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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
6293915,431 (3.96)59
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. 20
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (kaledrina)
  2. 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.
  3. 10
    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (mamajoan)
    mamajoan: A similar melding of very-near-future technology with ancient Middle Eastern mythology.
  4. 00
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (kaledrina)
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» See also 59 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
What an amazing tale! Within there is an early reference to Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and this falls within that sacred realm. Alif is a computer genius, half Indian and half Arab, living in an oppressive Middle Eastern country where he helps those who try to operate outside the censors. He's in love with a girl of the upper classes who is being forced into an arranged marriage. Alif's mother is his father's second wife and lives in a lower middle class neighborhood where he does only what pleases himself, UNTIL...the book takes off, traveling into a land of jinns, Radio Sheikh, and an ancient sacred book which provides the key to the Arab Spring. All environments, from the streets of the jinn, to the mosque where Alif takes refuge, to the starkly torrid sands of The Empty Lands, are filled with treasures, of people and of perfectly visualized and described exotic settings. I raced through and now regret that Alif the Unseen must return to the library. I will buy it and reread it, or if it's available, listen to it. A good narrator would make this a most special delight. The blend of reality (computers) and fantasy (Vikram the Vampire) within a contemporary setting make this much more than magical realism - all the way to real magic! ( )
  froxgirl | Jul 7, 2014 |
Still working through my feelings about certain parts of this novel, but on the whole it's an ambitious project well told, and refreshingly different. I'm not sorry that it won the World Fantasy Award and has otherwise garnered quite a lot of critical acclaim. ( )
  ellen.w | Jun 1, 2014 |
Still working through my feelings about certain parts of this novel, but on the whole it's an ambitious project well told, and refreshingly different. I'm not sorry that it won the World Fantasy Award and has otherwise garnered quite a lot of critical acclaim. ( )
  ellen.w | Jun 1, 2014 |
An enjoyable fast-paced novel about a hacker in a middle eastern country who gets compromised and in trying to escape falls with the world of the "unseen". I don't normally feel that drawn to books that deal with the contemporary, high-tech world, but in this case I felt it was fairly well done. I enjoyed the mix of fantasy/religion with the contemporary theme, and I thought there were several insightful quotes about religion and Islam in particular. However, as a programmer I have high standards for descriptions of programming in novels, and I didn't feel that this quite lived up to those standards. I think putting programming in a novel is a tough thing to do, and the author clearly knows a bit about it, but she got into some questionable territory. Overall I recommend Alif the Unseen, but don't expect the next greatest fantasy novel ever. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
A cool, unusual mishmash of genres, ideas, and settings. There were some characters (Dina, Vikram) and some moments (when Vikram reveals that Alif gave his sister shelter during a sandstorm) that charmed me.

I felt, though, that Alif's coding was too magical--not in a fantasy way, but in a handwave-y way. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (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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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:03 -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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