After being intrigued by the concept of this novel, I decided to dive into the vivid and strange world it creates. I was very glad that I did, as this is one of the most powerful and memorable books I have read in a long time.
The book is a mystery story, in the vein of a noir detective novel. But, very cleverly, there are no absolute answers. What might have been a huge twist is hinted at throughout, letting the reader come to their own conclusions rather than waiting until the end of the novel and then revealing everything.
By creating a world where acts of terrorism are unimaginable, and even in the form of the subject matter for pulp novels are seen as shocking and unacceptable, the book holds up a mirror to the reader. We live in a world where terrorism is a real and, ultimately, accepted part of life. The book forces you to think more deeply about terrorism and the effect it has on its victims and our modern society. Some passages from the 'Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante' books that feature in the story remind you just how horrific real acts of terrorism are. Passages on the experiences of those involved in the attacks moments before their death are so hauntingly powerful that, after reading them, I had to just sit, staring at nothing. In those moments, I reconsidered the way that - having come so used to news reports of bombings and attacks - I have quietly accepted terrorism as part of modern life without truly coming to terms with the sorrow and pain it causes. For a book to make you re-think how you view the world is truly an achievement, and by constructing a fictional world without terrorism Tidman has found an original and intriguing way of doing so.
I have to emphasise, however, that Tidman does not simply provide an attack against terrorists and the extremist Muslims most closely associated with it. Instead, the characters are trying to come to terms with why these acts of violence are happening. As they say numerous times, it is a war they - no one - understands. I think this is the ultimate truth of the book, the to most of us we accept both terrorism and anti-terrorism operations and wars without truly understanding what they are about. The victims of terrorism, therefore, are portrayed as refugees cut out from the world in the most violence fashion without understanding why, or even realising what is happening until their very final moments. In painting this portrait, 'Osama' defines modern warfare - and the military strategies of our own Western governments - and the role of unwitting civilians in it.