Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Alif the UnseenIn the City somewhere in the Middle East, Alif is a gray hat hacker/computer security provider. He furnishes high strength web security for any customer who’s willing to pay, no matter what business the website does. He’s in a clandestine love relationship with the daughter of a man of higher class. She breaks up with him when her father accepts the marriage proposal of an older man in the government. She meets Alif in secret and tells him she never wants to see any sign of him again. He writes a new software program that is able to track her and keep her from stumbling across him online.
The last thing he gets from his love is a special book. He learns her fiance is a government muckety muck, aka The Hand, and is in charge of the government’s computer department. His job is to catch the hackers in the City and break them. Soon he is after Alif. The Hand wants the book back.
Alif barely avoids arrest with some help from his childhood friend Dina. The two go on the run and land in the half seen world of the djin. From there, Alif’s and Dina’s lives take a turn to the gray and unusual. Alif will be lucky if he is able to escape The Hand with his life.
Alif the Unseen … wow… G. Willow Wilson winds together the sophisticated online and computer programming world with the magic world of the djin with the sacred religious world of the Middle East. One of Alif’s hiding places is an old active mosque. The sheikh there tries to help him. Wilson takes Alif into the lower middle class of the City, the half seen world of magic, an isolated prison, a local university, and into the middle of a revolution.
The pace of Alif the Unseen is fast and keeps the reader on edge. Wilson draws vivid pictures of the City and the world where Alif lives. The desolation of some scenes, the fascination of creating yet a better piece of computer software, the mysticism of the half seen world, and the lushness of the wealthy all come together in a story that tugs the reader right through to the end of Alif the Unseen.
Wilson gives a realistic feeling to the Middle East and how the inhabitants of the normal people live and feel about their world and the world outside their region. As a middle class American, all my knowledge of the area comes from the news and the books I read. Usually the books are suspense thrillers that show the worst side of the region. While Alif the Unseen also has a very dark side, Wilson is able to show the every day life of the characters.
Plus, Alif the Unseen is an exciting fast paced suspense combined with the imagined and the real. Pick the book up and dive in. It will be hard to put down until the last page is turned.
Notice: Graphic violence, Strong language