AK Asif’s makes his writing debut with a Fantasy novel that has elements of dystopia and dark humour. Set in the year 2050, Hell! No Saints in Paradise, is a story of Ismael Ibrahim, a PhD student from Pakistan, now settled in the US, much like the author of the book, and who sets on a spiritual journey to explore whether Al-Jannah and Al-Jahannum (Islamic heaven and hell) truly exist. But for that he must return to Pakistan, a country he fled from as a boy and make amends with his father, whom he hasn’t contacted since.
Is Ismael decision to return to his homeland wise? Do heaven and hell actually exist? Does he mend his relation with his father? I’d tell you but then that would ruin the plot for you.
Ismael does return to Pakistan, however, he is in for a rude shock because the Pakistan he knew as a child does not exist anymore. His countrymen are under some kind of weird trance and the place has become extremely unsafe for a local, let along a guy from the US. His trip keeps getting weirder by the hour and nothing seems to make any kind of sense to the poor protagonist.
You will find a lot of religious Islamic references such as Pul Siraat, al-Khidr, to name a few, inspite of which, it doesn’t result in speedbumps in the naration even if you are not a muslim and completely unaware of these terms. The author makes sure that the jargon is explained most of the times and eases the reader through the plot smoothly.
The book has a great plot and the author manages to have your complete attention for the first 200 pages. But after 200 pages, I felt that the author lost his grip on the fine storytelling style he had going. The end failed to impress me completely. In spite of which, I’d say that I did enjoy reading the book, well, most of it, but I do wish that the story ended differently.
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. The review, however, is honest and unbiased.