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The Mirage: A Novel by Matt Ruff

The Mirage: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Matt Ruff

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3361832,756 (3.67)16
Title:The Mirage: A Novel
Authors:Matt Ruff
Info:Harper Perennial (2013), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:alternate history, Texas idiot, Dick Cheney (evil in any reality), jinn, "and then I woke up"

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The Mirage: A Novel by Matt Ruff (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
On the face of it, it sounds like a pretty terrible idea: write a book in which the identities of the victims and perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were all switched around! Also, make it a genre mishmash that freely combines thriller and speculative fiction elements. At worst, a project like this might have resulted in nothing more than lazy label-switching, or a book tediously explaining to Western audiences that Muslims are, in fact, people.

Amazing enough, though, I think the author more or less pulls it off. Part of the reason for this is because Ruff wisely chooses to concentrate on much more than the attacks: he's created a few genuinely likable characters here and delves into their backstories to consider how they might have dealt with their life problems in a society defined by a more globalized, more liberalized version of Islam. The book features more than its share of gunfights, but the parts of it that I enjoyed most were its quietest and were essentially speculations on how sexuality, family, and politics might be considered in this improbable, but still imaginable, global arrangement. It also helps that Ruff's stuff is genuinely enjoyable to read: it's snappy, well-paced, and occasionally elegant, and, wisely, he doesn't stop to belabor the ways in which his imagined universe differs from the one we actually live in. I'm not usually a fan of thrillers or mysteries, but I ate this one up.

In some ways, though, I don't really that my opinion of "The Mirage" is really all that informed. I've spent some time in the Middle East, but not nearly enough to say whether any parts of this book would ring true for a Middle Easterner. Ruff does seem to have done his homework: his vision of Islam encompasses various sects, lifestyles, and political philosophies, but I don't know if his text is missing some fundamental difference between Islam's worldview and that of the West. Also, I'm not sure about his decision to use various real life -- and often rather infamous -- personages as characters. Some of these dislocations are, quite frankly, almost shockingly offensive, but, then, it's possible that a lot of readers would find it hard to care about random Muslims and Christians in a jumbled-up fictional universe. The shock of recognition often brings "The Mirage" closer. All things considered, this book's a surprisingly successful literary experiment. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Jul 31, 2013 |
Matt Ruff's novels have always surprised me, and this one did, too. At first, I was strongly reminded of Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" because of the Muslim detectives and the alternate history of the world of the novel. Ruff leads in ways a little deeper and stranger than a thriller or mystery, although this novel can be described as both. Really, what he has written is a kind of alternate apocalyptic story. And, it's a great read! ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Honestly, I'm still not sure what to say about this one. There is some unbelievably awkward plotting here, and a whole bunch of Ruff having fun with his reverse world alt-9/11 premise at the expense of the audience's eye-rolling abilities, but it's still a weirdly compelling little thriller at the bottom. Could have been treated a whole lot deftly, I think, but it's still an interesting bit of world-building. I liked it more than I thought I would, less than I wish I could have. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is THE BOOK to read this year.

Matt Ruff's newest triumph of speculative fiction is the kind of story to keep you up late and make you sleep through meetings (trust me on this). In Ruff's inverted world, it was American Christian fundamentalists who perpetrated a terror attack on the United Arab States superpower on 11/9/2001, and now Homeland Security Agent Mustafa al Baghdadi is working to bring down a Christian terror ring. His targets begin to shift when a captured terrorist claims that the world they live in is just a mirage, an inversion of the real world in which America is the superpower and Muslim extremists the terrorists. A stunning piece of work, Mirage is sure to be the book to break Ruff from cult-status genius to national treasure. ( )
  Whitney.Flocka.Flame | Apr 1, 2013 |
originally appeared on: Bookshelf Confessions

I’m not so sure what to think of the book ---The book make me feel like I was about to read something unforgivable - It also almost turned me away because of its premise, but because Matt Ruff is really famous for BAD MONKEYS , I took the risk. It also makes me laugh in a way, that it’s really a twist.. there are: the UAS (United Arab States) instead of US, ABI (Arab Bureau of Investigation) instead of FBI, 11/9 instead of 9/11.. there are a lot more. And I wasn’t disappointed; I was in awe of how good that twist is, that I was actually beginning to think the world he created might be possible!

Matt Ruff has created his own story out of history. I wouldn’t go more into the plot, but I assure you, it will keep you on edge--- thinking what would happen next. I was up all night reading and contemplating the events unfolding in front of me. At first it’s hard to get into the story, because the book is an alternate reality..it would really take some time for a reader, to fully grasp the concept and be familiar with it. But once I’m in terms with the characters, the place, I finally realized how complicated and how much time and thinking this book requires the author to complete it. And the result- is a very interesting plot that might be condemned by some but admired by many.

The topic/theme of this book, is not easy, but if we just read the book as a work of fiction, let the author take us away from reality… then THE MIRAGE is really a brilliant one. The writing is very good, the Library at Alexandria (Wikipedia) is a good move to keep the reader up to date with the history, and the author’s right-in-time-humor is sufficient to make you stop and smile at the very concentrated moment,. He gives us enough details, enough to satisfy and make us curious altogether.

The characters are all significant on the story. We could even see in the picture the infamous Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. I enjoyed the journey to the truth with Mustafa, the hero, how he finds out about the Mirage, and discover things he thought far from possible.

The venue- Baghdad is totally different than we used to – it’s modern, with skyscrapers, modern culture, just think of anything that’s opposite. (Anyways, that’s what this book is.>:D). The author’s really good in describing the new face of the city, Mecca, every place in the story is a whole lot new than what we know, and yet, I could totally picture it. It’s vivid and complete.

One drawback I guess, is the end. I was expecting it anyways, but I’m thinking that there might be something more ( I’m confusing you, I know--- but I have really confused feelings about the book… )

Last words: It’s amazing… I didn’t even think one could rewrite 9/11 in such a flawless way that’s really believable.. I could already imagine a movie for this.>:D Good book, good plot, lots of characters more than needed maybe, good writing style, and maybe with little changes on the details of the story in between and at the end, this would make it to the top-rated political thriller of 2012. (I’ve written quite long—but trust me, YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS BOOK!!!)

Very highly recommended to everyone who enjoys action/mystery/sci-fi stories.
I wouldn’t recommend this to children and culture-sensitive people, though. ( )
2 vote avry15 | Aug 13, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
If you amalgamated the methodical, punctilious, world-building skills of Ian McDonald with the reality-distortion powers of Philip K. Dick and then folded in the satirical, take-no-prisoners savagery of Norman Spinrad, you might very well be able to produce a book approximating Matt Ruff's The Mirage [. . .] a book that will captivate upon an initial surface reading and trouble your certainties long after.
While it’s easy to appreciate The Mirage as furious entertainment, it lacks the substantive kick of speculative fiction that dares to offer a clear message.
[F]or all the enthusiasm Ruff brings to his efforts, the illusion never feels completely real.
The writing is good, but the characters are hard to care about and the plot doesn’t feel properly resolved. Not bad, but it won’t give you the willies.
added by nsblumenfeld | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 1, 2012)
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In the summer of 2009, Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi is plunged into a conspiracy involving Suddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee when a captured suicide bomber claims that the world in which they live is a mirage.… (more)

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