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Alif the Unseenby G. Willow Wilson
Religion, metaphor, rebellion. The Quran and the Internet. Hackers, effrit, and sheikhs. Douglas Hofstadter shout-outs. Holy moly. Otherworldly elements swirl into the modern-day Middle East in this sandstorm of magic and mortals. The environments are finely crafted, completely believable, and often beautiful. We see skyscrapers after a sandstorm, the contrast of chaiwallahs and Starbucks, and the tactile differences between darkness and night. The characters? Perfectly realized, never too accomplished, never too one-sided, and with shades of subtle coloring throughout. I told a bajillion people about this book, and I still want to tell a bajillion more.
Synopses & Reviews
In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients — dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups — from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif — the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the states electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lovers new fiancé is the Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.
With shades of Neal Stephenson, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut — a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.
G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.” Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and American Gods
Driven by a hot ionic charge between higher math and Arabian myth, G. Willow Wilson conjures up a tale of literary enchantment, political change, and religious mystery. Open the first page and you will be forced to do its bidding: To read on.” Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz
[A] Harry Potter-ish action-adventure romance [that] unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring....Improbably charming....A bookload of wizardry and glee.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Outrageously enjoyable....The energetic plotting of Philip Pullman, the nimble imagery of Neil Gaiman and the intellectual ambition of Neal Stephenson are three comparisons that come to mind.” Salon.com
An intoxicating, politicized amalgam of science fiction and fantasy...that integrates the all-too-familiar terrors of contemporary political repression with supernatural figures from The Thousand and One Nights.” Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post
A magical book. The supernatural and sociopolitical thriller Alif the Unseen is timely literary alchemy, a smart, spirited swirl of current events and history; religion and mysticism; reality and myth; computer science and metaphysics....Alif the Unseen richly rewards believers in the power of the written word.” The Seattle Times
[An] excellent modern fairytale...[Wilson] surpasses the early work of Stephenson and Gaiman, with whom comparisons have already been made....Alif the Unseen will find many fans in both West and East. They will appreciate it for being just the fine story it is and as a seed for potent ideas yet to come.” io9.com
Alif the Unseen...defies easy categorization. Is it literary fiction? A fantasy novel? A dystopian techno-thriller? An exemplar of Islamic mysticism, with ties to the work of the Sufi poets? Wilson seems to delight in establishing, then confounding, any expectations readers may have.” Pauls Toutonghi, New York Times Book Review
A fast-paced, thrilling journey between two worlds, the seen world of human beings and the unseen world of the supernatural.” The Philadelphia Inquirer
A delirious urban fantasy which puts the unlikely case for religion in an age of empowering and intrusive technology.” The Guardian (UK)
Alif the Unseen is a true chimera....There are few authors who can pull off dealing with religion, dogma, and mysticism as well as sci-fi, and Wilson is one of them. Alif the Unseen contains elements that will appeal to fans of the ecstatic digital visions The Neuromancer, devotees of the mythological richness of The Thousand and One Nights, international-news junkies and fellow hacktivists.” Tor.com
Written just before the Arab Spring, this wild adventure mixes the digital derring-do of Neal Stephenson with the magic of The Thousand and One Nights....Alif the Unseen is a rich blend of storytelling magic.” San Francisco Chronicle
Passion, power, and technology converge in this imaginative novel.” Oprah.com
Outstanding...Wilson's novel delights in bending genres and confounding expectations: It's both a literary techno-thriller and a fantasy that takes religion very seriously....Alif the Unseen...is one of the most inventive, invigorating novels of the year.” The Christian Science Monitor
A fantasy thriller that takes modern Islamic computer hackers fighting against State-based repression and entangles that with the fantastical Djinn-riddled world of One Thousand and One Nights....Like a novelization of one of Joss Whedon's best Buffy episodes crossed with a Pathé newsreel of the Arab Spring uprisings. Its a page-turner.” The Austin Chronicle
About the Author
G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. She is also the author of a memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, and the critically acclaimed comics Air and Vixen. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle.
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