Alif the Unseen

Alif the Unseen

by G. Willow Wilson


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“G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.”—Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and American Gods

“Driven by a hot ionic charge between higher math and Arabian myth, G. Willow Wilson conjures up a tale of literary enchantment, political change, and religious mystery. Open the first page and you will be forced to do its bidding: To read on.”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days , the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.

With shades of Neal Stephenson, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights , Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.

“[A] Harry Potter-ish action-adventure romance [that] unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. . . . Improbably charming . . . A bookload of wizardry and glee.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802121226
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/02/2013
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 144,099
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. She is also the author of a memoir, The Butterfly Mosque , and the critically acclaimed comics Air and Vixen. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle.

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Alif the Unseen 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Samantha_V More than 1 year ago
I was totally blown away by this book. It was not what I was expecting. If you thought genies were cartoon characters living in lamps like in Aladdin, think again. The genies (or jinn) in this book are both frightening, bizarre and yet totally relatable in an almost human way. (And funny too!) The cast of characters is incredibly diverse, and each has his/her own unique and endearing flaws. The setting--a Middle Eastern city referred to only as "The City" is very believable. I don't know much about the Middle East but if you told me this was set in a real city there, I would totally buy it. Yet at the same time, there are fantastical elements lurking beneath the surface that are unexpected, charming, and weird. Bring this one to the beach with you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Full of action,fantasy,romance,and insights into a foreign culture. Takes a while to really get into, but a great book.definitely one to reread
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully blends Arabian mythology with computer technology while delivering a great adventure novel. The author is well versed on Islamic culture and give us an insider view.
Mel-Loves-Books 11 days ago
“Because even when I was annoyed with the boy you were, I liked the man I knew you would become.” Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson was such a unique read for me. It is probably my first book set in Muslim culture and I found it all so fascinating. It did deal with a lot of technology and computer language, which honestly flew way over my head, but I was able to understand enough that it didn’t take away from the story for me. And reading about the culture and the fantasy set in this culture made the book for me. I seriously enjoyed it and would love to read more by this author. I give this book 4.5 stars.
marciathing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would give this book six or seven stars if I could. It's an excellent story set in the Middle East, dealing with hackers, State security goons, men and women, and maybe even a few jinns. The story line is believable and engrossing, and resolves itself well.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program for review. This was a creative and interesting book that combines mythology, cyberpunk, and political activism.Alif is the name for a young Arab-Indian hacker who generally spends his days protecting his clients from surveillance and censoring. Alif has also fallen in love with young aristocratic woman. Suddenly things fall apart for Alif; his lover spurns him and the State agency known as the Hand infiltrates his system. Alif ends up on the run. He meets with his lover one last time and she gives his a strange book. Who knew that Djinn really existed? Alif is forced to flee through both our world and a magical one as he tries to stop the Hand from destroying both his work and that of his friends.This book reminds a lot of previous books you might have read; but is a unique combination of all of these books. There is a bit of Gaiman¿s Neverwhere in here in how the city of the djinn is hidden within Alif¿s city, there are also the quirky characters and flight from unknown evil. There is a bit of Stephenson¿s Snow Crash in here as well, which shows in the hacking sequences and in the rebellion towards the government. This story is part mythology, part cyberpunk, and part political statement all set in the Middle East.That being said it was different than anything I have ever read before. It gave some interesting incite into Middle Eastern politics and culture. At the same time it also references some unique mythology from that region. This is not a book you read quickly, this is a book that you need to think times it gets a bit dense.This is a creative story, as I said I¿ve never read anything like this before. The characters are all pretty good and interesting; although this is more a plot driven story than a character driven one. I don¿t know a ton about the Middle East and it was incredibly interesting how the culture was blended in to the rest of the story. Practical issues, like how women eat around their veils, were mentioned in the telling; there are just a lot of interesting cultural things that I never really considered before.Additionally this story bluntly discusses a lot of other issues in the Middle East region; repression, sexism, censorship, corruption, and separation of social casts. This ended up making the story somewhat educational, despite the fact it is a fantasy.This is also a wonderful fantasy/urban fantasy. Alif walks in and out of the world of the djinn; it is an interesting concept and an unique world. I love how Alif discovers a new way to program that he believes he has learned from the djinn¿s book of stories.My only complaints would be at times the book is a bit dense and towards the middle-end of the book I thought the pacing was a bit slow. Also, although the characters are fairly well done, they weren¿t characters that totally engaged me and pulled me into the story. They were interesting, but I never really cared a lot about them.Overall an excellent urban fantasy/cyberpunk/political story. This book is unlike anything I have ever read before. I loved how Middle Eastern culture was blended into this fantasy and how we get to see some scenes of every day life. I loved even more that the mythology of this region was highly incorporated into this story. Then of course there were the glorious hacker scenes; where it is code against code to see who saves the world. My only complaints are that the story is dense (which makes it a slow read at times) and the characters were decent, yet not highly compelling. Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy/cyberpunk or for those who are just interesting in Middle Eastern culture.
BMedvid More than 1 year ago
I read Alif as the monthly selection for my book club. The main character, Alif, summarizes the book nicely when he says "A girl he loved had decided that she did not love him - at least not enough. How was such a problem usually addressed? Surely not with the clandestine exchange of books and computer surveillance and recourse to the jinn." He later describes his situation as "I was a computer geek with girl issues. That sounds pretty ordinary to me." This story is anything but ordinary. I found it to be a fun, adventurous, and enjoyable read. It can be read for pure entertainment, but, it also has content for deeper investigations and conversations. The author combines classic computer geek culture, modern day socio-political themes, religion, and the supernatural into a fantasy thriller style novel. For me, she was successful, and this was a classic good versus evil story. Wilson includes quite a bit of tension between the unseen/hidden/belief and the seen/known/reality, as well as between the supernatural and "real" world. The unseen is manifested in many ways throughout the story including the computer aliases that protect and shield the gray-hat hacktivists, the traditional clothing of veils and robes worn by many characters, the unknown state censors, and most importantly to the story, the world of jinns. As the book progresses, that which is hidden and unseen becomes seen and known. This is especially true for many of the characters in the novel. At first, I found Alif to be a rather pathetic main character who lacked courage and whose whining/pining was irritating. However, as Dina so eloquently says to him "I was annoyed with the boy you were, I liked the man I knew you would become." This was also true for me. At the end, I felt I understood and like Alif as he grew and changed. Dina also becomes better known to both Alif and the reader. I truly liked her character. She is a character of piety, devotion, gentleness, and contentedness who chooses to wear veils. Yet none of that keeps her from being a "bad-ass" who can quickly cut to the chase with both her words and actions. Her perceptions, understanding, and believe in and about the supernatural and reality are insightfully keen. Dina truly knows and sees herself, it is up to the reader and Alif to move her from unseen to known. Other characters change and reveal their true selves throughout the story including Intisar, The Hand, NewQuarter, Azalel, and many other of the Jinn. The story also explores the ideas of the role and importance of religion in society and compares and contrasts it to more ancient supernatural fantasies. I particularly liked when the conversation between Alif and the Sheikh as they were discussing the morality of actions conducted in virtual space. The conversation ends with the quotation, "If a video game does more to fulfill a young person than the words of prophecy, it means people like me (the Sheikh) have failed in a rather spectacular fashion." This was followed by Alif saying "You're not a failure ... It's only that we don't feel safe. A game has a reset button. You have infinite chances for success. Real life is awfully permanent compared to that,". Definitely interesting food for thought. In many places, the novel seems to try and blend mysticism and spirituality. I enjoyed the parallel tracks of having a man of religion along with a jinn.
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Despite the marketing (references to Harry Potter, etc.,) on the book jacket, this is NOT a book for young readers. Explicit language and scenes throughout the book. Story was okay.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont see any instructions
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry but I cant chat anymore.i dont know why.chapter ten of my bok is out at spray result 8 or 9(the books got mixed up)if you get a roblox account my user name is can search me under people.but make your user name something like sageleaf568 or something like webkinz user name is tm123456 but i rarely go on.bye!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a rip off. U pay for 350 pages but there is one paragraph of writing on every page and as a whole it does not tell a story. U don't encounter the demon and u never see him hak anything. Bad writing bad purchase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where are the instructions?