Mrs Smith Reads Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, #CBR4 Review #20
I’ve decided that Alif the Unseen will be the book that everyone reads next year. I don’t mean that as a back-handed compliment either, I think it’s a great story that’s easy to follow, has very interesting characters, a smidgen of magic and even the Internet-hacker aspect of the narrative is effortlessly accessible, whether you’re 14 or 49.
I enjoyed the heck out of Alif the Unseen. G. Willow Wilson has written a magical mystery tour of life, the internet and everything, both seen and unseen. Wilson, best known as a graphic novelist, is an American who converted to Islam while attending Boston University. She deftly handles Islamic sensibilities and culture in a way that feels comfortable, and even familiar to western readers.
The protagonist, who goes by the handle Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a play on the 1s and 0s of his coding life—is half arab and half Indian. Alif lives in an unnamed Emirate state, a place where his life is invisible to many, not only because of his mixed-race heritage, but also because he works as a grey-hat hacker who helps others evade the Internet security forces who retain tight control of all information flowing into and out of his country.