“The Arab’s Prayer” by Alex Jeffers from Wilde Stories 2012 (Lethe Press). Edited by Steve Berman.

I first began to contemplate the idea of doing this short story review project while reading the entries on ‘Nathan Burgoine’s blog last year. I decided I would try to get a jump on things, so I started writing reviews of the collections I was reading. Some of the projects didn’t get very far because I encountered stories that confounded me. This was one such collection, though this piece, which kicks it off, wasn’t the one that stymied me. That’s next, but I figure I’ve had over a year to mull it over. Surely I’ll think of something to say by tomorrow.

Here’s what I wrote then. Note that I decided to leave the last line in although I have since read and reviewed several other stories by the author. What was “I’ll definitely check out more by this author” has become “Alex Jeffers? Oh, good!”

Has the world truly changed so much in the few short years since this “speculative” story was penned that it could strike me as nothing but contemporary? I guess it has, because for the life of me I could not figure out while reading this tale why it was included in this particular volume. I simply took it in stride that the “jinni” with whom the main character was conversing was a Siri-like digital personal assistant, and that people halfway around the world from me should be protesting in the streets on behalf of gay marriage, standing up to the hard line clerics of three of the world’s major religions. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

Regardless of its speculative-or-not status, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I liked the main character and found his wants and fears very relatable, yet there were enough interesting details sprinkled throughout that I felt I was continually learning about a perspective different than my own, which is one of the main reasons I love to read.

I will definitely check out more work by this author.