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Alif the Unseen

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“G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.”—Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and American Gods

“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 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 “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 debut—a 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

From Publishers Weekly

May 28, 2012 – Set in an unnamed Arab emirate, Wilson s intriguing, colorful first novel centers on a callow Arab-Indian computer hacker who calls himself Alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. Alif surreptitiously creates digital protection, at a price, for Islamic dissidents being threatened by the chief of state security (aka the Hand of God ). When Intisar, Alif s aristocratic beloved, opportunistically throws Alif over for the Hand, he flees into the desert, along with a female neighbor, Dina, pursued by the Hand. Dina carries the 700-year-old jinn-dictated The Thousand and One Days (the inverse of The Thousand and One Nights), which contains secrets disguised in stories that may help Alif remake his world. Wilson (The Butterfly Mosque, a memoir) provocatively juxtaposes ancient Arab lore and equally esoteric computer theory, highlighting the many facets of the East-West conflict while offering few insights, to some readers regret, into possible resolutions of that conflict. 10-city author tour.

Customer Reviews

A frustrating book

This book was a very frustrating read. The basic idea of modern technology interacting with magic and the Jinn is a potentially very interesting one to explore. Unfortunately, the author is much too ignorant of the technology which is at the center of the concept to make it work if you know even a little bit about computers. To give an example, she uses the old trope from 50's sic-fi movies where the computer thinks so hard it blows up and makes it even dumber. Here, not only does the CPU melt but the keyboard does too burning a programmers fingers. At one point the hero, a computer nerd and hacker, explains that quantum computing involves manipulating ions which isn't even close. A secondary problem is that the author is an American convert to Islam and there was a bit too much of the plot which depended on accepting the perfection and immutability of the Koran, how wonderful the veiling of women is, how corrupt and evil the ways of westerners are, etc. Overall, not an awful book but not an author I will be seeking out in the future.

Very entertaining.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (and didn't let the minor lapses in the author's grasp of technology get in the way). The descriptions of the culture and every day life are rich and I have to take exception to another reviewer's comments on this author. I never felt the author was pushing Islam - this is just the world these characters live in. Our unlikely hero Alif, is flawed, but earnest. At it's most basic this book is about not appreciating what was right in front of you - until it was almost lost, a love story if you will, along with the struggle for freedom of thought and information with jinns, both good and evil, thrown into the mix for a thoroughly entertaining read.

Alif the unseen

I rebutt the comments about the Author of this book being a convert to Islam, for one thing if there wre actual people who wanted to teach Islam in the communities then there would not be such a concern about if the Author is spot on aobut what she was writing about in the first place. If the commentor would like to teach about Islam to those who have really no access but themselves to self teach then this comment would not have had to be written! Teach Your Community about Islam so there is no mistake, for who do the converts have to go too but people who could teach but prefer not to!

Alif the Unseen
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  • $15.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jun 19, 2012
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings