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Review – The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

P. Djèlí Clark - The Haunting of Tram Car 015 cropped for featured image
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

Book Title: The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Book Description: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark's short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Osni the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.

Book Author: P. Djèlí Clark

Book Format: EBook

Publisher - Orgnization: Tor.com

Publisher Logo:

Date published: 2019-02-19

Number Of Pages: 130

Overall
7/10
7/10
  • Writing - 7/10
    7/10
  • Plotting - 7/10
    7/10
  • Overall - 7/10
    7/10
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Summary

The Ministry of Alchemy sends two of its agents, Agent Hamed and his new colleague Agent Osni, to investigate a haunting in a tram car. However, the experienced Agent Hamed claims to have never heard of a tram car being haunted in all his time with the Ministry of Alchemy. Hijinks ensue as the pair of agents try to determine what exactly is wrong with tram car 015.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is an alternate historical fantasy Hugo Finalist novella from P. Djèlí Clark. Towards the beginning of the 20th century, Cairo was beginning to change. Norms were beginning to shift. Women campaign for the Vote. Humans continued to work alongside beings our world only knows from myth. Meanwhile, bureaucracy will turn, as it must. The Ministry of Alchemy sends two of its agents, Agent Hamed and his new colleague Agent Osni, to investigate a haunting in a tram car. However, the experienced Agent Hamed claims to have never heard of a tram car being haunted in all his time with the Ministry of Alchemy. Hijinks ensue as the pair of agents try to determine what exactly is wrong with tram car 015.

Character Through Caper in The Haunting of Tram Car 015

P. Djèlí Clark - The Haunting of Tram Car 015
P. Djèlí Clark – The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Although this novella doesn’t seem like it could be a character study from the above description, Clark reveals a lot about his characters through plot. For example, this novella is told through the point of view of Agent Hamed. Agent Hamed is a 28-year-old man who is somewhat annoyed that he’s partnered with a young agent. Throughout the novella, we learn his opinion on hauntings, sticky candy, women’s rights activists, and more. However, the plot doesn’t stop while Agent Hamed ruminates on these things. Instead, he wonders about these things as he goes about his day, trying to prevent humans and otherworldly beings from clashing in inconvenient ways.

We also learn a little bit about Agent Osni, though not as much (since we’re not in his head). He’s clearly both enthusiastic and bookish: happy to share whatever knowledge he has to solve the problem. Additionally, his background comes up and it helps the pair resolve the haunting issues. It’s interesting to see how plot and character studies (although sometimes separated in reviews) don’t really have to be separate.

Conclusion – The Haunting of Tram Car 015 Takes You Along a Winding Road

Although there is somewhat of a mystery at the heart of The Haunting of Tram Car 015, this novella is not a “fair-play” mystery.  If you’re hoping to solve the problem before Agents Hamed and Osni do, you won’t get enough information to do so. However, that would only be a problem if that was what Clark was going for. Instead, the reader walks with Agents Hamed and Osni as they research the problem and consult with the interesting residents of Cairo. If you’re looking for a light, fun, read that touches upon some historical social issues, you can’t really go wrong with this novella.

Don’t forget! Hugo Voting closes Wednesday 22 July 2020 at 23:59 Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7)/Thursday, 23 July 2020 at 18:59 New Zealand Standard Time (UTC+12).

Hugo Catchup Series:

  • To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers
  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (from his collection Exhalation)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone 
  • In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire 
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes

 


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About the author

Siobhan Dempsey

Siobhan needs books to function, and therefore can infodump quite a lot about them, particularly when they're either science fiction or fantasy.

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