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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  485 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Fleeing an empty future in the Nekropolis, twenty-one-year-old Hariba has agreed to have herself "jessed," the technobiological process that will render her subservient to whomever has purchased her service. Indentured in the house of a wealthy merchant, she encounters many wondrous things. Yet nothing there is as remarkable and disturbing to her as the harni, Akhmim. A pe ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Harper Voyager (first published 2001)
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  485 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Lit Bug
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is going to be one of those works dearest to my heart - not because they are stimulating, nerve-challenging or fast enough to make my heart race. No, this is far from traditional SF - the plot is of no importance here, nor the characters - what matters is the world and how difficult it makes life for those who question its ways.

What makes this novel stand out for me is its setting - it is so rare to see the future in a place that no one has bothered to look at, as if the future will not hav
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book made me super uncomfortable. A++
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, set in a future Morocco, shows that, regardless of advances in technology, the basic human experience often changes very little. Her main character, the young Muslim woman Hariba, has voluntarily sold herself into servitude; her loyalty to her employers assured by chemical/biological means. However, when she falls in love with Akhmim, a lab-created biological "AI" who seems all too human, the two escape their employer/owners, risking jail or death...
Regardless of the book's exotic tec
I never do this, but lists. You’re getting lists this time:

What I liked:
• The subtlety. I’m not a jaded scifi reader, so all the scifi elements introduced were suitably familiar, but not too incomprehensible to me.
• Prejudices.
• The exploration of inequality in a relationship. Whether the inequality is constructed by rules parents teach their children or science that removes choice, it is real and there aren’t any easy answers.
• The writing.
• Akhmim.
• The ending.

What I didn’t like:
• Multi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
All I could think while reading this was that McHugh had a whole hell of a lot she wanted to say about fundamental Islam and / or Arabic society's treatment of women and I wished she would just come out and say it - but then I would remind myself that this was a fiction novel, and she was contentedly making whatever point she wanted to make. I guess. Having just read Infidel by Hirsi Ali made Nekropolis seem like weak criticism indeed, but then that's probably an unfair comparison.

I was excited
I just couldn’t get into this book. The first few chapters introduced an interesting near-future world and I was curious to see what the author would do with it. Well, she had her characters take an action that brought them out of that world so that she didn’t have to deal with the sci-fi aspects anymore. It was at that point that I realized I didn’t care about these characters. Disappointing, but glad I moved on to reading something else.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi-to-read
I'm a recent fan of Maureen McHugh's work so I was excited to see she'd written something about Muslim/North African people. Her poignant, character driven plot was there...but the Morocco of her novel felt exoticized. She was careful to write it far far away from any Morocco anyone might recognize, with Ancient Egyptian references scattered within. Whether out of respect for her ignorance or out of sincere fascination with the culture, I felt this made the novel too light. When she hits on noti ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maureen Mchugh writes a very interesting sort of science fiction - a recognizably near-future earth filled with startling, amazing technology that has nothing to do with the plot drive of the novel at all. instead of speculating on what will be, she speculates on how an ordinary person will live their life in a world that just happens to have this tech. you want her to explore some of these post-post-modern marvels in depth; it can be frustrating at times to catch unexplained, matter-of-fact gli ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
Feb 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a good novel but not quite what I would call science fiction. There are several ‘sci-fi’ elements to it:
Jessing: an illegal bio/programming method that bonds a person to another to ensure loyalty.

Androids: Though they get called harni or chimeras.

House computers and Simulations.

I enjoyed this book; actually I read it right through overnight when I could not be bothered sleeping and that has to be a recomendation. The characters are well constructed and the setting is Morocco – which is
Pamela Huxtable
McHugh has an amazing gift for immediacy in her writing. I think even folks that don't like scifi might enjoy this work, which is so character driven, that the scifi elements are simply part of the setting.

At first, I thought seemed similar to so many dystopian romances, although much better written. But McHugh has so much more to say about society, status, position than these ya novels I have read.

In the distance future in Morocco, Hariba, a young woman from the Nekropolis - the town of the de
Nov 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bleak romance set in a future in which, as in our present, the actuality is so much less than the imagining. McHugh is expert at capturing contemporary compromise and longing and recasting our continuing sense of isolation and loneliness into a world that the genre has led readers to believe can only be one of, if not institutionalized hope, only temporary incompetence. Her worlds are real because they capture humanity's weaknesses, and rather than gloss over these failures, they come to defin ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
This is my fourth McHugh novel, and with all four of them, I have stalled out midway for a long time, coaxed myself back into reading them, and then plowed through the ending. I'm starting to think that it isn't just me, that she has issues with pacing and building narrative momentum.

The concept, of a chemically indentured woman in an ultraconservative future version of Morocco who falls in love with an artificially made person, is intriguing. As ever, McHugh refuses easy resolutions and simple
Farah Aziz
Sep 06, 2007 rated it liked it
This is one of those books that I bought during a cheap bundle sale but never read. I have a few of those, just standing around on my bookshelf. On the back cover, it says Science Fiction. The authour is a Hugo winner. But the novel, though it is full of futuristic terms and props, is so basic. And beautiful.

A woman gives up everything for love and then finds love, by itself, is not enough.

May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Nekropolis is the type of science fiction I love, that I strongly suspect many genre fans, perhaps most genre fans, will hate. It has a great setting, relatable characters (or intentionally unrelatable characters), it uses its science fiction elements to emphasize the themes and ideas the story presents, and it makes you think. So it’s great, right? The thing that might sink the book for many people is that all of these elements coalesce into a slice of life story, not a grand adventure, and the ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book could’ve been very disappointing. On the bottom of the cover a quote from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer promises us “A literary novel in sci-fi clothing” and I can’t pretend I wasn’t sceptical when I read that but it was also what roped me in. It was probably too much to hope for Finnegans Wake with simulacra but the reviews I consulted promised a character-driven narrative that just happened to be set in a future Morocco sometime after 2144; we never do get to learn the precise date.

Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Our main character, Hariba, used to live in a necropolis in her middle eastern city. This was the district where poor people lived- tombs are cheaper than housing. Hariba couldn't see a future for herself there and so sells herself as a slave, essentially, by being jessed. This procedure makes Hariba bond emotionally and involuntarily to the one who buys her bond. She can be sold again and rebonded if her owner desires. Hariba begins in a fairly wealthy household, but trouble comes along soon en ...more
Another surprisingly perceptive book by McHugh. There are multiple narrators who carry the various stages of this book. It is set in Morocco, in a near (but unstintingly different) future. The sci-fi elements serve as aspects in the life of the characters, and are not explored otherwise.

I think while it works very well in many regards, it still shows superficial understanding of essential aspects of Arab/Muslim life. One sore point that sticks out to me is all the references to the so-called "Se
Lots to ponder regarding AI and man made humanoid entities, all set in a believable future Muslim Morrocco. I enjoy McHugh's style of writing. You get the feeling of being in each character's head, immersed in their internal dialogue as they meander though their lives.
Montanna Wildhack
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Good story: original sci-fi idea, skillfully blended with cultural and ethical quandaries. Really great characters and development. I just feel the story could have been edgier somehow.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was one of Maureen McHugh's best books yet. She does some interesting things with the ideas of deliberate personality modification and slavery. Something about the tone of the writing reminds me of China Mountain Zhang
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
While the future may have brought many things, it hasn't brought to everyone equally. Poverty still exists and, in certain places, so do new kinds of slavery. Hariba is one such, a young woman who has undergone a procedure called "jessing" which makes her loyal to an employer, and unable to defy him without life-threatening consequences... in addition to legal ones. But at least it is a job, an opportunity, and her master treats her well. But then there is Akhmim, a harni, a created being who is ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very sad SF novel about the obligations of culture, family, and situational necessity, set in a future Morocco. Hariba is biologically programmed to be an indentured servant; Akhmin is an artificial person bred to serve humans. They're drawn to one another, but even if they can find freedom, it's difficult for either of them to distinguish love from obligation.

I read McHugh's short story "Nekropolis" years ago and adored it. The prose is spare and beautiful and the characters are alive on the
Natasha Hurley-Walker
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
There's something about McHugh's writing that I simply love. Nothing much happens in her books, yet I find them immensely readable. I can't wait to find out what happens to all of the characters; in this book the viewpoint switches from one to another and they're all sympathetic and tragic.

The setting is fantastic, and I loved how different characters notice different things about it, making it more real. It's rare that you get sci-fi set in poverty-stricken surroundings; this exploration of how
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
A touching tragedy set in a near future Moroccan society that provides the experience of being a social outcast, a runaway, a refugee, and a foreigner.

Writers, read this for point of view: The narrative's shifting viewpoints — from Hariba, the girl who sells herself into slavery; to Akhmim, the man-made life form Hariba loves; to Hariba's mother, who undergoes risk to protect Hariba when she runs away; to Ayesha, Hariba's childhood friend who takes risks to get Hariba and Akhmim out of the count
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-magic
This book is about one woman, Hariba who chooses to get "jessed" - an altering of the brain/body to heighten feelings of loyalty to an owner, rather than live with her broken family. She becomes a housekeeper and works alongside a "Harni" - a person created from 80% human DNA and 20% chimp DNA. The Harni are legally discriminated against and are largely thought not to be human, but more like artificial intelligence. But Areba falls in love with the is super fascinating. And actually I ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was published just before 9/11, and thus somehow presents an interesting and perhaps unique perspective and speculation of Islamic life and changes brought on by technology and societal change. I recall hearing that it was written partially in response to Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover. It's a slowly-paced, very thoughtful book, quite uncomfortable at times; McHugh is among the best at making her readers really think, question, and examine their reactions to her prose. It's a wel ...more
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it
An enslaved woman meets a non-quite-human, falls in love and finds a version of freedom. Personal will, culture and identity exploration combine with scifi for a well-written and literary spin on the genre, although the romantic elements grow tiresome. Similar to The Silver Metal Lover, a non-human/human love exploration that I enjoyed more (despite its awful, awful title).
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Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Her first published story appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1989. Since then, she has written four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for h
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“It's good to be loved. But it isn't enough.” 6 likes
“The Second Koran tells us that the darkness in ourselves is a sinister thing. It waits until we relax, it waits until we reach the most vulnerable moments, and then it snares us. I want to be dutiful. I want to do what I should. But when I go back to the tube, I think of where I am going; to that small house and my empty room. What will I do tonight? Make more paper flowers, more wreaths? I am sick of them. Sick of the Nekropolis.

I can take the tube to my mistress' house, or I can go by the street where Mardin's house is. I'm tired. I'm ready to go to my little room and relax. Oh, Holy One, I dread the empty evening. Maybe I should go by the street just to fill up time. I have all this empty time in front of me. Tonight and tomorrow and the week after and the next month and all down through the years as I never marry and become a dried-up woman. Evenings spent folding paper. Days cleaning someone else's house. Free afternoons spent shopping a bit, stopping in tea shops because my feet hurt. That is what lives are, aren't they? Attempts to fill our time with activity designed to prevent us from realizing that there is no meaning?”
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