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Do You Know Divided Species Is A Sci-Fi Novel Set In Karachi?

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Presenting Karachi in a novel based on science fiction is something readers thought might never happen. Karachi-based fiction writer, Muhammad Omar Iftikhar, made it a reality. His novel, Divided Species, takes readers through the streets of Karachi as the extraterrestrial beings (aliens) arrive in the city in search of a secret mineral resource.

Imaginatively crafted and written with simplicity, the novel fuses in its narrative the themes of leadership, courage, friendship. Rayan, a 21-year-old student, befriends the members of the Taleyken race – creatures from space – so they can complete their mission. Their first encounter on Earth with a group of police officers and later Rayan’s disbelief when the visitors from space reveal their true identity are some of the many moments that reveal Omar’s writing prowess.

Over the years, Pakistani authors have brought to fore novels touching a wide array of themes linked with social issues and challenges. These include identity crisis, migration, terrorism, gender disparity, and others. Muhammad Omar Iftikhar’s valour must be applauded for he ventured into science fiction – a literary genre that was pretty much ignored as far as Pakistani literature is concerned.
Omar creates a story that is not only set entirely in Karachi but the key events also occur in areas of Karachi that its residents know much about. Karachiites may consider themselves to be the protagonist as the action takes them from one area of Karachi to the other. Omar’s dexterous use of words and his vivid explanation of the sights and sounds of Karachi will surely be a delight for the readers. Divided Species is perhaps one of the first science fiction novels written by a Pakistani Anglophone fiction writer who makes Karachi the hero of the novel. While the protagonist and the supporting characters keep the story moving, Karachi shines through the various scenes.

Furthermore, Omar has not used time as a parameter to associate the readers with the story’s timeline. If readers pick the book five years down the road, they will think the action in the novel is happening in their present moment. Omar has also used witty one-liners in dialogues that keep a balance between seriousness and humor. Certain scenes will make you laugh, some will compel you to turn the page out of curiosity, while some chapters will augment emotions.

While the book is based on a unique theme, Omar could have added more dimensions to the personalities of the creatures from space. They could use telepathy to connect with their fellow beings or manipulate the humans’ thought process. Omar may have created these extraterrestrial beings to be as human as the humans themselves. This is also evident when he introduces the Taleykens from Planet Arplon (a fictional planet) situated in the actual Cygnus Constellation. Omar shares that the Taleyken race follows moral values, family ties, and traditions. This shows a similarity with the human counterparts and how they live on Earth.
The title of the novel is understood once you read the novel. The action and adventure with some humour added here and there will keep your interest intact. The way Omar has created the characters, both human and alien, and evolved the key ones through the novel is remarkable. Despite several human and alien characters driving the story forward – with both good and evil ones – the readers will have no problem remembering each. You need to read Divided Species to experience the intergalactic warfare that Muhammad Omar Iftikhar brings to Karachi. Sidra F Sheikh and Usman T Malik have already produced works of science fiction. Muhammad Omar Iftikhar’s Divided Species is a worthy literary work in this genre indeed.

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Naya Daur