Cassi aka Snow White Haggard's Reviews > Alif the Unseen

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
2216677
's review
Dec 04, 13

bookshelves: read-in-2012, galleys
Read from June 16 to 22, 2012

Alif the Unseen is such a unique book. It's a computer-science heavy fantasy novel set in the modern Middle East. There is coding, firewalls, cloud servers and genies, all in the same book. Doesn't that sound amazing? This book is fantasy blended with real science, something that I've never seen before. It's a big risk that pays off.

Very rarely to I go quite as highlighter happy as this book made me. It was smart, clever, funny and thought-provoking.

"How dense and literal it is. I thought it had a much more sophisticated brain."
"Your mother's dense," Alif said wearily.
"My mother was an errant crest of sea foam. But that's neither here nor there."


This book just goes. It doesn't stop to explain everything. I appreciated the respect it showed it's reader. Admittedly I don't know a lot about Middle Eastern folklore or legends. Anything I need to know I can research. The book doesn't info-dump, yet I had no problem following the story.

This book talks about how sometimes religious people pick and choose what to believe. In this instance, it's talking about the Quaran and how people tend to ignore the references to jinn (genies) even though it's throughout the text. However I think it's something interesting that applies beyond just one faith group.

Superstation is thriving. Pedantry is thriving. Sectarianism is thriving. Belief is dying out. To most of your people the jinn are paranoid fantasies who run around causing epilepsy and mental illness. Find me someone to whom the hidden folk are simply real, as described in the Books. You'll be searching a long time. Wonder and awe have gone out of your religions.

For me the highlight of the book was Dina. Alif's neighbor, she's tremendously stubborn, intelligent and very pious. She decided to veil her face, against the wishes of her family and everyone who knew her. Normally it would be easy to write off such a character as an oppressed woman. But Dina is too awesome for that. She's one of the bravest and most intelligent characters, always having foresight when everyone else just runs around panicking. She's a complex character, a mixture of faith, practicality and intelligence.

"Maybe you should stay here until this has blown over," he said. It's going to be dangerous."
"I know. That's why I wore sneakers." (Dina)


I want more books that dare to be different. I'm not saying this book is perfect. At times it's a little slow, the prologue is especially weak and it talks about urinating a lot. But sometimes that doesn't matter! What matters is that it tells a story that completely surprises you and that you can stop reading.
32 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Alif the Unseen.
sign in »

Reading Progress

06/17/2012
14.0% "Is all this computer stuff even possible? Does anyone know? The prologue was a little odd, then it goes straight to this modern nerdy coding talking that I quite enjoy. I'm wondering how it all connects." 3 comments
06/17/2012
28.0% "I don't know much about the legends and lore of the middle east. I hope that doesn't stop people from reading this book. I'm really liking that this takes place in a culture that is so foreign to mine." 3 comments
06/18/2012
48.0% "Sometimes this book is just so witty & funny! It's good to know "Your mom" jokes can cross cultural &jinn barriers."

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Catie Oh yay!! We can compare notes.


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I'm glad you're reading it too!


message 3: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Excellent review, Cassi! Catie got me interested in this one, and you have pushed it higher on the list.:)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard It's really a good one!


message 5: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim When Cassi and Catie love it, that is certainly good enough for me!

(Plus, I read some of the sample and it looked really good to me too!)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Jim wrote: "When Cassi and Catie love it, that is certainly good enough for me!

(Plus, I read some of the sample and it looked really good to me too!)"


Sorry I missed your comment! It's well worth it. It's great when you request something on netgalley that not many people request and it's a hidden gem.


message 7: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Cassi aka Snow White wrote: "Sorry I missed your comment! It's well worth it. It's great when you request something on netgalley that not many people request and it's a hidden gem..."

Never a problem, Cassi! I miss so much, I don't even want to think about it..

Thanks for the comment and the review.:) I will definitely get to this one in the near future - very confident it is my kind of book.


Jaclyn Hi Cassi -- I don't know you but saw your review... not far into the book yet but so far it seems like the kind of thing that Neal Stephenson has done much better. Check him out, he's a genius!


back to top