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The Queue

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,534 ratings  ·  306 reviews
Set against the backdrop of a failed political uprising, The Queue is a chilling debut that evokes Orwellian dystopia, Kafkaesque surrealism, and a very real vision of life after the Arab Spring.

In a surreal, but familiar, vision of modern day Egypt, a centralized authority known as ‘the Gate’ has risen to power in the aftermath of the ‘Disgraceful Events,’ a failed popula
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Melville House (first published December 28th 2012)
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Umm.. so a chapter or so into the book, I began googling Basma Abdel Aziz to determine if she was still alive. Definitely, a residue of my being born and spending my childhood in a totalitarian country, for certainly a book like this would never have been published in the formerly communist Eastern block. Or, if somehow it had escaped the censors, I have no doubt its writer wouldn’t have escaped the gulag. Except perhaps, if such a book would have caught the eye of an English translator and had ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Basma Abdel Aziz is a force to be reckoned with, and I have to admit to being more interested in her author bio than the start of this book. But if she had not written the futility of the world she created (or reflected, really) it would not have been as effective. Everyone is in a queue, they think, to get the forms to prove they are good citizens. Only good citizens can work, rent properties, own land, and be considered for bullet removal (which is illegal.) There are tastes of 1984 and many o ...more
Nancy Oakes
Frankly, this is one hell of a good book.

[More at my reading journal if anyone's interested.

I can just picture someone somewhere reading the back-cover blurb of this book where it says "The Queue is a chilling debut that evokes Orwellian dystopia, Kafkaesque surrealism,..." and wondering why he/she should read it if it's done before. Well, it's certainly true that there are a lot of books that focus on people faced with the absurdities of a totalitarian government, but in this book, what strike
Viv JM
The Queue is an interesting new take on the dystopian genre, which manages to balance hyper-reality with a sense of surreal absurdity. It is set in an unnamed authoritarian state, where citizens are at the mercy of a central authority figure called The Gate. Bureaucracy is extreme – citizens need authorization for the slightest need (eye test, anyone?)– and in order to gain this, they must join the queue at The Gate. More and more people join the queue, but The Gate never seems to open, despite ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
In a non-specific Middle Eastern setting, life in a city is governed by 'the Gate', both an actual structure and a symbol of authoritarian rule. Citizens are instructed to queue outside it for permits and certificates for everything from job applications to medical treatment. The Gate, however, never opens – it's often rumoured that it's about to, but all that happens is that more new laws are imposed; the queue grows longer and starts to turn into a permanent fixture. All this takes place in th ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
But Yehya was not convinced, and he did not stop bleeding.

So many have placed this book on Speculative Fiction lists. I find that curious. Maybe, hopeful?

The themes are unrelentingly bleak. After the teargas, brace for Kafka's Law. Not Murphy's -- rather have the stout than Beckett's blues. I mean Kafka's LAW, you know the edifice of authority, rife with a voiceover from Orson Welles?

The novel concerns a thinly disguised Egypt which after the Arab spring, uhh I mean the Disgraceful Events, when
This novel is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern Country, although the author lives in Cairo and has written several works of non-fiction speaking out against oppression and torture in Egypt.

In this book, there is a totalitarian regime, symbolized by the mysterious Gate, to which all citizens must apply for permits for almost everything. The main story line features Yehya, a man who was shot during the so called Disgraceful Events, and has a bullet in his stomach. The book follows him and his frie
This is the story of how an authoritarian government works. History and reality are rewritten to tell fit the truth the government decides will work best to keep its citizens in line. Fear is used to control the masses. Surveillance in many forms is everywhere and is constant.

Tarek is a surgeon. As the book begins, he is reviewing the file of a patient he treated in the emergency room the night the "Disgraceful Events" began. The patient had been shot. After getting the x-rays and observing a b
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated, sci-fi
This was just an okay read for me. I don’t think it was the book- I think it was the mood I was in while reading it.

This is a dystopia about a world ruled by a mysterious gate that popped up out of nowhere one day and began issuing laws and decrees. At first people expected the Gate to be a good thing, but then the horror slowly dawns on them as the laws get stricter and stricter, forcing people to jump through numerous hoops to get anything done.

Mostly it follows a character named Yehya and his
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating dystopian novel. It takes place in an unnamed city in the middle east where there is a centralized authoritarian control known only as "The Gate" Citizens are required to obtain permission for just about anything from the gate. The problem is the gate never seems to open so people have to wait in the most ridiculous queue ever and they never really get anywhere. Our main character, Yehya, has an even bigger problem. He needs permission from the gate to have a bullet remove ...more
This was a challenging but in the end quite affecting novel. The author, an Egyptian journalist, is also a psychiatrist who treats victims of torture. Excellent credentials for writing a novel about the impact of government oppression.

The story opens in an unnamed Middle Eastern city with Dr Tarek Fahmy reviewing the file of his patient Yehya Gad el-Rab Saeed. Said patient had come to him for the removal of a bullet in his groin, received during an uprising that has come to be known as the Dis
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Queue is built on historical precedence set by Arab Springs. The foundation of the story lies in the changing climate in the middle east with its revolt against authorities, outing fundamentalism and greater exposure to social media. The globe watched more closely than ever when an entire nation protested against their government and changed history forever. This book is set during one such moment in history where the revolt against government fails, and fails for the worse. The building tha ...more
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book today and I feel like I just got off a roller coaster. This is a dystopian novel, but it's also horror. The Gate is meant to keep people "in line" all the while you have people recording citizen's every move.

There's one specific passage that terrified me like no other book has done.

Although the first 100 pages were confusing, the second part of the book made up for it.

The people in this book are scared, but the scarier part is that they are adapting. They are living. Even
Ryan Ward
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially when I began reading this, it read like a number of other dystopian novels, with exposition and a bit of world building (although the novel is set in the present-day Middle East, so we're not talking a big fantasy world build). But then it just kept going. Day in and day out, describing the lives of people under an authoritarian regime who are waiting in line outside of a government office that never opens.

After the initial backdrop was placed, I began to get a bit bored. I realized I
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a pivotal scene in which one of the characters describes the nothingness in which she finds herself. In a few pages, we are led into a directionless void, no scent, no texture, no communication. I found it terrifying. Together with the 6 documents we are presented with throughout the book, I was made to feel the horror and the tension these characters faced in this world. And I had to ask the question of how people are able to communicate with one another under such a faceless, burdenso ...more
Nate D
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those trapped by hopeful expectation of reason and order
Recommended to Nate D by: the latest announcement from the gate
A contemporary dystopian present from a part of the world perhaps uniquely positioned to comment on such. Written by an Egyptian journalist, this is the story how ordinary people, just by attempting to persevere in any way they can, may become complicit in perpetuating the unacceptable and intolerable. Here, in an endless line formed in waiting for a government office to open, wherein one may get the paperwork to prove "True Citizenship" pr apply to have a bullet wound operated on. How relevant ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A mostly spoiler-free one this time, since my major problems with this are due to structure.

I went into this book with no expectations either way. While I saw the blurb about Kafka, I ignored it, because such blurbs are marketing, not anything else. If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be "unfocused."

First, I am well-aware that this is a translation. And there are a few things that crop up due to the translation issue, such as untranslated words (like the clothing called galabay
Samaa Ahmed
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given where the ‘Arab Spring’ has ended up, reading Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue is a rather eerie and dispiriting experience. The dystopian novel is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern city, now entirely governed by a faceless authoritarian regime called The Gate, which has placed its citizens in a chokehold following what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘Disgraceful Events’, perpetuated by the ‘Riffraff’, who protested against the curtailing of their freedoms. The novel follows a broad rang ...more
Tense, dystopian, well done. I had to stop for a few days at one point; I couldn’t bear to read on to find out what had happened to one of the characters. Very nice job of portraying so many characters’ approaches to living in an authoritarian society pervaded by spies and lies. Very timely to watch the government try one spin after another to deny events that the character at the center carries a fatal reminder of. I would like to read more by this author.
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
“The Queue”, by Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz, tells the tale of a dystopian society where citizens are rigidly controlled by an invisible authoritarian government. In order to receive authorization for just about any task, men and women must line up for weeks on end in front of an administrative Gate.

One of the citizens anxiously in wait of an authorization is Yehya, a young man recently shot during a government rebellion. Yehya is slowly dying from the bullet lodged in his body, however, as
A good dystopia with a zoomed view and a varied cast.

It was an interesting read even if the story or the society weren't amazing or really new. Indeed, the narration was very focused, zooming only on several characters, making it difficult to completely grab what was happening at the society level. I enjoyed to discover piece by piece the dystopia this way, it kept me interested all along and I'd fun when something new was unveiled. The characters weren't a lot developed and I didn't become atta
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the darkest books I've ever read... And I mainly read dystopian fiction! It follows changes in an unnamed country as it becomes more and more authoritarian. It is told from the perspective of a group of people who are forced to live in a queue to get government documents necessary to run their lives... Anything from permits to get medical attention, or documents to show true citizenship. Everyone is under surveillance... And new orders come out regularly. I can't really say I enj ...more
I thought this to be quite unique, quite brilliant.
An uprising sees a strange unseen government in place. More and more rules are enacted which require the citizens to seek approval from "The Gate". The only problem is "The Gate" is never opened and the queue gets longer and longer. There are bizarre rules such as to get surgery to remove a bullet. This is a book full of Catch-22s, a reflection of tyranny gone wrong and how the masses seem to willingly obey even the most extreme laws.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Queue is an important novel. Basma Abdel Aziz deftly weaves a story about the psychological aspects of every day existence of people trying to navigate an oppressive and deceptive regime as it becomes (to some) increasingly clear that they are under 24-7 surveillance. Avoiding any truly gruesome scenes (save for one with a bag full of bloody bullets), but rather implying them in the terrified and slow disintegration of mental and physical health, Abdel Aziz achieves an eerie, haunting atmosp ...more
221116: this is actually somewhere between three and four and sometimes even two. 'the gate' is a great idea, the totalitarian absurdity well-displayed, but interesting actions of 'disgraceful events' are only alluded to, the theme of finding an x-ray that seems to have disappeared, of extracting a bullet always delayed by bureaucracy and fear, of surveillance of 'free' cell phones... sometimes too plausible, too current, too horrible, but the characters appear simple, interchangeable, and there ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cerebral and openly Kafkaesque, the Queue is an allegory for a totalitarian society, clearly modeled on the failure in Egypt of the Arab Spring. Aziz, herself, is a highly intelligent writer. The book is written in a very flat and claustrophobic style, which makes the reading experience somewhat oppressive. But that, presumably, is intentional and unavoidable.

So, 4-stars analytically, 3-stars for enjoyment. A pity that with all the bells-and-whistles on this site, the one really *necessary* tin
Thomas Hale
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping dystopian novel by an Egyptian activist and journalist. Lots of reviews have described it as Orwellian and/or Kafkaesque, with characters crushed under the weight of totalitarianism and bureaucracy. But it's more than that - Aziz is able to depict the daily lives of people forming their own communities in the titular Queue, and characters who initially appear one-dimensional become fleshed out and challenged over the course of the story. While the book is far from cheerful, there is a s ...more
4.5 stars
Fake news spec fic set in a Middle Eastern city: it's exactly as horrifying as you'd imagine.
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Being stuck waiting in an unending line makes for a pretty convincing (and depressing) dystopia.
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Basma Abdel Aziz has a BA in medicine and surgery, an MS in neuropsychiatry, and a diploma in sociology. She works for the General Secretariat of Mental Health in Egypt's Ministry of Health and the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.

Abdel-Aziz gained second place for her short stories in the 2008 Sawiris Cultural Award, and a 2008 award from the General Organisation for Cul

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“Yehya would never admit that he was just a single, powerless man in a society where rules and restrictions were stronger than everything else, stronger than the ruler himself, stronger” 0 likes
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