The Mirage
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The Mirage

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,983 ratings  ·  402 reviews
A mind-bending novel in which an alternate history of 9/11 and its aftermath uncovers startling truths about America and the Middle East

11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca,...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Harper (first published 2012)
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Mike
I just wanted to let you know that I finished reading Matt Ruff’s new book, The Mirage, and I’m over the moon about it, it is so good! It kept me up reading long into the night!!! It begins on November 9, 2001. Members of the Halal Police force are rousting a smuggler of wines and spirits from his boat on the Tigris. Mustafa al Baghdadi is a member of this squad, enforcing Islamic rules against the selling of spirits. But this is a very different Baghdad than we are used to. This is a major metr...more
Adam
Matt Ruff is responsible for a series of topsy- turvy entertainments that have earned comparisons to Pynchon, Terry Gilliam, Stephenson, and Philip K Dick. This book of course resembles A Man in a High Castle for the war on terror, but also Borges, the TV shows Fringe and Lost, and Bruce Sterling’s many variations on Islamic themed alternative history. Ruff creates a world that is warped mirror on our own, showing what it contains and what made it. This makes it maddingly sad and funny at once....more
Maciek
The date is 11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists from the Christian States of America hijack four jetliners, and launch a suicide attack against the United Arab States. Two jetliners crash into Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad. One crashes into the the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The last one, believed to be aimed for Mecca, is brought down by the passengers. The United Arab States declares a War on Terror, and invades the CSA, estabilishing the Green Zone in Washington, D...more
Michael
The Mirage is more than an alternate history novel. It’s a thought-provoking inversion that turns the world on its head, portraying a contemporary world in which the United Arab States—the UAS—is the dominant economic and military power, while North America is merely a collection of squabbling territories often divided along socio-religious lines. One of these states, the Rocky Mountain Independent Territories, is home to the World Christian Alliance, a terrorist organization responsible for the...more
Kurt
Jan 21, 2012 Kurt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
Matt Ruff has written a novel that, in many ways, is a perfectly fine political thriller. Three government agents fight a terrorist plot and find themselves drawn into a world of political intrigue full of gangsters and corruption and gunfights. At that level, the book would be at home on a rack in an airport bookstore - nothing special, but a perfectly competent example of the genre. The central hook to this book, though, the thing that makes it a must-read, is that this is not our world - in t...more
Derek Wolfgram
Taking an interesting perspective on the "war on terror," Matt Ruff turns the events of 9/11 on their head, setting The Mirage in the United Arab States, where the population is still struggling to deal with the aftereffects of a devastating 11/9/01 terrorist attack by Christian fundamentalists in hijacked jets. While the premise is intriguing, and several of the characters are memorable, the novel is ultimately dragged down by too many jokey parallels and references highlighting various real Am...more
William
The best parts of Matt Ruff's alternate War on Terror world are when the story seems like a waking dream: characters sense their version of events is not quite the reality, yet the scenes are infused with details too vivid to be anything less. These parts, especially during the first half of the novel, open the reader's eyes to new perspectives on what Americans must think of as an unchangeable cultural moment. But, also as with a dream, the longer the novel goes on, the more gaps appear to make...more
Jesse
sorta disappointing - what could have been an amazing novel, just reads like genre fiction, with a purported purpose. the characters are flat and police proceduralish. saddam and bin laden are evil and written with zero depth (and this is a trap many writers fall into - that evil characters should be written with no depth and complexity. but evil actions require the most complex motives, and yet writers settle for simple undiluted motivations: greed, jealousy, etc.) but the biggest letdown of al...more
Jill Heather
Overall, the book was okay, but problematic.

Some of the worldbuilding in this book was brilliant, from small funny details (CSI: Halal, Christianity for the Ignorant) to the large strokes of the way the UAS (United Arab States) and the alt-USA were set up. The general outlines of Europe -- mostly the eastern bit -- were also fun, though I think that the results of WWI that led to WWII in this world don't entirely fit, but no details were provided so I can make up my own reasons that alt-WWI led...more
Noah
The Mirage started off strongly - it has a truly interesting premise, and the atmosphere Ruff creates in the alternate reality Baghdad is pretty engaging. However, as the book moves (too quickly) on, the flaws start to show: the narrative style is a bit flimsy, and it also starts to feel really gimmicky as more and more familiar faces from the "real" world (especially the notable American characters) start to pop up. I can see the usefulness (and even the fun) of making characters out of Saddam...more
Jen
I remain incredibly torn about this book. On one hand, it's an incredibly complicated novel that forces you to think - it is, at times, uncomfortable but that has to have been the point. 9/11 is, after all, a sensitive subject (as it should be) and it has shaped the way we think, the way we act and the way we react. Seeing parallels between the real world and the mirage was intriguing and, again, at times uncomfortable and thought worthy and the characters, especially Mustafa, were intriguing an...more
Jaclyn Hogan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy
This has gotten a lot of comparisons with Philip K. Dick's 'the man in the high castle' and while it is an extremely detailed and well researched alternative history, it certainly doesn't have the same subtle blend of themes and paranoia that Dick could evoke. The cosmic role reversal between America and Arabia in 'The Mirage' feels more about grafting one civilizations 'success' over another civilizations 'failure.' At first the Arab characters feel like little more than American characters wit...more
Alan
Aug 22, 2012 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Blessèd peacemakers
Recommended to Alan by: The Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, WV; subject matter and previous work
I've been reading a fair amount of heavy, serious literature lately—authors like Philip Roth, Lawrence Durrell and Alasdair Gray—so I thought I'd go back to something lighter for a change, like this novel... about 9/11/2001 and the ensuing War on Terror.

Or, rather, about 11/9/2001, the fateful day when a small group of fanatical Christian terrorists flew hijacked planes into Baghdad's twin Tigris and Euphrates skyscrapers, shaking the foundations of the sprawling Islamic republic known as the Un...more
John
With "The Mirage", Matt Ruff has written the definitive 9-11 novel, a spellbinding, alternative history thriller that is the 21st Century version of Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"; an often sly, truly memorable, fictional commentary on the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks and America's military response, especially its invasion of Iraq. This is no mere homage to Philip K. Dick's greatest science fiction novel, but instead, one that truly transcends it, with dialogue reminiscent of Elmore...more
Rebecca
While reading The Mirage, I discovered there's a certain level of detail past which an author shouldn't go in any work of alternate history fiction, and that level is reached, passed, and left in the desert dust in Matt Ruff's novel. It's a great premise--the Tigris and Euphrates Towers in the United Arab States are supposedly destroyed by Christian fundamentalist hijackers with airplanes, and the UAS, the world's lone superpower, is then plunged into a disastrous War on Terror in North America-...more
Thomas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter
Satirischer Blick von der anderen Seite
"Was wäre wenn" ... unsere Welt verdreht wäre und nicht die Amerikaner die absolute Supermacht sondern vielmehr die VAS (Vereinigten Arabischen Staaten) das Sagen auf unserem schönen Planeten hätten. In der tollen aber doch recht verdrehten Geschichte beschreibt Matt Ruff eben dieses Szenario. Dabei nimmt er die gesamt politische Landschaft der USA von heute aufs Korn.

Man kann dieses Buch auf zwei Arten angehen: indem man einfach drüber liest und sich über...more
zxvasdf
From his amateurish but exuberant Fool on the Hill to his pynchonesque Public Works Trilogy to the high octane Bad Monkey, Matt Ruff is a versatile writer whose experience you can see accreting in the quality of his work.

Mirage is a straightforward novel, but don't let that fool you. It's no less complex, the complexity arising from the many moral issues its characters grapple with. Densely researched, the Arabian analogues to post 9/11 America are clever and brilliantly done. A strange but fam...more
Brian Wade
In retrospect I read 'The Mirage' at a very interesting time, for a couple reasons. 1)I started reading it right around 9/11. This was not a conscious decision and now seems eerily coincidental. 2) Violent protests have recently broken out around the Muslim world. These protests, so far primarily staged at American embassies, were/are due to a recent independent, anti-Mohammad film called 'Innocence of Muslims'. Unless you've been living in a cave the past several weeks I'm sure you've heard abo...more
Jeremy DeBottis
After what I thought was Ruff's weakest book in "Bad Monkeys" he followed it up with a strong story that has some hits and misses. I'll start with the misses to get them out of the way, and finish on a high note with its strong aspects.
Ruff has a tendency to over think things sometimes and it has a tendency to draw things out a little far, and sometimes his characters can seem overly cliched. It's a story that if you were to ask me what happens I could tell you rather quickly, but the book can b...more
Esther
The idea of this book is just my cup of tea, and that’s why I was having maybe some too high expectations… I also read “Fool on the Hill” and “Set this House in Order” by Matt Ruff and both are among my all-time favorite books; so altogether “The Mirage” was kind of a deception for me.

The World as we know it is just a shadow world in “The Mirage”, an Urban Legend, part of conspiracy theories. In “The Mirage”, the UAS (United Arabian States) are the superpower who invaded America to free them of...more
Justin Tappan
I'm going to lift a description of the book from Amazon, as it sums it up nicely:

"A mind-bending novel in which an alternate history of 9/11 and its aftermath uncovers startling truths about America and the Middle East

11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca, is brought down by its passengers.

The Unit...more
Erik Owomoyela
The story takes a particularly self-aware approach to alternate history, which I wasn't sure I'd like at first, but it paid off in the end. It knows that it's set in a fantasy world that was created by an intelligence with a sense of irony, rather than any kind of historical what-if. But even so, it spent a lot of time exploring what a modern Arab superstate might look like, and that tension between realism and irony led to most of my complaints about the book.

Given how many ways a book with thi...more
Tad
There’s an old adage that history is written by the victors. Matt Ruff expands and explores that idea in Mirage. Mirage is the story of a world in which Arabia is the superpower and the United States a third world backwater country. In this world, Christian fundamentalists fly planes into the Twin Towers of Baghdad on November 9, 2001 (11/9 vs. 9/11). The twists keep coming in this upside down world. Except some of the terrorists remember a different reality. One in which the United States is a...more
Joseph
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Danny
Where were you when the towers fell? Were you in the backwaters of America where fundamentalist Christians of various denominations scrabble for power in tribal conflicts? Or were you in the civilized states of Arabia, watching as outside agents tried to shake your faith in your strong Muslim nation? On 11/09/2001, where were you?

The basic premise of this examination of the world after the most famous terror attacks ever perpetrated is that America and Arabia have switched places. And while it i...more
Karlo
This is going to be a little stream-of-consciousness as I completed the book late last night.

Wow. I was kinda nervous about where Ruff was going to go with this book; very touchy territory, particularly in a book where relativism seems to be the primary point. I liked the police procedural element of the plot, and found the UAS equivalents to USA to be clever in most cases, but 'cute' in others. The need to name drop historical figures into the book got a little tiresome for me; I get that evil...more
Peter
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rae
Really enjoyed this story. Very cool concept. Prolly would've enjoyed this book more if I was more well versed on American politics and key players. And not to mention been State side and thus full exposed to the media propaganda and spin regarding the 9/11 attack and fall out. I just mean it might have been a smoother read if I didn't have to pause here and there to recall who was who and what actually happened in the real world, since not many actual names were named, just implied.

And we got...more
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Gwinnett County P...: The Mirage 1 10 Mar 05, 2012 03:55PM  
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I was born in New York City in 1965. I decided I wanted to be a fiction writer when I was five years old and spent my childhood and adolescence learning how to tell stories. At Cornell University I wrote what would become my first published novel, Fool on the Hill, as my senior thesis in Honors English. My professor Alison Lurie helped me find an agent, and within six months of my college graduati...more
More about Matt Ruff...
Bad Monkeys Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls Fool on the Hill Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1: Sex, the Future, & Chocolate Chip Cookies

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