The Mirage: A Novel

The Mirage: A Novel

by Matt Ruff

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061976230
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/12/2013
Series: P.S.
Pages: 414
Sales rank: 681,369
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Matt Ruff is the author of The Mirage, Bad Monkeys, Set This House in Order, Fool on the Hill, and Sewer, Gas & Electric. He lives in Seattle.

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Mirage 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
cwknight More than 1 year ago
Some have criticized The Mirage as being unbelievable, which to me is missing the point. Like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, The Mirage is a story whose focus is the same-ness of people everywhere. I loved this book because it pulls no punches in its critique of the United States' behavior over the past decade. Unfortunately, the people who would benefit most from seeing the other side of things will probably never read this.
Alison_Pink More than 1 year ago
The Mirage tells an alternate version of history. Where the world is rocked by a terrorist attack on the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad on 11/9/01. The planes were hijacked by Christian fundamentalists from the Third World country of America. Years after the attack on the superpower, a homicide bomber is captured in the United Arab States (UAS) & questioned. He tells a strange story of a mirage. This mirage is one where the UAS is the super power & America is poor & broken. He argues that this is not true reality...that in the real world the USA is the super power & was attacked on 9/11 by Muslims. Gradually the Homeland Security officers in Arabia begin to unravel the story & start to believe this crazy bomber. The story is very well written & makes you stop & think without at doubt. At times it is humorous (The Quail Hunter from Crawford, TX who takes his enemies out on hunts & accidently shoots them or the crazy man in TX who is always looking for someone or something but can't seem to find it or remember who or what he's looking for or David Koresh leading the reisitance in America or Timothy McVeigh appearing as a protector to one of the invaders). This was well worth the time. The only reason it gets 4 stars from me is that it is a book you can't put down or read in small chunks. You need to read it straight through to keep everything straight, but it is well worth the time!
tottman More than 1 year ago
There’s an old adage that history is written by the victors. Matt Ruff expands and explores that idea in Mirage. Mirage is the story of a world in which Arabia is the superpower and the United States a third world backwater country. In this world, Christian fundamentalists fly planes into the Twin Towers of Baghdad on November 9, 2001 (11/9 vs. 9/11). The twists keep coming in this upside down world. Except some of the terrorists remember a different reality. One in which the United States is a superpower and the Arab world a backwater. And they have some artifacts from this reality that seem to back up their story. Mirage is told largely through the eyes of Arab Homeland Security Agents, mainly Mustafa al Baghdadi. He is tasked by the president to investigate the “mirage rumors”. There are people within the United Arab States who don’t want that to happen, as well as people who think their lives would be better in the mirage world. I enjoyed this book because if features interesting characters with interesting backstories. The concepts explored were also very intriguing. Are the seeds of violent fundamentalism always present in any religion? What circumstances cause them to come out? How might political alliances that we view as unshakeable change if they sprang from different circumstances? My criticism of the book is that the reverse parallels seemed a little overdone and at times seemed gimmicky. (11/9 vs 9/11, wikipedia vs. libraryofalexandria, etc.) The placement of prominent public figures on both sides of the conflict in roles they might play in the mirage world is well-done for the most part, although sometimes it seems unnecessary. The most enjoyable and identifiable characters are the fictional ones. Despite any criticisms, Mirage is a story that makes you think and keeps you engaged. The core concept is brilliant and the exploration of the alternate world is fascinating. The characters, especially the ones without real-world counterparts, are interesting and well-developed. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book. It is an enjoyable read that will stretch your mind. 3.5 stars.
prenoun More than 1 year ago
The best parts of Matt Ruff's alternate War on Terror world are when the story seems like a waking dream: characters sense their version of events is not quite the reality, yet the scenes are infused with details too vivid to be anything less. These parts, especially during the first half of the novel, open the reader's eyes to new perspectives on what Americans must think of as an unchangeable cultural moment. But, also as with a dream, the longer the novel goes on, the more gaps appear to make the story less effective, less believable, and less magical. It plays games with wild pairings that work only to make the characters whose world we wanted to believe in seem less believable themselves. The ending effectively explains "the mirage," but the second half of the book disappoints on a promise: that even a broken mirror can, through inversion and distortion, show us exactly who we are.
CRT More than 1 year ago
Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of Matt Ruff's work. "A Fool on the Hill" and "Set This House In Order" are two of my all-time favorite novels. So, I was especially excited to read his newest book, "The Mirage". While I am not as enamored with this novel as I was with "Fool" or "House", I still got sucked into the plot and thoroughly enjoyed the read. It is filled with the plot twists and elements of fantasy that are characteristic of Ruff's writing. His alternative view of history is very interesting, and the portions of the book that discuss spirituality and religion actually offer quite a bit of fodder for deeper reflection. Though I didn't LOVE the book, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to anyone who enjoys Ruff's other works, alternative history, or is just looking for a different kind of novel.
rivkat on LibraryThing 24 days ago
It¿s hard to write a 9/11 novel. This one takes place in an AU in which Baghdad, the premier city (though not the capital) of the United Arab States, was the city whose twin towers were destroyed by Christian fundamentalists, and Israel is a state carved out of Germany whose closest ally is the UAS and whose existence many Christians don¿t accept. After 9/11, the UAS invades America and attempts to put a better government in place. There¿s a popular TV show tracking 24 hours in the life of an antiterrorist agent whose use of torture seems contrary to Islamic principles to its critics. And so on: Mustafa found himself in an open aisle between two entertainment mediums and two warring sociopolitical viewpoints. To his left, in the DVD section, a bank of flat-screens showed the governor of Lebanon, in his previous career as an action-movie superstar, maneuvering a jump jet between the skyscrapers of Beirut and using the plane¿s nose-cannon to annihilate an army of terrorists, all of whom looked like relatives of the man Mustafa was chasing. To his right, in pop music, a wall of speakers and subwoofers blasted out the punk band Green Desert¿s anti-war, anti-Saud anthem, ¿Arabian Idiot.¿Saddam Hussein is a mob boss; Osama bin Laden is a war hero turned Senator; Gaddafi claimed credit for inventing the internet. A big early mistake in the occupation of America was disbanding ¿the Minutemen¿the American National Guard¿thereby throwing half a million heavily armed Christians out of work.¿ You get a lot of information via infodumps from the Library of Alexandria (that is, AU Wikipedia). Then Homeland Security starts encountering Americans who believe that it¿s all a mirage, that something has reversed the true order of things in which America is the world¿s superpower and it¿s the Muslim world that is fractured and invaded. What¿s more, these Americans have artifacts that, though obviously fakes, support their story¿for what reason, Homeland Security doesn¿t know.I like Ruff and I thought he made interesting choices in dealing with Sunni/Shi¿a conflicts that do not obviously translate one-to-one in America while positing Protestant/Catholic conflicts in Europe due to the population displacement caused by the creation of a Jewish state. (America¿s racial divisions, however, and the UAS¿s ignorance thereof, play important roles in the disastrous invasion.) He pretty much punted on science, though: America was a creationist wasteland, but it wasn¿t clear whether the UAS held different views, except that homosexuality was outlawed, with 50s-US-level variations in the amount of intolerance from person to person. Ruff undoubtedly can write ¿the interrogation scene,¿ ¿the chase scene,¿ etc. with both verve and tongue in cheek. The question is whether you can deal with his basically playful treatment¿look ma, no hands!¿of highly fraught topics.
4daisies on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I feel bad to give this only one star because I love this author. Unfortunately, this was not my kind of book. This is a political thriller/conspiracy novel. (Not my thing typically) The setting is an alternate reality or "mirage" if you will, where everything is opposite of the world as we know it. 9/11 has become 11/9 and the World Trade Center Twin Towers are located in Baghdad. Keep on with the opposites game and you can imagine where this is going. There are so many characters introduced, it was hard to keep up. Ruff used the tool of "Wikipedia" type entries between the chapters to give background which was a clever thing to do in theory, but ended up boring me more than informing me. Not Matt Ruff's best work.
sturlington on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I have never taken so long to write a review of a book. To be honest, this book just perplexed me. I wasn't sure what it wanted to be. It certainly wasn't satire, which I was expecting, or even science fiction, which I was hoping. It read like a straightforward police procedural, with a sudden veer into fantasy, and a very unsatisfying ambiguous ending. The book was well-written and entertaining enough, but I could not connect to it in any meaningful way. So I just don't have much to say about it.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I don¿t care what you say. This one will, at least at first, make you feel a bit uncomfortable. In the tradition of the best alternate history fiction, Matt Ruff uses The Mirage to turn history on its head in a way that makes one think. American readers, in particular, will be forced to do some soul searching as they make their way through the mad journey that Ruff has prepared for them.The Mirage, you see, begins on 11/9/2001 just as a group of Christian fundamentalists highjack four Iraqi airliners. Two of the jets crash into the World Trade Towers in Baghdad, one into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh, and one heads for Mecca but, before it can reach its target there, passengers manage to crash it into the ground. Soon, the United Arab States (UAS) are waging a payback war on terror and have invaded the East Coast. Washington D.C. is turned into a Green Zone safe haven for the invaders who are ruthlessly attacked almost every time they venture outside its protected perimeter. Eight years later, the invaders are still there, hoping to leave a stable government behind before they call the war done.Ruff softens the impact of this jarring setup by creating several sympathetic Iraqi characters tasked with the mission of stopping further Christian terrorist attacks on Iraq and the rest of the UAS. Mustafa al Baghdadi and his cohorts spend their days tracking threats and terrorist cells, hoping to stay one step ahead of the fundamentalists who want to bring more mayhem to the country. So far, with a lot of luck, they have been successful. But when Mustafa, during one of his arrests, finds an old newspaper that a suspect has hidden away, his world is shaken. This is not just any old newspaper. It is a back issue of The New York Times dated 9/12/2001, and it tells a surreal story that Mustafa cannot comprehend. Surely, it is a hoax; it has to be. Then other captured terrorists begin to tell stories similar to what is in the newspaper, and Mustafa starts to doubt the world he lives in. Is it all a mirage? If it is, who is responsible and how did they do it?Readers will enjoy the way that Ruff uses the main players from the 9/11 murders in The Mirage. Most of them are there, but in entirely new roles ¿ some of which are guaranteed to offend as many readers as they will please. More intriguingly, others who had no actual connection with events following 9/11 participate here in key roles: David Koresh, Lee Atwater, Timothy McVeigh, and Terry Nichols, among them. Although some will skip them, Ruff uses clever Wikipedia-like entries as chapter-breaks that should not be ignored because they fill in the narrative blanks, making it easier to understand this strange new world.The ending Ruff chose for The Mirage, however, is weak. His story, and his readers, deserved better. Based upon the rest of the story, it is difficult to argue that the ending is too fantastic to be taken seriously (and the argument cannot be attempted without straying into ¿spoiler¿ territory). But it is, and it lessens the impact that I belief Ruff was going for in The Mirage. That said, do not miss this one because it is still one of the more intriguing novels you will encounter in 2012.Rated at: 4.0
karieh on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I cannot even imagine the amount of research that went into ¿The Mirage¿. Trying to create a storyline that is so similar to the events/people involved in 9/11 and its aftermath ¿ while altering nearly all of the details¿must have been incredibly complex. It was a bit complex for me as a reader¿but since Ruff creates such great main characters in Mustafa and in Amal that once I was comfortable with them, I could let the ¿similar while completely different¿ aspects settle comfortably around me.There were so many parts of this new/old storyline that I had forgotten ¿ and upon remembering ¿ appreciated the skill behind the new version. There¿s no changing what happened that day, this novel aside, but given what happened afterwards, I know that I am not the only one that wishes that was possible.There is so much in ¿The Mirage¿ that makes you think about what MIGHT have happened. All organized religions have their zealots; all have spilled blood in the name of their God ¿ making the new reality described very possible. Including possibilities that I had never even considered. That were Texas ever a sovereign nation (!) ¿ it might appeal to OPEC for help against attack given its major resource. That some enemies were just meant to encounter one another regardless of the circumstances¿that some events just seem to be destined to happen, regardless what one might do to change things.There are parts of ¿The Mirage¿ that made me laugh¿in a bitterly ironic way. Details about ¿The Quail Hunter¿ and a certain Texas man who ¿in his youth it had naturally been assumed that he too would achieve great things. But he had squandered the advantages of his birth, used up all his second chances, and so come to nothing.¿Other notable figures figure prominently in this book ¿ ones I would not have expected and two were names from the past that made me shudder when I read them again.I know I missed much of the subtext and greater meaning in this book ¿ I¿m just not well versed enough in the subject to catch all of the changes and ironies. Plus I enjoyed reading it so much that I read it too fast.Many things stuck with me from Matt Ruff¿s excellent book ¿The Mirage¿, but one passage in particular. When Mustafa is asked how he could do something that few people find acceptable, he replies, ¿The short answer is, you do it by deliberately confusing what is permitted with what is right. Money makes the confusion easier.¿While this truth is not what is at the heart of this book, this story, and the true events behind it, would not be remotely the same without it.
dpappas on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I was drawn to this book once I read the summary. The whole premise of the book seemed fascinating to me. I haven't read much alternate history so I was excited to branch out into a different genre.It is clear to see that there was a huge amount of research put into this book. I loved how Ruff was able to intertwine real people into a fictional story and sort of fictionalizes them. I also really loved the fictional version of Wikipedia.I had seen some people state that this book was offensive, without even reading the book, and after having read the book I feel that they are wrong. Ruff took this controversial subject and handled it with grace. There is a message behind this book but the reader must keep an open mind to receive it.I would recommend this to alternate history fans.*I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. In no way does that affect the content of my review.*
tottman on LibraryThing 24 days ago
There¿s an old adage that history is written by the victors. Matt Ruff expands and explores that idea in Mirage. Mirage is the story of a world in which Arabia is the superpower and the United States a third world backwater country. In this world, Christian fundamentalists fly planes into the Twin Towers of Baghdad on November 9, 2001 (11/9 vs. 9/11). The twists keep coming in this upside down world. Except some of the terrorists remember a different reality. One in which the United States is a superpower and the Arab world a backwater. And they have some artifacts from this reality that seem to back up their story.Mirage is told largely through the eyes of Arab Homeland Security Agents, mainly Mustafa al Baghdadi. He is tasked by the president to investigate the ¿mirage rumors¿. There are people within the United Arab States who don¿t want that to happen, as well as people who think their lives would be better in the mirage world.I enjoyed this book because if features interesting characters with interesting backstories. The concepts explored were also very intriguing. Are the seeds of violent fundamentalism always present in any religion? What circumstances cause them to come out? How might political alliances that we view as unshakeable change if they sprang from different circumstances? My criticism of the book is that the reverse parallels seemed a little overdone and at times seemed gimmicky. (11/9 vs 9/11, wikipedia vs. libraryofalexandria, etc.) The placement of prominent public figures on both sides of the conflict in roles they might play in the mirage world is well-done for the most part, although sometimes it seems unnecessary. The most enjoyable and identifiable characters are the fictional ones.Despite any criticisms, Mirage is a story that makes you think and keeps you engaged. The core concept is brilliant and the exploration of the alternate world is fascinating. The characters, especially the ones without real-world counterparts, are interesting and well-developed. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book. It is an enjoyable read that will stretch your mind. 3.5 stars.
lycomayflower on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The Mirage begins in a world related to ours but very different. The United Arab States (UAS) is the dominate superpower in the world, and North America is divided into several nations, including The Evangelical Republic of Texas, the Rocky Mountain Independent Territories, and the Christian States of America (CSA). Israel is in Central Europe. The Gulf War was fought in the Gulf of Mexico. And on November 9, 2001, Christian fundamentalists hijacked four commercial airliners and flew two of the them into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, Iraq, touching off a War on Terror which saw UAS troops invade North America, capturing the city of Denver (where the World Christian Alliance, the group claiming responsibility for 11/9, was believed to have a base) and eventually establishing a provisional government in Washington, D.C.The novel follows Mustafa, Amal, and Samir, agents for UAS Homeland Security, as they combat terrorism in Baghdad. They keep running across references to and seeming artifacts from a "mirage world" where a North American country called The United States of America is the dominate superpower who was attacked by Muslim terrorists on 9/11/2001. At first they dismiss that world and its artifacts as Christian legend and hoax, but as time and their investigations progress, they begin to think the mirage world may be the real world.The Mirage is set up as a thoughtful thriller, and the first half of the book, where Ruff does most of his world-building in his alternate world and all of his set-up for the mystery part of the story, is clever and compelling. But the novel falls off in the back half, when the cause of the mirage is revealed (it is in keeping with the logic of the world Ruff has built, but is somehow anti-climactic) and Mustafa, Amal, and Samir attempt to stop organized crime lord Saddam Hussein from reversing the mirage (he believes that he will be a powerful king in the "real world"). I was hoping that The Mirage would offer insight into 9/11 by making it and its context just strange enough to see clearly. And it does do a fairly effective job of making an American, Christian reader "other" to herself by aligning the narrative's sympathies with those who some Americans consciously or unconsciously make "other" themselves. But as the novel goes on, the alternate reality Ruff has built begins to feel a little cardboard, a little too clever--and in ways which are not serving the story. One begins to question the pat "flip" of our world to this alternate world, one begins to long for an in-depth exploration of how the world got to have this "mirage" configuration. Clever parallels become annoying, begin to beg for further insight. Why, for instance, should there be a Law and Order: Halal in this world? Would the progression of popular culture, the reaction to and anticipation of popular taste, interest, and opinion in a UAS really so closely mirror that of the USA we know so as to develop the same television program? In other words, why should a superpower centered in the Arab world look anything at all like a superpower centered in North America?The answer has to do with getting this story on the page, not with any careful consideration of another culture. (If the worlds did not parallel one another, Ruff's two realities would not be close enough to one another for Mustafa and others to begin to believe in the other, "real" world. And to be fair, the explanation for the creation of the mirage does address (though indirectly) why a UAS would parallel a USA in any way.) But if one can accept the parameters under which The Mirage operates, the novel does offer a striking glimpse of the USA from outside. Perhaps the best way to approach The Mirage is to think of it as akin to an animal fable, where, instead of human foibles being made clear to human readers by giving those foibles to animals, American foibles are ma
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Summary: It's been almost eight years since the terrorist attack on the twin towers, and the pain of November 9th is still being felt all over Baghdad and the rest of the United Arab States. Troops have occupied Washington, D. C., but Christian fundamentalists are still attempting to spread fear through ongoing suicide bombings. Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi intercepts one of these would-be bombers, but this one has something to say that is markedly different from the usual terrorist propaganda. He claims that the world they are all living in is just a mirage, and that in the "real" world, America is the superpower. And in his possession is a newspaper - called the "New York Times", whatever that is - dated September 12, 2001, and showing an image eerily similar to, yet completely different from the attacks on the Towers in Baghdad. Mustafa attempts to investigate, but there are other forces at work, as well; the gangster Saddam Hussein has his own reasons for wanting to know about the mirage, and the government - in particular politician Osama Bin Laden - wants nothing more than to keep the whole story under wraps.Review: If asked, I would say that I am not a particular fan of fiction that uses September 11th as a main plot point. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a news junkie, nor do I follow politics super-closely. Books like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and American Subversive are well-done and all, but have just never been my cup of tea. So kudos to Matt Ruff for writing a 9/11 book that I not only enjoyed, but that kept me actively engaged.The most engaging part of the book was also the part I was worst at: namely, trying to divine the real-world situations and people that Ruff had inverted, and how they fit in his parallel world. The big ones I got, of course - I'm not completely ignorant of current events - but there were a number of smaller things where I wasn't sure whether there was something I didn't know about, or if it was something that Ruff had made up out of whole cloth. He's pretty discreet about names, too, often hinting or implying rather than actually stating, which made it hard for me to fact-check via casual Wikipedia-ing. (Speaking of Wikipedia, I thought the chapter breaks, which were presented as articles from mirage-world's version of Wikipedia, "The Library of Alexandria", were a clever way to do infodump-style worldbuilding without it bogging down the narrative.) So while I got the little thrill of cleverness whenever I recognized a parallel, I also spent a fair amount of time feeling like there was an additional layer of meaning that was going over my head.While that element of the book was doing its job keeping my brain engaged, I think the part of the book that I actually enjoyed the most were the times when Ruff stepped away from the worldbuilding and the current events and into the lives of his characters. While his secondary characters weren't particularly complex (or easy to keep straight, at times), his three main characters all had really compelling personal stories, told with some real empathy. Towards the end of the book, however, the plot steps away from the interpersonal stuff and into the action-movie conspiracy thriller, with explosions and secret plots and whatnot, and while it all fit together well enough, I missed the quieter moments with the characters.Overall, it's a great concept for his novel, and Ruff builds his mirage world intricately and well, despite the story itself having a few rough edges. As 9/11 books go, it's probably the best I've read; as Matt Ruff books go, it's not my favorite. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: I think news junkies and current events buffs, and fans of conspiracy thrillers will probably have the best time with it, but for anyone interested in book that's unusual and a bit of a brain teaser without going totally off the rails, Mirage is worth a shot.
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Bookshelf_Confessions More than 1 year ago
It’s amazing… I didn’t even think one could rewrite 9/11 in such a flawless way that’s really believable.. I could already imagine a movie for this. originally appeared on: Bookshelf Confessions I’m not so sure what to think of the book ---The book make me feel like I was about to read something unforgivable - It also almost turned me away because of its premise, but because Matt Ruff is really famous for BAD MONKEYS , I took the risk. It also makes me laugh in a way, that it’s really a twist.. there are: the UAS (United Arab States) instead of US, ABI (Arab Bureau of Investigation) instead of FBI, 11/9 instead of 9/11.. there are a lot more. And I wasn’t disappointed; I was in awe of how good that twist is, that I was actually beginning to think the world he created might be possible! Matt Ruff has created his own story out of history. I wouldn’t go more into the plot, but I assure you, it will keep you on edge--- thinking what would happen next. I was up all night reading and contemplating the events unfolding in front of me. At first it’s hard to get into the story, because the book is an alternate reality..it would really take some time for a reader, to fully grasp the concept and be familiar with it. But once I’m in terms with the characters, the place, I finally realized how complicated and how much time and thinking this book requires the author to complete it. And the result- is a very interesting plot that might be condemned by some but admired by many. The topic/theme of this book, is not easy, but if we just read the book as a work of fiction, let the author take us away from reality… then THE MIRAGE is really a brilliant one. The writing is very good, the Library at Alexandria (Wikipedia) is a good move to keep the reader up to date with the history, and the author’s right-in-time-humor is sufficient to make you stop and smile at the very concentrated moment,. He gives us enough details, enough to satisfy and make us curious altogether. The characters are all significant on the story. We could even see in the picture the infamous Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. I enjoyed the journey to the truth with Mustafa, the hero, how he finds out about the Mirage, and discover things he thought far from possible. The venue- Baghdad is totally different than we used to – it’s modern, with skyscrapers, modern culture, just think of anything that’s opposite. (Anyways, that’s what this book is.>:D). The author’s really good in describing the new face of the city, Mecca, every place in the story is a whole lot new than what we know, and yet, I could totally picture it. It’s vivid and complete. One drawback I guess, is the end. I was expecting it anyways, but I’m thinking that there might be something more ( I’m confusing you, I know--- but I have really confused feelings about the book… ) Last words: It’s amazing… I didn’t even think one could rewrite 9/11 in such a flawless way that’s really believable.. I could already imagine a movie for this.>:D Good book, good plot, lots of characters more than needed maybe, good writing style, and maybe with little changes on the details of the story in between and at the end, this would make it to the top-rated political thriller of 2012. (I’ve written quite long—but trust me, YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS BOOK!!!) Very highly recommended to everyone who enjoys action/mystery/sci-fi stories. I wouldn’t recommend this to children and culture-sensitive people, though.
TheOrbital More than 1 year ago
By now I'm sure you have read some of the other reviews of this book and have a fairly good understanding of the setting and plot, so I won't rehash what everyone else has already covered. What I will say is that I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and given its somewhat abrupt ending I would recommend it to anyone who enjoy alternate-history fiction or just a good sci-fi mystery. For some reason, I found myself comparing this book to the most recent season of the TV show 'Fringe', given it's development of the "alternate universe/over there" world that was introduced in Season 4. If you enjoyed that storyline in 'Fringe' you will definitely enjoy this book. I found the "Wikipedia" entries (called The Library of Alexandria in this book) on various subjects and characters incredibly entertaining, and some of the references to alternate-reality real world people made me laugh out loud. (There is a character introduced in the latter third of the story that absolutely cracked me up given the reference, but I will not spoil that for you - suffice to say that it is a very fitting name given). As I said above, I did enjoy the story despite it's somewhat abrupt ending; and it intrigued me enough that I checked out another one of Mr. Ruff's novels that was an equally great read: 'Bad Monkeys'
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The premise is brilliant. Flip 9/11 and the subsequent 00's - Christian fundamentalists from a balkanized America drive planes into cosmopolitian Baghdad's World Trade Towers. I was anticipating - or at least hoping for - a biting socio-political satire, like a few of the alternate world novels that came out of the Soviet bloc, or Vargas LLosa's "The Real Life of Alejandro Mehta"; or a lugubrious chess match between mind and reality like Philip K. Dick gave us, whom the B&N review references with "The Man in the High Castle". But for all it's imagination and clever and occasionally laugh-out-loud mirroring - the Muslim world's current hit rock album is Green Desert's "Arabian Idiot" - it is a heavily (i.e. unrealistically) plotted political "thriller", with winks to the reader aplenty, and despite some of its "still too soon" moments of gravitas, devolves into magical fantasy.
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