Lauri’s #CBR5 Review #4: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

ImageThis book has been on my Amazon wishlist for a while; each time I thought about ordering it, something else seemed more compelling. I wish I hadn’t waited so long (thank you, public library, for making reading on a whim so easy!) to read what turned out to be a quite engaging, modern urban fantasy.

At the beginning of the story, set in an unnamed Middle Eastern military state, we meet The protagonist, Alif,who takes his online handle from the first letter of the alphabet. Out of high school, but barely, Alif is a hacker genius who, from the apartment he shares with his mother, runs a cloud where all types of dissidents are able to digitally converse, and stay hidden from The Hand, the head of the State’s electronic security force. When Alif is jilted by his aristocratic lover for a prince that can provide her the lifestyle to which she is accustomed, a chain of events is set in motion that has widespread implications for the future of this country and the revolutionaries fed up with the status quo.

Wilson deflty weaves a story that combines the seen and unseen, religion and philosophy, and a struggle for life and death — not just for the characters involved, but for the world itself. Driven underground in an effort to evade The Hand’s henchmen, Alif and his closest friend, Dina, are forced to seek aid from the underworld…and the unseen world. Ancient Arabic/Muslim themes, djinn and other magical beasts, and current political ideas are brought together in unique and surprising ways. From the first page the book has an energy that speaks to modern times but draws upon ideas from the fantastical ancient world. With the energy of the Arab Spring, the book offers a modern view of the Arab world that is hard to put down.

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