Monday, August 18, 2014

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Thank goodness there are books like this! I really enjoyed Alif. Wilson daringly takes on techie-fiction (is that a real thing? I think it is now...), fantasy, religion (muslim), and love all at once. And does she pull it off? I sure think so.

So, Alif is a young (~18) but brilliant computer programmer in "The City" (in the middle east and typical of the middle east, where Arabs believe they are superior to the Indians, where light skin is better than dark, where muslim is always known if not always practiced). He "protects" (i.e., hides identities and locations of people online) anyone who is willing to and able to afford his fees. Lurking in the background is the state program and/or person known as the Hand, which is working its way through the back channels of the internet and making Alif and his friends nervous about being caught and punished as criminals.

Alif is also engaged in an illicit relationship with someone above his class, and he believes himself in love with the beautiful Intisar. But then, Intisar suddenly ends their relationship, claiming that her father is forcing her to marry some royal person worthy of her lineage. And Alif flies into a first class funk. Alif creates this crazy program that, without going into detail and boring you, basically allows a computer to think, and with it, he shuts Intisar out of his life completely.

Then the Hand finds Alif right around the time that he is graced with the secret book of the jinn (genies), and Alif is forced to both go on the run and discover the secrets of the book and its origin/power. So the book races through technology, fantasy based in religion, religion itself, and love, all while being interesting and novel and accessible and pleasurable.

It was just such a smart and engaging read with likable and unique characters and a plot that flowed with a foreign subject matter that was made readable and accessible by an author who understood the distance.  I really enjoyed this and I very much look forward to more fiction from Wilson.

Recommend to those open to fantasy, who are looking for something more.
FOUR of five stars.

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