I have read a wonderful book. Actually, in my years, I’ve read many. But recently I read G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen. This is a rollicking good time of a book. Arab/Indian coder Alif (not his real name, but his username) lives in an unnamed tightly regimented security state in the middle east. He makes a living digitally protecting his clients as a young feisty hacker. All the while he and his coder friends try to evade The Hand, the digital arm of the police state. When he is tossed aside by a love, and subject to the consequences, he no longer can hide through his computer screen and must goes on the run, trying to decipher and save his (and his country’s) future via an old Muslim text, the Alf Yeom.
I do love a good book within a book novel. There really are many "within-this-book-holds-the-truth-and-bad-guys-are-trying-to-capture-it" novels, and I generally like them all, but this one truly stands out.
This novel takes us into a modern Muslim world. Some women wear a burqa, some wear head scarves. Some pray five times daily, some don’t. We are taken into the invisible (nearly) world of the jinn, the mythical creatures of the area. We even get to meet the marid, featured in the familiar-to-us-Westerners, Aladdin story.
On the jacket of the book, Alif the Unseen is compared to Harry Potter. It’s more mature and intelligent than the Potter books (though make no mistake, I love them too!). There is the hidden alley not open to mere mortals which is suspiciously like Diagon Alley in Rowling’s books, but beyond that, it is entirely different. My husband is a programmer. I hear him say things like “binary” and “C++.” I never thought I’d enjoy a book that employed that vernacular. But, boy did I!
The story is action packed and fun. But I really did appreciate a view of Islam that is not all that the media throws at us. A splendid and educational read!
Also, Wilson's website is worth a visit.