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Alif the Unseen

by G. Willow Wilson

Library Journal The award-winning graphics novel author, also hailed for a memoir, offers a much-anticipated fiction debut blending political intrigue, cyberfantasy, and The Arabian Nights. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Modern hacker culture and ancient Muslim mysticism collide in the debut work of fiction from Wilson, better known as a graphic novelist. Alif, the pseudonym of the Arab-Indian hero of this novel, is a young hacker living in an unnamed city in the Persian Gulf, providing support to various groups who want to avoid government censors. Heartbroken when he discovers his love has been betrothed to another man, Alif writes a program that can help him secretly detect her online activity, but the program catches the attention of the government, setting in motion a convoluted series of adventures involving an ancient Arabian Nights-esque tome called the Alf Yeom, religious leaders, otherworldly creatures and, quite literally, the girl next door. The most engaging members of this menagerie arrive early, including Vikram the Vampire, an imposing guide to the world of the jinn, and a female American Muslim-convert who sheds light on the mysterious text. Both give Wilson an opportunity to explore the more mystical elements of the Koran in particular and Islam in general, and she also clears plenty of room to discuss repressive regimes and East-West understandings. The novel is timely, especially as it surges toward an Arab Spring-themed conclusion. But though Wilson, a Muslim convert (documented in her 2010 memoir, The Butterfly Mosque), displays a savvy knowledge of Muslim arcana, the story is overstuffed with left turns and a host of characters and bogs down in jargon about hacker tools and techniques. Given relatively short shrift are samples from the Alf Yeom itself, which, when they do appear, offer some wry fables that are engaging in their simplicity. Larger doses of those stories' pithiness and charm would give this thriller more spirit. Wilson displays an admirable Neil Gaiman-esque ambition that isn't quite matched by this oft-plodding tale.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright ę Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list *Starred Review* The scripter of the graphic novel Cairo (2007) and writer of the memoir The Butterfly Mosque (2010) here offers her first prose novel, ushering the energy of the Arab Spring into urban fantasy while unleashing jinns into the digital age. A young hacker-for-hire who goes by the handle Alif becomes an enemy of the state (an unspecified Middle Eastern emirate) after his computer program, designed to suss out the identity of a user solely through keystroke patterns and language tendencies, catches the eye of the iron-clad security presence known as the Hand. Alif has also come into possession of the fabled Alf Yeom, a book that supposedly compiles the entire knowledge of the jinn (which, surprise, are real, and, in the case of the saucy and dangerous Vikram the Vampire, a bit too real). Both Alif and the Hand see in this book the inspiration for a quantum leap in computing sophistication, but will it be a tool for revolution or a means to obliterate dissent? Wilson has a lot on her mind with this ambitious and layered novel, which swirls about ideas of theology, technology, activism, class conflict, and cultural inquiry without getting bogged down in any of them. As timely and thoughtful as it is edgy and exciting, this dervish of a novel wraps modern tendrils around ancient roots, spanning the gulf between ones and zeros, haves and have-nots, and seen and unseen worlds.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright ę American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Set in an unnamed Arab emirate, Wilson's intriguing, colorful first novel centers on a callow Arab-Indian computer hacker who calls himself "Alif," the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. Alif surreptitiously creates digital protection, at a price, for Islamic dissidents being threatened by the chief of state security (aka "the Hand of God"). When Intisar, Alif's aristocratic beloved, opportunistically throws Alif over for the Hand, he flees into the desert, along with a female neighbor, Dina, pursued by the Hand. Dina carries the 700-year-old jinn-dictated The Thousand and One Days (the inverse of The Thousand and One Nights), which contains secrets disguised in stories that may help Alif remake his world. Wilson (The Butterfly Mosque, a memoir) provocatively juxtaposes ancient Arab lore and equally esoteric computer theory, highlighting the many facets of the East-West conflict while offering few insights, to some readers' regret, into possible resolutions of that conflict. 10-city author tour. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Known for her award-winning memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, and her comics (Cairo; Air), Wilson instills imaginative storytelling in her debut novel set in the modern Middle East.┼Alif, a hacker by trade who provides systems security for the rich and poor alike, falls in love with a young woman from a privileged family.┼She is engaged to a member of the state police who is leading the hunt for the secret programming code Alif unwittingly created.┼Following the clues in an ancient manuscript titled The Thousand and One Days, Alif allies himself with his Muslim neighbor, an American convert, the sheikh of the local mosque, and an army of shapeshifting jinn to solve the code.┼VERDICT Wilson skillfully weaves a story linking modern-day technologies and computer languages to the folklore and religion of the Middle East.┼For readers ready for adventure and looking for original storytelling, this excellent novel supersedes genres as easily as its characters jump from one reality to another. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]-Catherine Lantz, Morton College Lib., Cicero, Il (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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