Ben Eldridge's Reviews > The Mirage

The Mirage by Matt Ruff
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's review
Jul 30, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read from July 25 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy

An ambitious concept, with stunning execution for about 2/3 of the way, The Mirage is ultimately defeated by its own cleverness. Both Ruff's Set This House In Order and Sewer, Gas & Electric are amongst my favourite books, thus I harboured high expectations for this novel, which were not wholly met. Essentially an alternate history novel in which 9/11 becomes 11/9 and the world's superpower is UAS (United Arabia States), leaving America as the backwater, religiously fanatical breeding ground. The characters are all excellently written, and the 'bad guys' in real life stay that way (in altered form) in the fictional world. The "Library of Alexandria" sections (i.e. fictional Middle-East Wikipedia) are extremely impressive, and a brilliant way to contextualise the changes Ruff envisions. After a blistering start, the novel seems to lose its way somewhat, and the ending section (besides being farfetched to the point of parody) does not match the tone of the novel's earlier moments. I have, however, found my new favourite insult: Professional Camel Anus. It feels as though Ruff has pulled his punches with the ending section, almost as if there is a timidity in following some of the narrative threads through to their logical conclusions (the idea of differing perspectives is, unfortunately in my view, discarded quickly). My comments regarding the cleverness being the downfall in some regards comes from Ruff's appropriation of Middle-Eastern mythology... the use of the supernatural as a plot device in such a well-conceived world seems clever in a tongue-in-cheek way... but destroys the momentum and cheapens the ending section.

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