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The Mirage

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,430 Ratings  ·  434 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,
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Harper (first published 2012)
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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
Apr 15, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
May 14, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2012 Kurt rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 10, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was ok
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
Derek Wolfgram
Nov 10, 2011 Derek Wolfgram rated it liked it
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
Feb 26, 2012 Noah rated it it was ok
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
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Apr 02, 2012 Jesse rated it liked it
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
Feb 19, 2012 Jill Heather rated it it was ok
Shelves: sff, alt-history
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
I read 92% of it and I have no desire to finish it. What started as a fascinating and unusual novel turned boring and uninteresting to me. I really don't care how it ends so I'm moving on.
Jan 26, 2016 Dan rated it it was amazing
Look, I don't know who you are, reading this. I don't know where you live or what you like or how much you've done. But I still feel pretty confident saying this: You have never read a book like Matt Ruff's "The Mirage." I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.

You may have read historical fiction, with recognizable names and events from the past, and maybe an exotic foreign culture you've always wondered about. But not twisted 'round, the way it is here.

You may have read alternative reality tal
Jun 20, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
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
Dec 03, 2013 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2013
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
Mar 10, 2012 Jaclyn Hogan rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2012 Alan rated it really liked it
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
Jan 08, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Apr 22, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 20, 2012 Peter rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe C.
Jan 07, 2016 Joe C. rated it did not like it
I got over half way through and realized I was just skimming the pages and not really caring about the characters or even the plot. This book had promise in the preface but went down hill after that.
May 08, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The date is November 9th, 2001, and Baghdad's Twin Towers have just been brought down by Christian fundamentalists using hijacked airliners as weapons. So begins Ruff's tale of a world where everything got more or less switched around. The Muslim world has the world's biggest superpower, the United Arab States, and America is a fractured bunch of poor, fundamentalist Christian countries. Saddam Hussien is a mobster, Osama bin Landen is a Senator, and Lyndon Johnson was the longtime dictator/pres ...more
Mar 28, 2012 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 27, 2012 Jeremy DeBottis rated it liked it
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
Oct 24, 2012 Esther rated it liked it
Shelves: own-a-copy
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
Justin Tappan
Apr 12, 2012 Justin Tappan rated it really liked it
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
Erik Owomoyela
Jul 18, 2012 Erik Owomoyela rated it liked it
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
Jan 21, 2012 Tad rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, sci-fi
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
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Gwinnett County P...: The Mirage 1 12 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
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