The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.
The early twentieth century Cairo of Haunting isn’t the Cairo you’re familiar with. In this alternate steampunk-ish 1912, djinn and angels and necromancers and mystics share the city with opinionated citizens and agents from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. With the discovery of magic in the late nineteenth century, Egypt burst on the world stage as a major power player, driving out imperial threats and thriving on fantastical innovations. Airships and trolleys ferry Cairenes to and from neighborhoods of new money, magical beings, and hardworking immigrants. Country bumpkins and those longing for more freedom and educational and employment opportunities flow in from far flung regions as the metropolis expands and evolves…
To read the rest of my review, head over to Tor.com.
The office of the Superintendent of Tram Safety & Maintenance at Ramses Station had all the decor befitting someone who had been elevated—or likely pushed along the lines of patronage—into such a vaulted position. A sprawling vintage Anatolian rug of blue angular motifs, red spandrels, and golden tulips bordered in deep lavender. A hanging painting by one of the new abstract pharaonists, with its irregular shapes, splotches, and vivid colors that no one could truly understand. A framed photograph of the king, naturally. And some conveniently placed novels by the most recent Alexandrian writers, their leather-bound covers looking as unopened as the day they’d been bought.
Unfortunately, Agent Hamed Nasr noted with the meticulous eye of an investigator, the superintendent’s contrived attempts at good taste were subsumed under the humdrum tediousness of a mid-level bureaucratic functionary: transit maps and line timetables, mechanical schematics and repair schedules, memorandums and reports, all overlaid one upon another on washed-out yellow walls like decaying dragon scales. They flapped carelessly beneath the air of an oscillating copper fan, its spinning blades rattling inside its cage as if trying to get out. And somehow, still, it was stifling in here, so that Hamed had to resist the urge to pull at the neckband of his white collarless shirt—thankful, at least, that the dark uniform he wore concealed any signs of perspiration in the lingering heat of late-summer Cairo.
Thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a review copy.