Kundo Wakes Up is the second volume in Saad Z. Hossain’s The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday series.
One year and two hundred and thirty-six days ago, artist Kundo’s wife vanished, leaving a note informing him that she was leaving. Kundo did not handle the news at all well. Now, six hundred and one days later, he wakes from his daze and resolves to look for his wife.
Throughout the six hundred and one days Kundo spent in a funk Chittagong has continued its slow, inexorable decline. Karma, the ruling AI, issues fewer and fewer updates, which hints that Karma is on the verge of simply abandoning the city and its population to their post-Disintegration-Era fate.
Kundo seeks out his old hacker friend Hassem for assistance. Hassem too has vanished. All that remains of Hassem is his apartment, still crammed with Hassem’s possessions, and an enigmatic letter left with Hassem’s neighbor, Fara.
There is a link between Hassem and Kundo’s missing spouse. Both were avid gamers. Indeed, Kundo has long suspected that his wife ran off with her gamer pals. However, on closer examination it seems that Hassem got caught up in an illicit, hidden game known as Black Road. Kundo’s wife followed the same path, frantically competing to win … what?
Enter ReGi, Duchess of Kathmandu and duly appointed Sheriff of Karma. Karma too is very curious about the Black Road. Why it is that none of the AI’s wonderful machines can get near the entity at the center of the game? Humans do not appear to suffer from the same deficiency; thus humans will have to investigate for Karma.
Kundo and his rapidly expanding collection of friends and allies set off to find the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Chittagong. Or more accurately, the djinn. And — perhaps! — answers.
I am not at all sure Kundo ever thinks of his wife by name. Certainly, his preferred choices are “his wife” and “her.” It’s possible that the implosion of their marriage was an overdetermined process, inevitable if Kundo (as he was six hundred and one days earlier) was half of it.
The story is set in a city inexorably sliding into collapse even as the ocean slowly rises to claim it. The characters are hapless and abandoned, the protagonist is an unhappy man looking for his missing wife and friend. Not exactly the stuff of which happy stories are usually built.
And yet … Kundo’s journey forces him to engage with other people. Once he crawls out of his own navel, it turns out he’s pretty good at this whole interacting with humans (and the occasional djinn) thing. As well, the legions of the forgotten and abandoned turn out to have their own virtues as well. Kundo Wakes Up could have been terribly depressing, but to my surprise, in Hossain’s skillful hands it was a delightful change of pace.