What it’s about: Alif the Unseen is a remarkable weaving of computer coding, the Arab Spring, and Islamic mythology. It follows Alif, a love-sick modern hacker determined to undermine the government censers and win back his love, who suddenly becomes the target of the head of state security aka “The Hand.” While trying to evade The Hand, he gets entangled with Vikram, a malevolent jinni, Dinah, his devout and brave childhood friend, an urban prince gone cyber-rouge, and a host of other unexpected characters.
Why I liked it: Alif the Unseen totally unsettled my ideas about genre: it was as mystic as The Golem and the Jinni but has paragraphs that could have read straight from a non-fictional account of the Arab spring. I found myself learning about Muslim faith, firewalls, and mythology all on the same page. Quick-paced and brilliant, Alif stands out as a fantastically written melding of reality and fiction, one that makes me question my own separation between the mystic and the truth.
Audience: YA/Adult, for language and situational gravity
Read it if you liked:
Interworld by Neil Gaiman
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker