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Fireboy by Sami Shah – A Reader’s Review

Fireboy is the first book of the Djinn-Son dualogy by the stand-up comedian Sami Shah. I have no idea how Sami Shah ventured into this completely separate genre, but I am glad he did because Pakistani society has a serious need for new imaginative fiction.

Fireboy, more than anything, provided a view of the fantastical worlds using a purely local lens. To a Pakistani reader like me, this book does not introduce any new weird characters or worlds that we have not already heard of growing up, rather, it weaves all those shreds of spiritual mythology cum folklore into an easy to follow story. It has Djinns, Pichal Pairees, Iblis, characters that are all too familiar to most ordinary Pakistanis, placed into what is in essence a boy meets girl story.

Wahid, the initially unaware half-man half-Djinn has a crush on a girl named Maheen, and when a couple of Djinns attack their car and extract Maheen’s soul, leaving her in a state of coma, Wahid starts his journey of going after Djinns to take her soul back. Traversing through various parts of Karachi and its extraordinary life, his journey to get Maheen’s soul also touches a parallel world of Djinns and devils and witches that co-exist with the normal citizens of Karachi but are not visible to most of them.

It was a very gratifying experience to read about different parts of Karachi like Tariq Road, Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar and Sindhi Muslim Society, as well as about various established Djinn habits like living in trees, having a sweet tooth, being from kohkaf etc.

To be honest, there were also a coupe of scenes that felt like a drag: firstly, the extended interaction with Iblis where even the character said he was getting bored, and secondly, the after-life scene in Barzakh where the author played very closely by the traditional Islamic speculations rather than challenging them and creating something new. The Barzakh scene also seemed influenced a little by Bollywood style story-telling specially recalling to mind the scenes from the movie Bhootnath returns.

All in all though, it was a very nice book that will keep you in the edge. Again, hats off to the writer for venturing into a genre that is still in its infancy in Pakistan.

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