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Nekropolis    by Maureen F. McHugh order for
by Maureen F. McHugh
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2001)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

The time is the near future and North Africa is Muslim. It has regressed to a rigid isolationism based on the New Koran and violently resists the black market inflow of technology from the North, the European Union. Hariba's family live in the Nekropolis among the bones of the dead, eking out a precarious existence making paper flower wreaths for sale. An older brother is caught in adultery and imprisoned, and Hariba loses the chance of a normal life and marriage. She agrees to be jessed (an imported technology illegal in the North), making her willingly subservient to her owner.

She works happily for him, and somewhat less so for his wife, until she meets another servant Akhmin, a harni. This is another illegal import from the North, a flesh and blood creation, one of a number of clones manufactured for a specific purpose. Akhmin disturbs and unsettles Hariba. She has never met anyone so beautiful, or one who tries so hard to please her. Gradually, she becomes obsessed and even dares to consider escaping from her current owner. This is despite the jessing, and though the consequences may be disastrous - pain, sickness, imprisonment, even death.

Hariba is helped, reluctantly and against their convictions, by her mother and sister, and even more by her friend Ayesha. She survives, but there is no place for her or the harni in the backward, determinedly ignorant, city of the dead. They escape to the North. Even there, can she survive? Can her love survive? Nekropolis is a passionate, but lucid, examination of the problems shared by the multitude of the marginal in society, the downtrodden. It sheds light not only on their tragedy, but on the heroism needed for their survival

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