cover image PASHAZADE: The First Arabesk

PASHAZADE: The First Arabesk

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, . . Bantam Spectra, $12 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-553-58743-2

In this clever first book of a trilogy that blends alternative SF and hard-boiled mystery from British author Grimwood (Lucifer's Dragon , etc.), ZeeZee, who has spent his youth largely in boarding schools and in trouble, is also Ashraf al-Mansur, though that identity is unknown to him. Whisked away from a Seattle prison, ZeeZee is transported to El Iskandryia, an exotic, exquisitely detailed North African city. Whether Ashraf or ZeeZee, he's adaptable but not compliant. The world of wealth and privilege he's expected to accept without question comes with strings he's not to question either, like marriage to the willful Zara. Misunderstanding and mishandling his precarious situation, Ashraf becomes prime suspect in a murder, on the lam with only a vague understanding of where he is and who he is supposed to be. He's not only responsible for his own fate but also, surprisingly, the sole protector of a young girl. Grimwood artfully unveils the changed world that has developed in the many decades since WWI ended differently. Ashraf, a lifelong underdog and pawn, emerges as a resourceful and deadly foe, adapting quickly to survive in a game where the rules and the playing field shift repeatedly. SF and mystery fans will be pleased. Agent, Mic Cheetham. (Mar. 8)