5 December 2017

Review #687: Hell! No Saints in Paradise by A.K. Asif

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“It’s all Within. The Whole Cosmos.”

----A.K. Asif

A.K. Asif, a Pakistani author, has penned a heart gripping and thoroughly absorbing debut urban fantasy novel set in the futuristic world, Hell! No Saints in Paradise that revolves around a Muslim atheist who embarks upon a spiritual mission to discover the Islamic fundamentals of life and the real meaning of Hell and Paradise through his new found friends and a leader and a preacher of Islam, but the mission is not an easy one, from getting nearly slaughtered to exploring erotica to discovering oneself, this young man's journey is thoroughly refreshing and enlightening.


2050, New York. In the aftermath of a gruelling spiritual cleansing quest, Ismael, a Pakistani American student, enters an alliance with spiritual beings who send him on a perilous journey of self-discovery. A non-believer, Ismael must return to Pakistan, now in the grip of a brutal fundamentalist government, and gain the trust of his estranged father, a prominent extremist in the Caliphate. To accomplish this, he must pose as a true believer. Will he survive long enough to infiltrate his father s inner sanctum and complete his mission?

Hell! No Saints in Paradise is both biting satire and allegory that takes urban fantasy to dizzying heights.

In the year of 2050, Ismael, a Pakistan-born American resident finds himself on a challenging spiritual discussion with a random female stranger at a cafe where she advises him to try a medicinal drug called ayahuasca, at a community center to experience an alternate reality about his constant inner war against Islam and its fundamentals and mostly about the existence of hell and paradise. Under the influence of that drug, Ismael meets a prophet in this alternate universe of his mind, who asks him to return back to his hometown in Lahore, Pakistan for a mission that will serve the greater good. But he has an estranged relationship with his headstrong Muslim extremist father, so is it possible for Ismael, who is a non-believer, to win back the trust of his father? Ismael's journey is not an easy one, as it includes near-death experiences. But despite of the arduous rules of his religion, Ismael finds himself at the center of a world where people would go at any lengths to reach paradise after death, even if it means to kill fellow beings to reach their desired goal.

I'm surprised that the book hasn't sparked any controversies amongst the Islam extremists or amongst the mere preachers of Islam, and has managed to stay out of any major trouble. Though it is a work of fiction and rather say a fantasy book, yet somehow the author has used his story as a metaphor to bring out the flaws of Islam and the preaching of the Holy Quran. Yeah, it is evident that the author has subtly tried to bring out the flaws of Islam, but somehow, after reading this book, I feel profoundly enlightened about Islam and its importance in the life of its followers.

The author's writing style is really eloquent, laced aptly with funny and sarcastic anecdotes and dark satire to keep the readers amused and entertained while reading about this religious urban fantasy filled with Islamic jargon which are explained intricately. The narrative is free-flowing and articulate enough to keep the readers hooked on to the story line. The pacing is bit slow, as there is too many details and thorough depth about the religion of Islam and takes a lot of effort to sway through it and where every chapter is filled with deep meanings about Islam and its fundamentals.

The characters is the book are very well portrayed through enough realism and honest in their demeanor. The central character, Ismael, of this story is one of a kind and he is going to make the readers fall for him mainly because of the fact that he makes his journey into spirituality bearable and entertained for the readers of the book, with his sarcastic and often dirty remarks and comments. Ismael is highly relatable to any young atheist minds and so his adventure and evolution towards belief. The supporting cast of characters too are interesting enough to keep the readers glued into the heart of the story till the very last page of the book.

In a nutshell, this is not only an enlightening read for the readers but also a highly comical book about Islam and the concepts of Heaven and Hell.

Verdict: A really enjoyable, energetic and engrossing read

Courtesy: Thanks to the Writers Melon for the review copy of the book.

Author Info:
Brought up in Lahore, Pakistan, A.K. Asif has been living in the United States since the age of twenty. He is currently working on his next novel.
Visit him here

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