And What Can We Offer You Tonight
by Premee Mohamed
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted July 23, 2021
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The latest from Premee Mohamed is a novella set in a unnamed, nearly drowned city, in an unspecified future. The Haves, of course, are at the top of society, able to do pretty much what they want in this lawless world. The have-nots are lucky if they have any job, or they may only survive by scavenging through the ruins and dregs of the city. A few are lucky(?) to have a stable job catering to the whims of the Haves. Jewel is a popular, sought-after courtesan in House Bicchieri, where she has lived for eleven years. The owners of the house provide housing, clothes, food, and a minimum of spending money. In addition to this being in the future, there are elements that make it science fiction, others move it toward fantasy. Jewel's friend Nero has had wings grafted to his back, and later adds horns. Winfield has died, or maybe hasn't died, or has resurrected herself after her murder. Her autopsy incisions may have been merely for show, perhaps there was no complete autopsy, maybe she didn't really die, it's hard to say. No need to worry about it, since this story is dedicated "to the ones who cannot be explained."
Winfield now hides in Jewel's room, at least when she isn't leaving the house to hunt down her 'murderer' or Nero's abuser. Jewel accompanies Winfield on one of her hunts, and in so doing is late for an appointment with one of her clients. She is fined an exorbitant amount, and she fears she will never be able to pay off the debt. The solution to their dilemma is as inexplicable as anything else in the story. To what authority would they take their accusations of frequent murders at the house, which the owners have covered up? As with everything, I'm not sure it matters. The lyrical prose is enough to satisfy, whether anything depicted is real. It may all be a dream of Jewel's, or perhaps only from the point of Winfield's death. Even though it is written in first-person by Jewel, could it possibly be narrated by Winfield instead? Again, it doesn't matter. It's a bleak but hopeful story about people who have no hope, who only have each other. In that sense, at least, they are lucky.
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