Saladin Ahmed made quite a name for himself with his short fiction. After all, his stories have been nominated for prestigious genre awards. I was familiar with some of his work, but this collection allowed me to read all of his published short fiction to date and finally discover what the buzz was all about. Ahmed is a gifted author and one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices. Having read his fantasy debut, Throne of the Crescent Moon, I'm now convinced that, at least at this early stage of his career, Saladin Ahmed is much more talented when writing short fiction than novel-length projects.
Here's the blurb:
Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed.
A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds.
The short stories in this collection have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards. They’ve been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and other anthologies, recorded for numerous podcasts, and translated into several foreign languages. Now they are collected in one place for the first time. Experience for yourself the original voice of one of fantasy’s rising stars!
"Where Virtue Lives" is a prequel to Ahmed's debut. It's a sword and sorcery adventure featuring Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed bas Raseed, two of the main protagonists from the book. It's basically a tale of how the two characters met.
"Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" is a powerful short story about love and lengths some people are willing to go to find it and hold on to it. "Judgement of Swords and Souls" is another sword and sorcery offering featuring a clichéd bad-ass female character in the same vein as the first short story and Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon. "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" is a quirky tale about the Society of Supercriminals' new master plan!
"General Akmed's Revenge" is an interesting take on a Muslim immigrant's difficulty to integrate American society. "Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride" is a dystopian Western story and one of the best stories in the collection. "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" is a science fiction piece that stays with you once you're done reading it. Could well be my favorite of the bunch! "Iron Eyes and the Watered-Down World" is another sword and sorcery tale about a trio of adventurers who find a lot more than they ever envisioned when they finally catch a thief.
It's obvious that Saladin Ahmed loves the sword and sorcery subgenre. And yet, his most memorable short fiction, in my opinion at least, turns out to be tales in which he challenges himself and forces himself to go off the beaten path. The best pieces from this collection are often told in a much difference voice than that the author uses to write sword and sorcery. I'm really looking forward to more such tales from Ahmed in the future. And if his forthcoming short fiction lives up to the potential found in the digital pages of Engraved on the Eye, I foresee more nominations for genre awards for him.
The final verdict: 7.75/10
To download this collection for only 3.99$, follow this link.