Nine short stories and a novella make up this latest offering by Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building. As in that novel, Al Aswany dissects modern Egyptian society and reveals with skill and detachment the hypocrisy, violence, and abuse of power characteristic of a world in moral crisis. Here, though, the focus has shifted from the broad historical canvas to the minute stitches of pain that hold together an individual, a family, a school classroom, or the relationship between a man and a woman. Can a man so alienated from his society that he regards all its members as no better than microbes wriggling under a microscope survive within it? Can cynical religiosity triumph over human decency? Can a man put the thought of a delicious dish of beans behind him long enough to mourn his father’s death? Alongside these wry questions, other, less mordant perspectives also have their place: an aging cabaret dancer bestows the blessing of a vanished world on her lover’s son; a crippled boy wins subjective victory from objective disaster. In Friendly Fire, readers will find again the vivid, passionate characters of today’s Cairo, clamoring to be heard.