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The Mirage

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,399 ratings  ·  557 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, is
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Harper
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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Dan Schwent
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
When Christian fundamentalists destroy the Tigris and Euphrates towers on 11/9, the United Arab States declare a war on terror on the nations of North America. Eight years later, Homeland security officers Mustafa, Amal, and Samir stumble upon relics from another world, a world where America is a super power and the Middle East is a fractured region...

On the heels of Lovecraft Country, I knew I had to read more Matt Ruff. This one sounded intriguing and it was definitely that.

The Mirage is an al
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
May 14, 2012 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
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
Dec 28, 2011 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 05, 2012 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
Feb 24, 2012 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
Apr 02, 2012 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
Siona St Mark
While the world building was cool, it didn't quite live up to Lovecraft Country (which to be fair, this was written first, so Matt Ruff has grown as a writer). I really think the concept, an alternate history version of 9/11, was great. I really think alt history is a cool genre, but usually it's execution is not for me. This, however, was really enjoyable.

There were Library of Alexandria (think Wikipedia) entries at the beginning of each "chapters" (there are no chapter numbers, but you can tel
Jill Heather
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: alt-history, sff
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
Derek Wolfgram
Oct 12, 2011 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 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
David Agranoff
This is an interesting book and despite it being older than Lovecraft Country, I think most readers of this book found it after the amazing success of Ruff's novel that will be an HBO TV series launching this month. While Lovecraft Country might be a better novel, I think I enjoyed the experience of reading The Mirage even more. This book is an alternate history farce of the War on Terror and the awful foreign policy of the GW Bush years. I think some readers took the alternate history aspects a ...more
Jan 03, 2012 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
I feel I should introduce myself. My name is Selwa, and I'm an American Iraqi. I happen to be American because my dad got a job in the United States before I was born. Had he gotten a job anywhere else, or nowhere else, or still in the US but post-1980, I don't know that I'd be an American now (though, global events being what they are, if he'd gotten a job nowhere else, I might be trying real hard to get to the United States, or anywhere else, right now!).

So, having only heard of The Mirage, a
Mar 16, 2012 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
The Economist made me want to read this. I think you should read it, too.

Four or five stars?

Years later, the five-star justification:

For me, five stars in fiction comes in two flavors.

The first is beauty: it might be the prose, or the story, but something about it just captures me. This usually is going to be in literary fiction, not genre fiction, but there are exceptions (some of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, for instance).

The second is that it caught something I didn’t expect to see, and value.

I t
Jaclyn Hogan
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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. ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books is The X-President by Phillip Baruth, which is a book about going back in time to change history but also a story about the life of Bill Clinton. And my favorite part of that book, maybe one of my favorite parts in any book ever, is when 90-something-year-old Bill Clinton has a temper tantrum about not being allowed to go back in time with the rest of the government spook team and the protagonist of the story realizes that it's a particularly bitter pill for Clinton to s ...more
Aug 22, 2012 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
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This book reminded me not so much of The Man in the High Castle but of the TV miniseries based on it. The alternate history posited is glib, a clearly deliberate mirror of our reality rather than a logical extension of some pivotal event going a different way, and at first I thought, "Okay, but what is the point?" And then the point became apparent, as bits of our reality intrude into this alternate world, much to the consternation of the characters, and I got a lot more interested.

What I didn't
Dec 10, 2011 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
May 30, 2012 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
Dec 03, 2013 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
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: alt-history, own
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
Will Hornbeck
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Most alt-history novels have a wink for the readers every so often: an important player is vaguely described and then revealed at the end of the chapter to be a historical figure. But this book has so many winks that if it were a person I'd think they were having a seizure. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on what you like.
Beyond that, I don't understand objections to this book that Bin Laden and Saddam are portrayed as evil: as a major character says, evil men are evil men in all u
Joe C.
Jan 01, 2016 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.
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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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