Besides Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress, I have never been a big fan of technological thrillers. But when you add a healthy helping of magic to all that techno-babble, I am so on board! G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen is the perfect combination of tech, myth, suspense, and whimsey.
Our protagonist is Alif, a young hacker and programmer living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, helping dissidents, criminals, democratists and communists get their voices heard in the midst of a state-sponsored internet censorship campaign. Alif experiences life through his computer, in chat-rooms and illegal social networking sites, building programs and evading “The Hand,” the shadowy government program that seeks to destroy Alif and other hackers like him.
Alif lives in a world of ones and zeros until a mystical book – The Thousand and One Days – falls into his possession. Through this book, he is unwillingly introduced to the hidden world of the jinn, ancient and magical spirits that occupy the empty spaces of the world. Alif struggles to reconcile this world of myth with the logical world of computers, even as he is pursued by government censors and rescued again and again by the inhabitants of the spirit world. Alif must find a way to combine his programming knowledge with the power of ancient myth to create something powerful enough to defeat “The Hand.” But will it be enough?
Just like Alif, G. Willow Wilson combines the rigid science of computers with the beautiful mystery of Arabic myth to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Fans of the Harry Potter series, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, or anyone who has enjoyed the stories of The One Thousand and One Nights is sure to love this book.
Originally posted on Oct. 11, 2012 on http://www.indiancreekschool.org.