Gregory's Reviews > The Mirage

The Mirage by Matt Ruff
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Feb 07, 2012

bookshelves: to-read

from boing boing review:


A dream of a different world. A topsy-turvy world. A world where a great power called America rules, where Arabia is a collection of squabbling dictatorships, where the atrocities of 11/9 happened on 9/11, and triggered a very different War on Terror. What's more, some of these Crusaders bear startlingly realistic artifacts from this strange world -- copies of an imaginary, long-defunct newspaper called The New York Times, military service records, Iraqi money bearing the likeness of the clownish mafioso Saddam Hussein.

It would be easy enough to laugh off as just another nutty conspiracy theory, except that the Crusaders are very sure of themselves. So sure, in fact, that they believe that this world, the real world, is actually a mirage ("The Mirage"), sent by the Christian God to punish them for their impiety. They must destroy this world to be returned to reality, the reality of America.

So goes this extraordinary novel, which transcends a gimmicky exercise in Arabifying America and vice-versa and becomes a top-rate war novel, a thoughtful and sly commentary on the war on terror, and a scathing critique of religious partisanship, all at once. This is no doubt partly due to Matt Ruff's extraordinary wife, researcher Lisa Gold, the best researcher I know (she was Neal Stephenson's researcher on The Baroque Cycle and other books). But it's also due to Ruff's sure and steady hand, able to steer a course through a narrow strait with mere parody on one side and tedious exercise on the other, finding the sweet spot right in the middle and coming through with a head of steam that's unstoppable.

This is one of those books that you read while walking down the street and long after your bedtime, a book you stop strangers to tell about.
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