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Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
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Alif the Unseen (2012)

by G. Willow Wilson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1727510,149 (3.84)122
  1. 40
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    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (mamajoan)
    mamajoan: A similar melding of very-near-future technology with ancient Middle Eastern mythology.
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    sandstone78: Fool's War is also science fiction dealing with computer issues that features a protagonist who is a Muslim, though it is in a far future spacefaring setting instead of based on Earth.
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    If You Could Be Mine: A Novel by Sara Farizan (FFortuna)
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» See also 122 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Between a 3 and a 4 - rounding up out of love for Dina. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
It's FUN. The stakes are very high and the inevitable influence of Joss Whedon is on the plotting, but it's a fun book, the setting is great and I think watching Alif grow up is fascinating. Are there tricky/"problematic" bits? Sure, but I think it comes off well overall and marries real world and fantastic well. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
I went into this book blind, so I didn’t really have any expectations, but somehow it still wasn’t what I expected. It’s sort of like a cyberpunk story with magic. I liked it quite a bit, although it wasn’t perfect.

The story is set in the Middle East and the main character, who calls himself Alif, is a programmer who helps people of all beliefs run illegal web sites by protecting them from detection by the government. Illegal in this context has more to do with illegal beliefs and ideas, not necessarily what those of us who live in a Western culture would consider illegal. In this book, Jinn are real, although most humans are unaware of them.

I really enjoyed the setting. I have absolutely no personal knowledge with which to judge its authenticity, but it felt authentic to me as opposed to being full of over-the-top stereotypes. I also enjoyed the Jinn aspect of the story, which is a mythology I’ve also had very little exposure to. The story itself was interesting, but most of its uniqueness came from the setting. If it had been set in the U.S. or in Europe, for example, I think it would have felt a little less fresh. I also never developed any real attachment for the characters. I didn’t dislike them, but concern for their fate didn’t drive me to keep reading when I would otherwise have put the book down.

I debated whether to rate this book at 3.5 or 4 stars. 4 stars seems a little too high, but 3 would definitely be too low, so I’m going to rate it at 3.5 stars and round up to 4 on Goodreads. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Jun 1, 2018 |
There could be spoilers. There probably are.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was a great book at first, but then it didn't sustain that initial greatness. I felt that I had realized that Dina was the hero of the book, but then she left the action for a long time. And the action was less exciting, less enjoyable because of it. I missed Vikram when he left the story but that made more sense. Of course, women are arbitrarily excluded in the culture so maybe that is one way of showing that social reality. I liked that some of the religious feeling/thinking was shown from both sides. You could feel the power Dina draws from her veil. Anyway, it is a good book but I ended up a bit disappointed in it.
  franoscar | Dec 19, 2017 |
After falling in love with Ms. Marvel and Cairo, I knew I had to read this novel. And now I'm in that uncomfortable situation of liking a book so much that it's nearly impossible to write about it reasonably, my brain focusing on nit-picky details to avoid sounding like on big fangirl squee.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it was constantly surprising. Every single character turns out to be far more interesting than they seem at first glance, which is entirely appropriate in a book that is all about the things we have learned to unsee.

A fantastical mix of modern grittiness, political upheaval, magical creatures, religious discourse, and computer geekery, it somehow manages to balance all these elements without losing momentum. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
...as with the work of many of the best young writers today, it is both a book written with a love of the fantastic in all its genres and a serious work of fiction.
added by melmore | editThe Guardian, Damien Walter (Dec 13, 2012)
 
For all its playfulness, “Alif the Unseen” is also at times unexpectedly moving, especially as it detours into questions of faith.... For those who view American fiction as provincial, or dominated by competent but safe work, Wilson’s novel offers a resounding, heterodox alternative.
 
It’s difficult to convey how outrageously enjoyable “Alif the Unseen” is without dropping names — 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. Yet I’d hate to give the impression that the novel lacks freshness or originality.
added by melmore | editSalon, Laura Miller (Jul 1, 2012)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilson, G. Willowprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sergio, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The devotee recognizes in every divine Name the totality of Names.

Muhammad ibn Arabi, Fusus al-Hikam

If the imagination of the dervish produced the incidents of these stories, his judgment brought them to the resemblance of truth, and his images are taken from things that are real.

François Petis de la Croix, Les Mill et Un Jours (The Thousand and One Days)
Dedication
For my daughter Maryam, born in the Arab Spring
First words
Chapter Zero:
The thing always appeared in the hour between sunset and full dark.
Alif sat on the cement ledge of his bedroom window, basking in the sun of a hot September.
Quotations
“Be careful with this one," said Dina, bending down to greet the cat. "All cats are half jinn, but I think she's three-quarters.”
“These are not the banu adam you're looking for.”
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802120202, Hardcover)

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 State’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is 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, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, religion, technology and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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 State's electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover's new fiancee is 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.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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3 53
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