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Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
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Alif the Unseen (original 2012; edition 2012)

by G. Willow Wilson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7665112,088 (3.89)82
Member:C.J.Schmidt
Title:Alif the Unseen
Authors:G. Willow Wilson
Info:Grove Press (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:2013, eBook
Rating:**1/2
Tags:fiction

Work details

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2012)

  1. 30
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (kaledrina)
  2. 10
    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (mamajoan)
    mamajoan: A similar melding of very-near-future technology with ancient Middle Eastern mythology.
  3. 10
    Fool's War by Sarah Zettel (sandstone78)
    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.
  4. 00
    If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (FFortuna)
  5. 00
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (kaledrina)
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» See also 82 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Fascinating and original story set in an unnamed Gulf emirate in which a "gray hat" hacker who helps others evade state censorship and surveillance is given a book that contains the text of a 1001 days, an account of the wisdom of the jinn. A fascinating mix of popular culture, hacker culture, and the ancient stories that are part of Islamic culture. Imaginative and thought-provoking.
  bfister | Mar 28, 2015 |
A novel with its heart (and soul) in the right place... the story is imaginative and not too tidy with a willingness to not always make sense. A fun read. ( )
  TomMcGreevy | Feb 9, 2015 |
Great out of the box thinking on the nature of code as related to the transmission of ideas / knowledge. Philosophically it raised controversial issues - bravo for that. The main protagonist was very weak - which I assume is a commentary on modern life - good form there. I felt that the conclusion was anticlimactic as it didn't carry those ideas all the way through. The main character doesn't really "believe" but knows people that do. Belief is hinted at as what saves him, but that can't be true as he doesn't really have it - you get the idea.

overall 60% ( )
  jason9292 | Jan 14, 2015 |
Well-enough written, but annoying from start to point abandoned (60%) for its handling of computing and gender. I get that Islam isn't known for positive treatment of women, and Alif is probably a fair depiction of a young man in a Gulf state, but I didn't feel that the book did anything to challenge his perspective (in spite of Dina's competence, she is still reduced to a helpless quest reward). Bleh.
  imyril | Dec 6, 2014 |
I thought this book had a lot of potential, but unfortunately the technical details fell EXTREMELY short. I work in computer security and I also work very hard to ignore technical flubs that show up in movies/TV/books, but when you are writing a book that deals with "hackers", you should at least put in some research. By page 14, there had already been too many goofy technical inaccuracies that I couldn't see myself reading through the rest of the book. ( )
1 vote bruce.snell | Dec 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (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)
 

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G. Willow Wilsonprimary 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
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The thing always appeared in the hour between sunset and full dark.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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