Thursday, January 3, 2013

Alex Award Watch: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Once again, we're taking a glimpse at the adult shelves and seeing what we think you might like to take a closer look at. Today, Katie's got a book with international flair. 

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

This is a tricky review to write. Who is this book for? Computer nerds? Fantasy lovers? Anyone with an interest in the Middle East or Islam? Readers who just like good books? I’d like to believe that the correct answer is “all of the above.”

Living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country but never quite feeling as if he belongs there, Alif--that’s not his real name--is a hacker. A pretty decent one, too. He’s also a guy who just had his heart broken by the girl of his dreams. Combine his computer skills with his goal of never contacting said girl again and the strict control of the Internet by the government, and then next thing you know, Alif has created a program that has captured the attention of the most important enforcer of online censorship in the country--The Hand of God. The events that follow involve running from State security, seeking help from a genie (or the jinn as they are referred to here), and an ancient book that might hold the key to... well... everything. Revolution is in the air, along with adventure and romance, but only if Alif can beat the odds and stay alive.

Bonus feature: Dina! I would be failing you if I didn’t mention her and led you to believe that this book is just about a boy on his own saving the world. Because trust me when I say, Alif needs Dina and she is one rockstar heroine. The genie isn’t too shabby either (gross understatement).

This book has been compared to a lot of books coming out of the recent explosion of great fantasy, but the most apt might be to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. With elements of religious myth, philosophizing, danger, and revolution, the one definitely echos the other and yet still manages to strike a tone and find a place that is all its own. If you loved last year’s Ready Player One (see our review here), this is a book you won’t want to miss in 2012.

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