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Alif, The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Alif, The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

An Amazon reviewer mentioned, “Alif the Unseen is a breezy yet thought-provoking blend of techno-thriller and urban fantasy, set in an unnamed Arab emirate. It will whisk you away to the new vistas of wonder and wisdom. An excellent modern fairytale.” The reviewer has accurately described G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif, The Unseen, which draws on Islamic theologies, the hacking underworld, and spy thrillers.

The story takes place in a fictional Gulf emirate called The City. In a shabby
rundown apartment complex resides Alif, a hacker who provides online
protection to a list of bloggers, activists, and outlaws from the state. The plot
thickens as Alif devises a program that can correctly identify a user by any text they type, thus making him the target of the Hand. With the aid of forces both seen and unseen, Alif’s flight takes him to the parallel world of the jinn, the Islamic race of people, all the while struggling to decode an ancient book called the Alf Yeom given to him by his ex-lover Intisar.

Alif the Unseen

The author has wonderfully portrayed the transition of Alif’s character
throughout the novel. Born from an absent Arab father and a Hindu mother, he did not belong to any social norms. He conceals behind a fake name and romantically involves himself with an aristocratic girl. He appears whiny and cowardly, but as the novel develops, it becomes fun to watch Alif gain common sense and courage while he is being hunted by the Hand. Dina is calm and sensible enough for them to fight against the Hand. They are both assisted by a furry-toed spirit called Vikram who is crude, insulting, and dangerous, but is also noble and extremely useful to Alif during his dilemma. His personality makes the book appealing.

Alif, The Unseen has a dynamic writing style with a tinge of young adult
fiction. Its spirituality meets science, fantasy meets reality, and East meets West in this cyberpunk, Middle Eastern novel. The book is a witty, imaginative, and unorthodox story, and I would recommend it to anyone who is not looking for a traditional love story.

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