Have you ever thought a book sounded interesting, got it, then started it, and decided maybe it wasn’t something that would interest you, then picked it up again almost a year later? That was me with The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday. This time, I read it all the way through it about one sitting; it’s a novella so in terms of length that’s not a big thing. I did get drawn in this second time, and the whole thing ended up being pretty interesting and thought provoking.
The basic premise is both predictable and not: Melek Ahmar, one of seven djinn kings, wakes up after being imprisoned for who knows how long (centuries/millennia probably) and wants to get his life of power over the Humes (short for [you figure that out]), which basically means he want to party again. He’s weak and in a world he doesn’t know, and the first person he finds is not normal; that’s Bhan Gurung, an old Gurkha soldier with something strange or mysterious about him. Gurung does tell Melek about the world of today: the city of Kathmandu is run by something called Karma; Karma is some sort of AI entity that awards points based on being useful or good. Gurung is a zero by choice. So, now we’re set up for Melek learning how to navigate the new world, figuring out what’s Gurung’s deal, and of course the inevitable mystery behind Karma and how it/she came to power.
The characters are all kind of one track mind, but as a group they really work well. Melek is the fish out of water formerly powerful deity, Gurung is the mysterious and somewhat disturbing one with some sort of past, and we also meet Hamilcar the self-appointed sherrif/failsafe check on Karma’s lack of humanity as well as his lover Colonel Shakia who is all about fighting and battles, and ReGi a contemporary djinn who appears to be a teenage girl and who makes a living selling “herbs” from her garden.
The biggest focus of the story turns out to not be Melek even though he’s the first character we meet, and the one from whose perspective we get a lot of the story. Gurung is the one who ends up being the key. Finding out his past reveals his one track focus for everything he does, as well as sets up a bit question about the nature of Karma. Once the ‘villain’ (who may not be the only one responsible for the villainy) has been revealed, the conclusion is both open ended but also conclusive. All of the characters have pretty clear futures ahead of them, but the status of the rest of the world and what’s going to happen with Karma from now on is still somewhat undetermined. That’s the thought provoking part; usually with this kind of story, the AI is either defeated or replaced, but that’s not the case here although things are set to be a little different, and it’s really interesting to think about what the rest of the world is going to think when it realizes what’s happened in the final chapter.