Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

Alif The Unseen

Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson © 2012– ISBN: 9780802120205

Once upon a time in a modern but unnamed Middle Eastern country under a vaguely oppressive, relatively complex political system, there was a boy who was very good with computers, internet security, and getting into at least a little trouble now and again, as a result of his great curiosity. Online he went by the handle “Alif the unseen” and had to constantly be on the lookout for the government organization known as “the Hand.” Now it just so happened that a very old, very special book fell into this boy’s possession, a book that had been written by genies, 1001 Days (the yin to the yang of 1001 Arabian Nights, so to speak). And he isn’t the only one curious about the book. After all, legend has it that if you read to the end of the book, it can read your destiny and that will become reality.

But magic isn’t real, and genies don’t exist… Right?

In G Willow Wilson’s debut novel, the realms of the seen and unseen, reality and fantasy, all intertwine to create a fast-paced, high-octane adventure full of curses and magical creatures, alternate dimensions, secret organizations, technical wizardry, and a whole lot of fun. We are sent on a desperate escape across the desert and through hidden doorways and get mixed up in a government conspiracy or two. In short, take an online computer activist involved in some of the acts of the Arab Spring within a very realistic, if slightly generic and unnamed, Middle Eastern society and mix in some mystical elements to add another layer to the drama and stir.

If you are a fan of urban fantasy or enjoy a more modern handling of mythology, if you like stories about government corruption, conspiracies or being chased through the streets and risking capture at every turn, this book might be just what you are looking for. If you are interested in books that look at some of the issues that led to the Arab Spring, while this might not exactly be set within reality, you might also find this interesting. If you believe there is more to this world than meets the eye, this is definitely the book for you.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.