Bina Shah's book was a nostalgic read for me. As a (Singaporean) Karachite the novel's setting in late 1990s Karachi was a reminder of my own time in Pakistan's commercial capital. The author's descriptions of city streets, shops and even its beaches all evoked special memories for me.
As literature, The 786 Cybercafe is a good effort. The story was realistic. It gives unfamilar readers an insight into Karachi. Thankfully, the author refrained from turning the novel into an explicit political commentary. Ms. Shah refrained from making judgements about Pakistan's urban social values. Instead, the reader is left to make up one's own mind about these traditions.
The characters - mainly young people reflecting the city's youth population bulge developed well as the story progressed. Surely, they were at times stereotyped but I guess it's to wrote a novel without some degree of stereotyping.
The plot was enjoyable, especially the latter half of the book where I found myself wishing to rush ahead to learn the fate of Nadia – the book's main female character. Indeed, through Nadia the author makes an understated yet powerful feminist statement. (It is entirely possible that many readers may not even grasp these serious feminist undertones.)
The 786 Cybercafe is time well spent. The novel particularly resonates with readers curious about Pakistan's social milieu. While at its heart the book is a simple story, the author does weaves subtle social messages into the plot.
Imran is an adventurer, blogger, consultant, guide, photographer, speaker, traveler and a banker in his previous life. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); instagram (@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.