Two sisters on the run, both pursued by their mother. But when this mother is the Empress of Ghana and one of the most powerful people in the world, it is no ordinary chase.
And life has changed in the mid twenty second century. The aether is a telepathic cyberspace. Biochips augment human brains. AIs, concepts, even symbols can be dangerous.
Mnada is heir to the Ghanaian throne, yet something has been done to her brain that has made her insane, something to send her fleeing north across jungle and desert towards the mysterious place called Muezzinland.
Nshalla is relegated to the status of puppet, ignored, yet also part of her mother’s plan; she follows her sister’s flight, determined to discover the truth behind Muezzinland.
And the Empress herself, possessing the most modern technology with which to recapture her daughters – androids, morphic tools, orbital stations, all powered by a ruthless will. But not even she can predict what might happen should the family be reunited, least of all if it is inside Muezzinland…
Set in a vivid and fascinating future, Muezzinland is a novel by the author of Memory Seed and Glass.
Muezzinland short film here.
(Gwyneth Jones in the New York Review Of Science Fiction Jul 2003): In Stephen Palmer’s Muezzinland… Western civilisation has simply faded away. The human world, dominated by a secret group of Pacific Rim and African aether-aristocrats, is interpenetrated by the “aether” of radio-telepathic cyberspace. Twenty-second century Africa – with a ruthless empress and her android servant I-C-U Tompieme out to control a new race of virtual divinities – is an apt venue for an exploration of what this means. When Nshalla, younger daughter of the Empress of Ghana, sets out in search of the unstable and possibly very dangerous heir to the throne, she faces a world that behaves like a fabulously complex data network of minds (not all of them human). It comes complete with myth and folklore routines that can suddenly co-opt you, like awful pop-up adverts that take over your screen.
Muezzinland is a real treat. Much of its charm lies in the evocative, poetic travelogue of a journey through beyond-futuristic West and North Africa, where the camels are refractory, the desert night is a blazing tapestry of many-coloured stars, and the great river journey is enlivened by savages and giant water monsters. It’s also a tour de force in imagining possibilities that lie beyond our information age: a time when human psychology has become concrete, as it is in myth. (Your friend has a shattering experience, you crawl around picking up the oozing pieces, you literally hold her together in your arms, and it’s nasty.)
Though rich in incident and characterization, Muezzinland suffers a little from lack of dramatic tension, with everything else overshadowed by the guided tour – but I wouldn’t fault it as science fiction. If you enjoy the full immersion experience of neo-magic, you’ll [like] Muezzinland.
(Matrix Jul 2003): Stephen succeeds when many other similar attempts to fuse the mythic and the modern fail. All to often the hybridisation of myth and technology withers and dies as you read. But in Muezzinland, the hybrid thrives, creating a compelling and cohesive vision. And the narrative structure counterpoints the external and internal journeys during which the protagonists discover much about themselves, their relationships and their country. It’s an unusual and successful combination.
(Vector May 2003): While the plot can be read as a relatively straightforward thriller, the book as a whole is considerably more than this. It succeeds in integrating the elements of myth and high technology, producing something of a hybrid that feels right. Muezzinland is at its strongest when dealing with the journey… ultimately it is the journey that matters.
(InfinityPlus 2003): Human interest, a rich atmosphere and Palmer’s pleasingly lyrical prose keep the reader’s interest, which is just as well because several key plot points are revealed halfway through the novel. Surprise last-minute plot twists are not a prominent feature of Muezzinland, although the sisters’ odyssey across Western Aphrica maintains a certain pace, and Palmer manages to wrap the story up in a way that is neither obvious nor deus ex machina. The early over-exposure of the plot slightly jarred with me — I like a little more suspense with my reading — but overall I’d say it stands up well, and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.
(amazon.com 2003): Muezzinland had me gripped from the first chapter. The future world of Africa was exotic and strange, with enough technological detail to convince, but not so much as to overwhelm. This image of the future has its roots in cyberspace, but with a neat twist – global comunication has broken down to the point where even knowledge of local geography is limited. Apart from the main characters (all female) there are very interesting A.I., hybrid and mystic inclusions; in fact, the way the mystic element to the story is handled is its main strength, giving a neat new angle on the subject of archetypes, deities, etc. The way Stephen Palmer has woven these elements into an exciting storyline is great, leaving me on the look out for more of his work.
(Goodreads, Estelle): A fascinating novel, where Africa has become the dominant continent, and technology mixes with older traditions and beliefs. The two main characters, both female, are beautifully drawn and realised, and the book holds you as a reader right to the end.
original Wildside cover