounce of fantasy and imagination that Rushdie has, which is vast indeed. Although this is the first of Rushdie's work that I've read, I understand that at least some of his other works are in a similar genre, or at the very least, incorporate some of the same elements. Some people warned me of Rushdie's penchant for long, run-on sentences and meandering style, but the former didn't bother me because of the richly lyrical composition, and I'm used the latter from reading such authors as John Irving. Mind you, Irving doesn't simply meander; he often goes off on tangents that border on being irrelevant. You cannot accuse Rushdie of this, since every element of this highly complex story is fully relevant to the plot. With this, Rushdie sprinkles the story with handfuls of wry humor to keep the gore and horror from becoming overly prominent.
As I noted in another review of this novel, I have a feeling that the word "masterpiece" is going to be associated with this book, and not ironically or with any hyperbole. Furthermore, with all the sacred cows he openly slaughters here, I wouldn't be surprised if someone declares a brand new fatwa against him. With all this, I couldn't give this book less than a full five stars out of five.
"Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights" by Salman Rushdie published by Random House, for release September 8, 2015 is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books (for other eReader formats), iTunes, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), or from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me the advance reader copy of this book for review via NetGalley.