Alif the Unseen
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Alif the Unseen

3.83 (12,386 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 fiance 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 Timesshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 456 pages
  • 138 x 206 x 36mm | 559.99g
  • Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • maps
  • 0802121225
  • 9780802121226
  • 603,049

About G Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. She is also the author of a memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, and the critically acclaimed comics Air and Vixen. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle.show more

Review quote

Praise for Alif the Unseen "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 "[A] Harry Potterish action-adventure romance [that] unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. . . . A bookload of wizardry and glee."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times "Outrageously enjoyable . . . 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."--Salon.com "An intoxicating, politicized amalgam of science fiction and fantasy . . . that integrates the all-too-familiar terrors of contemporary political repression with supernatural figures from The Thousand and One Nights."--Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post "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 "A magical book. The supernatural and sociopolitical thriller Alif the Unseen is timely literary alchemy, a smart, spirited swirl of current events and history; religion and mysticism; reality and myth; computer science and metaphysics. . . . Alif the Unseen richly rewards believers in the power of the written word."--The Seattle Times "[An] excellent modern fairytale . . . [Wilson] surpasses the early work of Stephenson and Gaiman, with whom comparisons have already been made. . . . Alif the Unseen will find many fans in both West and East. They will appreciate it for being just the fine story it is and as a seed for potent ideas yet to come."--io9.com "A book of startling beauty and power."--Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles "Alif the Unseen . . . defies easy categorization. Is it literary fiction? A fantasy novel? A dystopian techno-thriller? An exemplar of Islamic mysticism, with ties to the work of the Sufi poets? Wilson seems to delight in establishing, then confounding, any expectations readers may have."--Pauls Toutonghi, New York Times Book Review "A fast-paced, thrilling journey between two worlds, the seen world of human beings and the unseen world of the supernatural."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "A Golden Compass for the Arab Spring."--Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts "A delirious urban fantasy which puts the unlikely case for religion in an age of empowering and intrusive technology."--The Guardian (UK) "Alif the Unseen is a terrific metaphysical thriller, impossible to put down. The fantastical world Alif inhabits--at once recognizable and surreal, visible and invisible--is all the more fantastic for the meticulously detailed Koranic theology and Islamic mythology Wilson expertly reveals. A multicultural Harry Potter for the digital age."--Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollahs' Democracy and The Ayatollah Begs to Differ "Alif the Unseen is a true chimera. . . . There are few authors who can pull off dealing with religion, dogma, and mysticism as well as sci-fi, and Wilson is one of them. Alif the Unseen contains elements that will appeal to fans of the ecstatic digital visions The Neuromancer, devotees of the mythological richness of The Thousand and One Nights, international-news junkies and fellow hacktivists."--Tor.com "Written just before the Arab Spring, this wild adventure mixes the digital derring-do of Neal Stephenson with the magic of The Thousand and One Nights. . . . Alif the Unseen is a rich blend of storytelling magic."--San Francisco Chronicle "An ambitious, well-told, and wonderful story. Alif the Unseen is one of those novels that has you rushing to find what else the author has written, and eagerly anticipating what she'll do next."--Matt Ruff, author of Fool on the Hill and The Mirage "Passion, power, and technology converge in this imaginative novel."--Oprah.com "Imaginative . . . Brilliant . . . Alif the Unseen . . . draws on Islamic theology, the hacking underworld, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, spy thrillers, and the events of the Arab Spring to weave an 'urban fantasy' in which the everyday and the supernatural collide. . . . A first novel that is witty, imaginative, and unorthodox in all senses."--The Observer (UK) "Willow Wilson is an awesome talent. She made her own genre and rules over it. Magical, cinematic, pure storytelling. It's nothing like anything. A brilliant fiction debut."--Michael Muhammad Knight, author of The Taqwacores "Wilson manages to keep the various fantastical, technological, political and religious plates spinning without ever losing track of the story, or getting bogged down in polemic. . . .Though Alif the Unseen was recently compared to Harry Potter . . . it has more in common with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy."--The National (UAE) "One of the most compelling narratives you'll read this year, Alif offers masterful insight into contemporary Middle Eastern societies whose ongoing transformations are as unexpected and profound as those in our own. It is also a powerful reminder of how far fantasy has come since Tolkien."--Jack Womack, author of Random Acts of Senseless Violence "An intriguing mix of fantasy, romance and spirituality wrapped up in cyberthriller packaging. . . . Wilson's desert fantasy moves at the breakneck speed of a thriller through cityscapes, wilderness and ethereal realms as she skillfully laces mythology and modernity, spirituality and her own unique take on technological evolution. . . . Don't miss this one-of-a-kind story, both contemporary and as ancient as the Arabian sands."--Shelf Awareness (online) "Wilson writes beautifully, tells a great story, and even makes computer hackery seem like magic."--Sunday Times (UK) "The real magic of Alif the Unseen is catching a talented writer early in her career."--Rita Mae Brown "Outstanding . . . Wilson's novel delights in bending genres and confounding expectations: It's both a literary techno-thriller and a fantasy that takes religion very seriously. . . . Alif the Unseen . . . is one of the most inventive, invigorating novels of the year."--The Christian Science Monitor "A fantasy thriller that takes modern Islamic computer hackers fighting against State-based repression and entangles that with the fantastical Djinn-riddled world of One Thousand and One Nights. . . . Like a novelization of one of Joss Whedon's best Buffy episodes crossed with a Pathe newsreel of the Arab Spring uprisings. It's a page-turner."--The Austin Chronicleshow more

Rating details

12,386 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 26% (3,180)
4 42% (5,220)
3 24% (2,963)
2 6% (774)
1 2% (249)
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