Not Salman Rushdie’s best effort. There was the usual mix of jinns, philosophers, religious figures, legends, characters of multiple backgrounds, God(s), fate, and storytelling a la "1001 Nights," but it felt like a mailed-in effort, because none of the normal characters around which all this imaginative machinery was deployed was him-or-herself particularly imaginative or even sympathetic. In addition, all too often it seemed Rushdie was winking at me from the page, so pleased with the joke he had just told, he wanted to make sure the reader didn’t miss his cleverness. In a word, it was a bit precious, without the intimacy of prior efforts.
Ostensibly, this is a retelling from the future of a war between powerful jinns taking place more or less in the present time. (The text is littered with references to terrible modern day events, from school shootings to Donald Trump.) Because the membrane between the other world of the jinns and the human world has weakened, the jinns conduct their war in the human world. The war begins with “strangenesses” in which the laws of physics of our world give way; for example, many characters no longer are fully subject to gravity and begin to float like balloons while others are crushed under a supergravity. The strangenesses give way to outright warfare.
The outcome of the war is never in doubt because of the structure of the novel, which is a little bit like a holy book recording the long ago clashes that made the present of the narrator more wonderful than the current world. In that future world, resort to God and religion has been rejected, but with its eradication has come the loss of dreams at night. While at certain points Rushdie manages to cleverly portray real life events of our own world as themselves “strangenesses,” where facts and science give way to opinion, lust, and the irrational, in my view, the novel never really achieved a coherent story or convinced me to care much about the human characters or various jinns.