lafon حمزة نوفل's Reviews > Alif the Unseen

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
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's review
Jul 09, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read from July 09 to 11, 2012

If a pin falls into a haystack and there is no one around to hear it does it still get lost? That sort of nonsensical philosophical question is the feeling I got while reading "Alif the Unseen". Don't get me wrong; it's a lot of fun, and incorporates a lot of the mythology, and religious feeling that exists in the Middle East (not in the traditional sense you understand, but more in the fictional interpretation of what is understood). Yet in one major way it fails: I never felt that I was in an Arabian country. There is none of the sense of history that the Old World carries, that is infused into the streets and buildings that make up the area. There was a line in the book by the old Sheikh in which he said: "...This part of the world was never meant to function that way.Too many languages, too many tribes, too motivated by ideas those high-heeled cartographers from Paris couldn’t understand..." I never got the feeling that the above sentence was actually true. I mean I know that it is true (I have blood from the area after all, perhaps even more than I realize), yet I never felt it. Another thing that was dislikable was that Alif didn't understand why he wanted either of the women in the book, and it made his position to the reader unfavourable. I don't mind reading about a character who is confused or makes silly or even stupid decisions, but for the love of God at least try and think.

For a book that had it's basis in the Arab Spring, the atmosphere throughout the book was somewhat cavalier and rather contrived, almost as if the author was saying I can't really bring out the urgency that people during a revolution have, so I'll make them scared, but trying not to acknowledge their fear.

The main thing preventing me from rating this a four star effort is simply that I didn't really connect with the characters (although I really like some of the programming Alif was able to do, with some of the more fanciful stuff actually being possible.) and that defeats most of the writing. I could live with the book changing from a interesting techno-thriller romp into something slightly more paranormal, but after the one-dimensional performance of all the characters I decided to change my tune. A fun book, but not one to go on my amazing shelf. *Sigh* I guess I'll just have to keep looking.
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Reading Progress

29.0% "Well. It's certainly better than some of the other stuff I'm currently reading. At the same time, it contains none of the visceral Arabness that other books have (God, I didn't explain that well at all)."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sumiya She actually wrote this before the Arab Spring happened, it was only published after.

lafon حمزة نوفل Oh, I know that. However the thing with literature or fiction is that it's all about appearances. In this case because of when it was published it will definitely be compared to the "Arab Spring", regardless if this is the correct thing to do or not. It is simply the nature of the beast.

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