Alif the Unseen
By G. Willow Wilson
Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802121226, 456pp.
Publication Date: April 2013
List Price: $16.00*
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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"
In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clientsdissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groupsfrom surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alifthe 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 state's electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover's new fiance 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 debuta sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.
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"