Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
I hated Alif the Unseen. It was the opposite of a page turner–reading this book as actually felt like a self-imposed chore that I didn’t want to do but felt like I had to.
It’s about Alif, a revolutionary minded teenage computer hacker in an unnamed, generic Arabic city. He writes a mysterious computer program to prevent the girlfriend who dumped him from ever being able to find him online (fascinating, I know). It works so well that it triggers the attention of The Hand, the unstoppable state internet police. Alif must scramble to escape The Hand, and he stumbles into the (Unseen) world of the Jinn, the mystical people we Westerners call Genies. Apparently, these people know the secret to the ultimate computer program, and The Hand will stop at nothing to get this information that has remain hidden from humans for centuries.
Now, if that description sounds interesting to you, here’s what else you need to know: the result of trying to merge all these elements into a clever and fun science fiction-fantasy mash up is a 400+ page mess. The science fiction/computer geek stuff is completely confusing. The fantasy part is abstract, random, and simply weird. All this is woven into a story that is so full of Muslim and Arabic words and cultural references that I felt like I’d walked into the middle of an inside joke….I was lost from the start. Not to mention the language–apparently middle easterners have foul mouths and aren’t afraid to use them.
The only recommendation I’ll be giving about Alif the Unseen is to stay away from it!