The 4 Hundred and 20 Assassins of Emir Abdullah-Harazins,
by Joseph DeMarco
Lightning Source UK Ltd, 2004, 8.31, 148pp
ISBN 1418441023

This reviewed first appeared in The Alien Online

In which we follow Anazasi, a former guard of the feared and revered Prince Abdullah-Harazins in the Middle East 1,000-odd years ago. Anazasi has been singled out for an unfathomable mission across unfamiliar desert to deliver an unknown message for the unseen Prince. His path takes him through strange Arabian Nights gardens and palaces, into dangerously repugnant towns, over scorching deserts and across the paths of all manner of bizarre folk.

And he spends most of it stoned on blow, weed, Mary-Jane, gear, cannabis, marijuana - call it what you will - Anazasi's world-view (via DeMarco's writing) is shaped/warped by the effects of a bit of 'puff'. The influence of the weed seems fairly obvious throughout what is a fairly short book as Anazasi wanders around the desert red-eyed and seldom making a lot of sense. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing; the Arabian Nights reads as rather crazed too, and that's a marvellous and abundantly creative read.

As a one-time aficionado myself of a bit of 'Pete Tosh' (no, I didn't get it at the time either, categorically blowing my cool with one Camden dealer), I can honestly testify that a good spliff can be a fine thing indeed: widening the mind and broadening perceptions, not to mention a bit of a laugh, at the same time. However, being stoned can also be a tediously frustrating experience when viewed from outside, which is, for the most part, how I felt reading The 4 Hundred and 20 Assassins of Emir Abdullah-Harazins. Not a page passes (sometimes not even a paragraph) when Anazasi doesn't take at least one toke on the doobie, and the story, whilst well written with an interesting style at the level of the individual sentence, is disjointed, rambling and fragmentary - just like a stoner's tale, in fact! This may be a stylistic device intended to convey Anazasi's own mental haze and confusion, but it does no favours at all for the story.

In my (ahem) 'aficionado' days, I can easily imagine that this book may have been significantly more my cup of tea, but now I'm into my 30s I found it more static and frustrating. Still, at least it didn't give me the munchies.

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