But Yehya was not convinced, and he did not stop bleeding.”– The Queue
Summary and Thoughts
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 popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate in order to take care of even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the Gate never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer.
Citizens from all walks of life mix and wait in the sun: a revolutionary journalist, a sheikh, a poor woman concerned for her daughter’s health, and even the brother of a security officer killed in clashes with protestors. Among them is Yehya, a man who was shot during the Events and is waiting for permission from the Gate to remove a bullet that remains lodged in his pelvis. Yehya’s health steadily declines, yet at every turn, officials refuse to assist him, actively denying the very existence of the bullet.
Ultimately it is Tarek, the principled doctor tending to Yehia’s case, who must decide whether to follow protocol as he has always done, or to disobey the law and risk his career to operate on Yehya and save his life.
Aziz’s work, The Queue is a unique examination of an authoritarian society, with mirrors Egypt’s political crisis. Though the writing was sometimes a bit repetitive, the pacing occasionally slow, and the narrative actions of the characters, at times, confusing, I overall enjoyed the book, believing my dystopian library to be richer to have read this. Aziz’s specific attention to how this controlling government augments its brutality through its manipulation of healthcare, communication, religion, and controlled industries was fascinating to witness, further differentiating this novel from its other contemporaries. While I don’t foresee The Queue to be one of my favorites of the year, I would certainly selectively recommend this to those attracted to its description.
For Those Who Enjoyed
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
- The Castle by Franz Kafka
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler