12 October 2012

Alif the Unseen; G. Willow Wilson

Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such an interesting mix of Cory Doctorow-eqsue hacker culture and Middle East religion/tensions/mythology. Alif is a greyhat hacker in an unnamed Emirite, making money by providing secure access for a range of activists (Islamists, secularists, traditionalists, etc.) - he's not motivated by an ideology other than everyone's voice deserves to be heard. He's in love with a woman, Intisar, from a higher class, but she's been engaged to another, someone high in the government and of a much higher status than Alif (who is half-Arab, half-Anglo-Indian).

It's when he tries to prevent her from finding him online that things go very wrong: his heuristic program, Tin Sari, suddenly grows to a success rate that shouldn't be possible. This draws the attention of The Hand, the State's IT expert, and that's when the fun begins. Alif's asked his "girl-next-door" Dani to deliver a goodbye present to Intisar, who in return sends him a book, The Thousand and One Days. Between Tin Sari and this book, Alif and now Dani are wanted not just by the Hand but also by various creatures in the unseen world of the Jinn.

I really enjoyed this mix, although at times it could get confusing (particularly the riot at the very end). The discussions of what the role of the unseen - these supposedly mythological creatures who do, it turns out, exist - is in a religion like Islam, how the Qu'ran in translation is not the Qu'ran (something any reader needs to think about when reading any work in translation!), and the role of greyhats/hackers in revolution and security were fascinating.

ARC provided by publisher.

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