he Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate is made up of four intricately woven stories: the titular story, “The Tale of the Fortunate Rope-Maker,” “The Tale of the Weaver Who Stole from Himself,” and “The Tale of the Wife and Her Lover.” As Fuwaad the fabric merchant wanders the bazaar of Baghdad, he discovers a new merchant with a marvelous assortment of goods. Perhaps impulsively, the merchant Bashaarat decides to show the him one of his more unusual alchemical experiments, a hoop whose sides are separated by time:
“Using the Gate is like taking a secret passageway in a palace, one that lets you enter a room more quickly than by walking down the hallway. The room remains the same, no matter which door you use to enter.’
This surprised me. ‘The future is fixed, then? As unchangeable as the past?’
‘It is said that repentance and atonement erase the past.'”
Bashaarat shares the stories of a few of the users of the Gate and how they attempted to influence their lives. Unsurprisingly, the stories reflect both fulfilling and unsatisfying ways the Gate may be used. Plotting is intricate and occasionally mind-bending in a timeless atmosphere of Baghdad and Cario. Language is evocative. Winner of both a Hugo and a Nebula, it is the kind of tale develops more that it is re-read.