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Alif the Unseen

Alif the Unseen [Kindle Edition]

G. Willow Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
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Product Description


Brilliant... witty, imaginative and unorthodox in all senses --Observer

Wilson writes beautifully, tells a great story, and even makes computer hackery seem like magic. --Alison Flood, Sunday Times

Among the most original and challenging books of 2012, and my personal pick for at least one major award in 2013 --Guardian

Product Description


'I will tell you a story, but it comes with a warning; when you hear it, you will become someone else.'

He calls himself Alif - few people know his real name - a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocratic Intisar, he believes he has found love. But their relationship has no future - Intisar is promised to another man and her family's honour must be satisfied. As a remembrance, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious book. Entitled The Thousand and One Days, Alif discovers that this parting gift is a door to another world - a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked amongst us.

With the book in his hands, Alif finds himself drawing attention - far too much attention - from both men and djinn. Thus begins an adventure that takes him through the crumbling streets of a once-beautiful city, to uncover the long-forgotten mysteries of the Unseen.

Alif is about to become a fugitive in both the corporeal and incorporeal worlds. And he is about to unleash a destructive power that will change everything and everyone - starting with Alif himself.

'[Wilson] works magic... an exuberant fable that has thrills, chills and-even more remarkably-universal appeal.' Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 702 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus (1 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008QO8ZPO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,944 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unseen forces 4 April 2013
A great premise with some terrific elements grievously undermined by the author's unwillingness to grasp the thorny nettle of fantasy she has introduced.

Alif is our downtown man (boy), a hacker in love (lust) with an uptown girl. The setting is an unnamed Arab emirate, with a repressive regime of rich princes, consumerism and oil. When the uptown girl's father promises her to an older government official, who turns out to be the Hand, head of digital security, Alif comes in to possession of 1001 Days, the Djinn equivalent of 1001 Nights. This leads us into the spirit - and spiritual - realm for a time, before we are brought back to the Arab Spring, with torture, revolution and a hanging.

The book is strong when handling its real world elements and contains some really funny moments, including a Djinn quoting Star Wars. Our female author shows an uncanny ability to enter the mind of a sexually inexperienced manboy, and the book also contains a very positive religious figure, a scarcity in any type of fiction these days.

However the promised fantasy element is weak and unsatisfying, feeling like something the author has used to differentiate her book rather than something she is passionate about. There is no exploration of the Djinn - not their powers, their hierarchy, nor their motivations (it remains a mystery to me why they go above and beyond for Alif throughout the novel) and whilst Wilson mentions that these figures exist within the Koran, she does not expand on that. There are a couple of beautifully crafted 'tales' from the 1001 Days presented in the book and as a big fan of 1001 Nights, I would have liked to see far more of these.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, good in parts but a bit of a mishmash 20 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Alif the Unseen is set in an unspecified Arab Emirate. The novel starts with a supernatural introduction to a book, the Alf Yeom (The Thousand and One Days), dictated by a captive Djinn. It then moves to present day and follows the life of Alif, a computer hacker and programmer, at war with the ruling Emir and his apparatus of state, together with two young women, Intisar and Dina, who feature in his life. I won't detail the entire plot, but it ranges from a supernaturnal fantasy, taking in a lot of IT/technobabble and Arab Spring politics. It is difficult to catergorise the novel in a particular genre because it seems such a mishmash of ideas. He reads like the Arabian Nights meets Harry Potter, The Matrix, and a socio-political Arab novel, with a bit of Star Wars thrown in places. Some will no doubt be enchanted by the supernaturnal storyline, but I found it a little bit of a mess.
The author writes quite well and I enjoyed the beginning, but it becomes a bit too weird and fantastical for me at the end. The basic idea about the unseen world of The Djinn is intruiging, and takes you into some of the background of the Islamic faith, which was unknown to me and interesting. However for me the story just doesn't quite work. The novel starts very promisingly and then the plot becomes a bit clunky and sags into a bit of a mess, which is a pity. I didn't find the lead males characters very convincing either. I think it may have been more effective if the author had written either a pure fantasy novel, or a political novel with the information technology themes. Trying to weld them together into a single plot just created a molten mess, similar to Alif's computer melted-down hard drive.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Alif the Unseen is a book unlike any other I've ever read. It is the story of Alif, an internet service provider / hacker, living in an unspecified City, in an unspecified Emirate, somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula.

To begin with, it's just a tale of nerd-has-girl-trouble: his girlfriend is leaving him to marry another man. She tells him she never wants to see him again, never wants to hear from him again. In a fit of angry despair, Alif decides to make her wish come true, and write a programme which can identify her, no matter which computer in the world she uses, and make his own email address, web handles, avatars, phone numbers etc. forever invisible and unreachable for her. Only after some manic coding does he realise that this programme in the wrong hands could be a terrible weapon against any activists.

Soon, things get a little out of hand. Before we know it, the story involves an ancient mythical manuscript, people who seem supernatural (djinn!) and sinister state security forces / persecution.

If you took Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, jumbled it up with 1001 Nights / The Arabian Nights, injected a little bit of Zoe Ferraris's Kingdom Of Strangers' Middle Eastern atmosphere and setting, sprinkled in a dusting of Islam, and turned it all into a beautifully written novel set in the Arab Spring, then the outcome would be this. It is not a mixture I would ever have thought of. It's thrilling, original, fresh and new. Even the Arab Spring is handled with elegance, deftness and complexity.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Missing chapter
The kindle version of this book and the paperback are both defective because for some reason they don't include 'Chapter 0' which acts as a prologue and is important to the plot. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Miss A J Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars ممتاز‎
Very, very good read. Absolutely captures the feel of an Arab city and culture. Believable computer geekery, some very interesting and engaging characters and a good plot. Read more
Published 9 days ago by V. A. Millett
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice enough but a bit too fanciful
A strange/interesting story that weaves in and out of dreams and myth - for me it was a bit too fanciful and all over the place. A nice enough read but not a real cracker.
Published 1 month ago by Kym Hamer
2.0 out of 5 stars Its barely OK
I read reviews and bought it thinking it would be a great read (based on other reviews). The premise is interesting, and the author does go into some of the deeper issues involved... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mubbasher Khanzada
4.0 out of 5 stars Alif the Unseen
Set in an unnamed country in the Middle East, the hero of this novel is Alif. Actually, this is his alias, for Alif is a young man who spends his day undercover and his time on... Read more
Published 2 months ago by S Riaz
3.0 out of 5 stars not bad
This didnt grip me as much as I would have liked to. It is cleverly thought out but I felt no real empathy for the main character. This maybe suited to a young teenage boy.
Published 2 months ago by tokyo24
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Captivates the mind. Brilliant description of the hidden world and a beautifully woven story. I would highly recommend this book.
Published 3 months ago by Mohamed Tejani
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
If you read fantasy you will enjoy this book ,strange mix of modern and ancient and a most unlikely hero .Quirky .
Published 3 months ago by Bella
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Hackers, lovers, revolutions, djinns, a unknown City, the Empty Quarter, and a forgotten book. The characters move from one impossible situation to the next, and I devoured the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by T. Adshead
4.0 out of 5 stars A romping, rollercoaster read
Great momentum, flawless research & a tight, accurate delivery are the bedrock of this great read where myths are made real and the ether of the internet is exposed for all it's... Read more
Published 6 months ago by H. Lees
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