The Cairene Purse by Michael Moorcock
I just finished a lengthy book and am unsure about what to read next, so I decided to dive back into the world of short stories. And as I often do, I returned to the Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology. This time around it’s a story from Eighth Edition called The Cairene Purse by Michael Moorcock.
The tale follows an engineer who travels to Cairo for a business meeting in the 1980s. But while there he decides to look for his sister. She has become estranged and he had lost contact with her after a series of nonsensical letters. She is an archeologist staying in the town of Aswan and the last he heard she made an amazing discovery. But his sister appears to be missing and as he talks to locals and follows the clues to find her things get stranger. By some locals, she was worshipped. She had associated herself with possible witches. Then there are other who said she traveled with aliens. As the tales grow taller, Paul becomes very determined to find his sister.
The good? This is a good little mystery. There are a lot of red herrings to throw the reader off and the journey is engaging because as the reader, you are trying to figure out this puzzle box alongside Paul. Also I really loved the setting of this. It’s set in a strangely partially developed area. They have a dam for electricity but it is inadvertently poisoning their water supply. The police are more power hungry than helpful. And in this town that is half and half slums and higher class, there is this apparent tug a war between those favoring this new way of life and those are traditional and superstitious. It’s just a really layered setting that blends so well with this mystery. And speaking of the mystery it has a strangely unique climax. It may not have an actions scene but it’s a fantastical ending fitting of the strange odyssey. Also it’s a pretty long meaty read for a short story.
The bad? First of all, I will say this story is written in a more old fashioned style Think HG Wells, Charlotte Bronte or JRR Tolkien. This book is writing along the lines of the denser style of those authors, oppose the simpler writing methods of current popular books. And I know a lot of people hate that style. So if you can’t stand it. So if you are one of those people, you have been warned. Also, because of this style in a short story format, the characters are distant. It is hard to tell what Paul is thinking or feels most of the time because the story just doesn’t show it. Lastly, there’s a twist. It felt was cliché. But seeing how this was written in the nineties at the height of a certain popular conspiracy theories and the X Files, I guess it was expected the author should take this route.
Overall, this is a strange little mystery that I really enjoyed. It keeps the reader guessing and when the story slows down the world is just so darn unique, it’s easy to enjoy the atmosphere. I totally think it’s worth the read. It’s not perfect but its a great well put together tale. So if you like scifi mystery, do check this one out. Its wort your while
Overall Rating: A Strange Scifi Mystery Worth Investigating
4 Smoothies out of Five.
Have You Read This Story?
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on July 30, 2021:
I am interested in reading this.