Published by: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 18 December 2020
“They will call you ‘The Troublemaker’, but before you leave this world, you will cross the 7-mile bridge in Heera Mandi”
Rania is a tour guide by day and a classical singer-in-secret by night. Born in Heera Mandi, Lahore's most famous red-light district, she has seen her madrassah-running father sell her mother's body and beat her sister Ujala. But Rania is the 'troublemaker', the little bird who will fly beyond the stifling walls of the red light district and upend everything around her. She meets Asher, an Indian filmmaker, who encourages her to enrol in a singing contest that can take her to the US. As she wins the hearts of her listeners and Asher, there is trouble brewing. Ujala's dangerous secret will lead her into a chain of events that will take her to a federal correctional centre in the US, accused of terrorism.
Tender, piercing and filled with longing, Skyfall teaches us about the human endeavour and its desire for love in a time of hate. From the oppressive walls of Sherji's religious hypocrisy to the orange jumpsuits of American prisons, Saba Karim Khan's powerful debut is a fable for humanity.
The world of Skyfall
Skyfall means the last attempt you make against a group of people when outnumbered – a similar spirit crystallizes the world of my novel. Skyfall is a “song” that puts you back in control, letting no one else tell you what your aukaat is. It denounces the game of smoke and mirrors that has colonized our minds for so long, hammering in its place, different imaginaries; the possibility of amplifying our reality to fit our dreams, instead of downsizing our dreams to force-fit our reality. Skyfall craves coexistence in a world that is approaching an especially dangerous point: moving apart and tearing at the seams, as quickly as it is coming closer. Finally, it pushes back furiously against the mounting fetish for purity taking us by storm – purity of women’s bodies, sexuality, religion, color grids – and layers in its place, an ode to impurity. Be a “Troublemaker” and own it, Skyfall implores.
“This indelible debut by Saba Karim Khan sings a song of rebellion, bursting with incendiary energy. And that voice!—at once elegiac and growling, whispering and full-throated, it grabs us like an aria sung from a dark streetcorner. Skyfall’s characters are makers of trouble—of the kinds both good and bad—and we readers are whisked through complex inner lives that bounce between Lahore and New York City, two hardscrabble and hopeful worlds that on these pages meet, finally, as equals. Khan’s elegant novel rings with resistance: that, come what may, though the sky may fall, our words can remain a defiant defence of human frailties in a spiraling world of menacing pieties. Stand with Khan; read this book; find your closed eyes opened.”
—Miguel Syjuco, author of the Man Asian Prize-winning novel, Ilustrado (Picador, 2010)
“A breathtaking, daring, and urgent debut novel that delivers a cavalcade of piercing emotional truth about the immigrant experience. Rania is a hero for our times, and her global odyssey illuminates our shared humanity with arresting vision and aplomb. In the mode of Mohsin Hamid and David Mitchell, this is a wise and provocative feat of storytelling that contains multitudes.”
—Gabe Hudson, author of Dear Mr. President
“Spunky, seventeen-year-old Rania takes us on a riveting journey from the haunting slums of Heera Mandi, Lahore’s famous red-light district, to her escape from her abusive father, through a music contest in America. How she navigates through the dystopian West — and learns to love her beautiful, broken homeland again — takes us on a fast-paced trajectory through this complex novel. A powerful, soulful and timely debut.”
—Bapsi Sidhwa, author of The Crow Eaters, The Bride, Ice-Candy-Man and An American Brat
“Bold and compelling, Skyfall takes us to a place spoken of only in whispers. Khan shows us Lahore and New York as never seen before. In the midst of the 24-hr internet cafes and colorful mahallas of Old Lahore, the protagonist grows up. Khan's prose will sweep you off your feet. It is lyrical to the point of being magical and shines a light on a section of society that has long been forgotten. Part mystery and part thriller, this is essential reading for every Lahori, or every Pakistani for that matter. Unmissable.”
—Awais Khan, author of In the Company of Strangers
“Skyfall is a bold, big-hearted debut: at once a deeply political novel concerned with the most pressing global issues of our time, it is also an adventure story, a romance, and a page-turning thriller. Saba Karim Khan has established herself as a writer of immense tenderness and strength.”
—Jake Wolff, author of The History of Living Forever
“Saba Karim Khan’s debut complicates the usual tropes one might expect in a South Asian novel. Rania, the protagonist, is the kind of troublemaker who dreams big and soars high. From Lahore slums to New York City highrises, Rania puts everything on the line to fight against prejudices related to gender, religion, caste, class, and country. A spirited, take-charge heroine for our challenging, complex times.”
—Jenny Bhatt, author of Each of Us Killers
“We should all be grateful that Saba Karim Khan has chosen not to leave this song unsung. This has been a bruising few years, and we are all in need of work that can take us elsewhere, that can uplift and inspire us. Skyfall does all those things. And perhaps most important of all, it helps us imagine a better way of living together.”
—Tom Fletcher CMG, author of The Naked Diplomat, Principal, Hertford College, Oxford; writer and former ambassador
“Saba Karim Khan’s beautiful blend of literary stylings, fated romance, and perfectly paced thriller will delight readers who come to stories for their line to line poetics and their relentless page-turning appeal. From Lahore’s red-light district to New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, follow Rania as she chases her dreams of musical stardom while confronting the suffocating realities of poverty, sexism, and the ever-churning oppression of capitalism. With a balance of the fable-like qualities and harsh realism of works by Megha Majumdar, Louise Erdrich, and Mohsin Hamid, readers will be searching for any news promising Khan’s next book!”
—Corey Farrenkopf, Fiction Editor for The Cape Cod Poetry Review and author of "What Friends Don't Tell Friends About Basements" and other stories.
"Lush, rich, and glittering with detail, Skyfall is a novel that takes us inside new worlds, from the slums of Lahore to New York, in a story that becomes a song, shattering stereotypes about the immigrant experience. Saba Karim Khan is a bold new writer who pens a fantastic woman hero, not just complex but real. There is romance, there is knuckle-tight tension, and there is action galore. What a talent. What a book."
—Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder and The Butterfly Girl