April 22, 2024

Review: Shubeik Lubeik

Shubeik Lubeik Shubeik Lubeik by Deena Mohamed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This graphic novel was originally published in Arabic, and the translation to English carries over the same format: reading from right to left instead of left to right. This left me a bit disoriented for a while--I felt like I was driving on the wrong side of the road. I did get used to it, however, and was eventually able to get into the story.

This story explores the effect of one change on the world: if wishes were a real thing that could be refined, bottled, and sold. The world as laid out here has an extensive alternate history weaving the industry of wishes into our world's politics. There are different grades of wishes, regulations around their production and use, and registration requirements. This is interwoven with three separate stories about the use of three "first-class" wishes, the kind that will change one's life. Aziza was thrown in prison because someone thought she wasn't supposed to have her wish and didn't deserve it; Noud, whose story is the longest, is grappling with severe depression and wrestles with whether or not to use the wish to cure himself. The panels in this story illustrating the contradictions and levels of depression are quite clever in portraying the disease. In the final story, Shokry, the shopkeeper who had all three first-class wishes to begin with, is trying to use the last wish to save someone's life. The woman he is attempting to save tells him a harrowing tale of revenge about her life with an abusive husband and how her children die. Decades later, she is dying of cancer herself and only wishes to join her children, and asks Shokry not to use his wish. All three tales explore the Egyptian culture and the culture of wishes in this alternate world.

This volume is quite thick and heavy and alternates color and black and white panels. There is also a liberal sprinkling of Arabic, even in the English translation (in particular, the djinn are depicted as whirling bursts of Arabic characters). It's not the best graphic novel I've read so far this year, but it's worth picking up.

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