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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written and compelling read.
The illuminist tradition in Islam holds that God brings the world newly into being moment-by-moment; in Matt Ruff's engaging novel, an agent--neither human nor divine--hits the refresh button. The subsequent update: inverts, transforms, and reconfigures 1000 years of Abrahamic history. Thus; the state of Israel is relocated to the geographical space which the former DDR...
Published 20 months ago by Jim Buck

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3.0 out of 5 stars Well, it was different.
In the mirage, Matt Ruff presents a strange new approach to alternate history, in which he simply inverts the present to the point that everything is recognisable, but very, very different. The united Arab states are a superpower, Saddam Hussein is a gangster, The state of Israel is in Germany, Gaddaffi owns the internet, What in our timeline is the united states is a...
Published 8 months ago by Joshua Ryan


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written and compelling read., 7 April 2013
By 
Jim Buck "jfbuck" (Sheffield, South Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mirage (P.S.) (Paperback)
The illuminist tradition in Islam holds that God brings the world newly into being moment-by-moment; in Matt Ruff's engaging novel, an agent--neither human nor divine--hits the refresh button. The subsequent update: inverts, transforms, and reconfigures 1000 years of Abrahamic history. Thus; the state of Israel is relocated to the geographical space which the former DDR occupied in our actual world; and, rather than being menaced by Ahmadinejad, it is British Premier David Irving who poses the existential threat. The book is choc-full of such confections; and to give away much more could reduce the prospective reader's enjoyment. Ruff's main protagonists are a group of decent Baghdad cops (male and female) who battle against familiar corruptions and criminality in a post November 9th (11/9) world. Their private lives are riven by the conversations that the citizens of any mature democracy conducts between themselves: conversations about marriage, gender, doubt and belief. Because, Ruff clearly cares about the characters he creates, this reader found himself caring about them too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 9/11 meets Philip K. Dick's 'The Man In The High Castle', 1 Jan 2013
By 
P. J. Dunn "Peter Dunn" (Warwickshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mirage (Hardcover)
A clever idea, essentially 9/11 meets Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (Penguin Modern Classics), and a not unreasonable ending either. Some of the characters were a little 2D but some of the criticism I have seen that the Arab characters were too Western in view misses the point. The alternate reality depicts a world where a unified Arabia has become the world's dominant power but is fighting its own war own very different War on Terrorism. The Arabs themselves have evolved their own forms of democracy, capitalism and yes, levels of secularism. They are a very different range of people - though one or two figures, as the story pounds home, remain their same evil selves in both universes.
A great premise and an entertaining read but it tried too hard to leverage in just too many challenging characters, such as Timothy McVeigh and David Koresh, into thoughtful roles that stretched credibility just that little bit too far.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well, it was different., 19 April 2014
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This review is from: The Mirage (P.S.) (Paperback)
In the mirage, Matt Ruff presents a strange new approach to alternate history, in which he simply inverts the present to the point that everything is recognisable, but very, very different. The united Arab states are a superpower, Saddam Hussein is a gangster, The state of Israel is in Germany, Gaddaffi owns the internet, What in our timeline is the united states is a fragmented mess of tiny, backward third world countries, filled with fanatical American Protestants who are just dying to blow themselves up in the name of Jesus to kill muslims in their crusade against the Arabs. Interested yet?
The story itself tells of three agents, working in the Arab equivalent to the FBI investigating the legend of the mirage, essentially the fact that the world is in actual fact a falsification, and that America is actually the superpower, a legend which drives the crusaders. The three agents themselves are well fleshed out, and the world is explored gently, primarily through pages from the library of Alexandria, an equivalent to wikipedia.
The book itself is easy to read, and quite thought provoking, even if the "what if" scenario isn't necessarily realistic (although the author states his intentions in the interview at the back as regards this, as it is not the story of the arab state that could have been, it is a deliberate inversion.) On a whole, it's an entertaining and easy read that is very thought provoking and different, but it's nothing particularly deep, and the irony that exists within the plot is sometimes too pervasive. The ending is also very poor, as it gives no closure whatsoever, and in only in the edition of the book with the author interview do we know what is happening.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Novel on 9-11 Is This Spellbinding Alternative History Thriller, 2 Feb 2012
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mirage (Hardcover)
With "The Mirage", Matt Ruff has written the definitive 9-11 novel, a spellbinding, alternative history thriller that is the 21st Century version of Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"; an often sly, truly memorable, fictional commentary on the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks and America's military response, especially its invasion of Iraq. This is no mere homage to Philip K. Dick's greatest science fiction novel, but instead, one that truly transcends it, with dialogue reminiscent of Elmore Leonard and David Foster Wallace, a plot worthy of Graham Greene and John Le Carre, and more than a passing nod to William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson; indeed it can be seen as a contemporary tale straight out of "One Thousand and One Nights" which perceptive readers will appreciate and understand by the close of Ruff's compelling saga. I have no doubt that Ruff's latest novel will be viewed as his most controversial. There will be those who find objectionable, his heroic portrayal of democratic Muslim and Christian Arabs, in stark contrast to his utterly reprehensible cast of fanatical Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Americans, and they will also claim that his plot is utterly preposterous (But one that is far more rooted in reality than Dick's dystopian vision of a United States conquered and divided into zones of Imperial Japanese and Nazi German occupation in "The Man in the High Castle".). Any novel that will have as characters, the likes of Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz and Osama bin Laden, will be the target of ample criticism, but Ruff's choices make absolute sense as this is truly a compelling work of alternative history, and one destined to be a classic in this genre.

Readers will find ample reminders of 9-11 and subsequent American history, within Ruff's compelling alternative history, starting with an almost poetic prologue that recounts a Baghdad dawn eerily reminiscent of New York City's on that fateful Tuesday morning (which, in Ruff's version is also a Tuesday), seeing the first rays of the sun striking the Tigris and Euphrates twin World Trade Center towers. And then there will be scenes set in the United States, not far from the Green Zone established by United Arab States armed forces in Washington, D. C., that will have unavoidable comparisons with America's recently concluded occupation of Iraq. And yet, despite the gross similarities, there will be differences, based on cultural and religious differences as well as the alternative history timeline, which Ruff cleverly exploits via his "entries" in "The Library of Alexandria", his alternative history clone of Wikipedia, which are often witty, quite clever, "footnotes" which merely add to - not detract from - his engrossing narrative.

Eight years after the 11-9-01 terrorist attacks on the United Arab States, Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured American suicide bomber who claims that their recent history is but a mirage of the truth; one in which the United States of America, a superpower, is attacked by fanatical Muslim terrorists, with the Muslim Arab world fragmented into barely civilized "backward third-world states", not the democratic superpower that is the United Arab States. Other terrorists have been telling the same stories, and Mustafa, along with his colleagues and friends Samir and Amal, soon embark on a perilous trek from the Arab world to the occupied Christian States of America in search of the truth, encountering not only other suspects, but even artifacts, that support the bomber's astonishing claims. Theirs is a trek to uncover the truth before the independent investigations of Baathist labor leader - and gangster - Saddam Hussein and Senate Intelligence Committee head Osama bin Laden succeed.

"The Mirage" is an exceptional work of fiction that warrants a mention in the 2012 "best of" lists, and one worthy of recognition as a potential Hugo and Nebula Award nominee by those within the science fiction literary community. Ruff's latest novel should confirm his status as one of the best American writers of my generation; a noteworthy literary career that includes notable works of fantasy ("Fool on the Hill"), post-cyberpunk fiction ("Sewer Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy"), and most recently, a heart-pounding psychological thriller homage to Philip K. Dick ("Bad Monkeys"). Much more so than either Rick Moody or Jonathan Lethem - his closest peers amongst "mainstream" fiction writers capable of writing excellent science fiction - Ruff has created a believable, realistic "world" as memorable in its own right as those envisioned by the likes of William Gibson and China Mieville in, respectively, their celebrated "Cyberspace" and "New Crobuzon" trilogies; it's a "world" that shouldn't be missed.

(Reposted from my Amazon USA review)

(EDITORIAL NOTE: With "The Mirage" Matt Ruff has demonstrated again why he may be the most talented literary alumnus of Frank McCourt's celebrated writing courses that McCourt taught for years at New York City's elite science and mathematics-oriented public high school, Stuyvesant High School.)
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The most idiotic novel that I have tried to read, 4 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Mirage (P.S.) (Paperback)
I have tried to penetrate the reasons behind the positive reviews about this work by Ruff. The basic idea may be an interesting theme. However, the shallowness of the cliche-ridden plot and the lack of substance behind the main characters of the novel leads to a very boring read. I usually stick to the end even when reading poorly written book, with this I gave up.

The Mirage: A Novel (P.S.)

Germán Camejo

german.camejo@telia.com
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The Mirage by Matt Ruff (Hardcover - 7 Feb 2012)
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