Osama: A Novel Paperback – 11 Oct 2012
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The author of Osama is young, ambitious, skilled and original. Osama is an ingenious inversion of modern history: Osama bin Laden is the central character in a string of pulp novels allegedly written by one Mike Longschott. The terrorist crimes exist, in this novel, in a different realm...excellent, evocative and atmospheric. --Christopher Priest - Award-winning novelist and author of The Prestige
'An awesome book, dark, twisty alt-universe terrorist noir.' --Lauren Beukes, bestselling author of Zoo City
'Bears comparison with the best of Philip K Dick's paranoid alternate-history fantasies. It's beautifully written and undeniably powerful.' --Financial Times
About the Author
Lavie Tidhar was in Dar-es-Salaam during the American embassy bombings in 1998, and stayed in the same hotel as the Al Qaeda operatives in Nairobi. Since then he and his now-wife have narrowly avoided both the 2005 London, King's Cross and 2004 Sinai attacks experiences that led to the creation of Osama. He is the author of many novels, including the Bookman trilogy and is a prolific short story writer.
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Top Customer Reviews
Joe's search for this mysterious author drives things as the action moves from Paris to London, and Joe is pursued and shot at again. Joe uses every trick in the detective's canon to evade those blocking his way, for example penetrating an opium den and later a private members club in Soho, where Longshot might be a member. Having worked in this part of London around the time the novel is set I found the reconstruction excellent.
Joe seems to be in an alternate Osama-free reality, and after one particularly violent incident, he sees a vision of the real London, where digital surveillance technologies bemuse him. One flaw in the novel are the short chapters from our reality which starkly report acts of real terrorism and do not read like excerpts from pulp fiction. An attempted scene set at a Mike Longshot 'fan convention' later in the novel grates because of this.
More seriously, there is an ending problem. This is chiefly due to the power that detective fiction generates towards closure. This novel has various 'closures' none of which really convince although one did strike me as having a superior rationale. As it stands, the novel halts instead of closing, which is a shame
Joe is given an unlimited expense account and follows the trail through Paris, London and New York whilst smoking a ridiculous number of cigarettes (probably not a book to read if you're in the process of giving up)
Tidhar's prose is concise and a joy to read as the mystery unfolds at a very deliberate pace, making it's points with extreme subtlety. Although published by SF imprint Solaris and nominally marketed as a "Fantasy" book, a case could certainly be made for this not being genre fiction at all, it's primarily a detective novel with a strong existentialist bent, I was reminded at various points of Camus, Murakami, Mieville and Christopher Priest.
There is probably a rule somewhere that says you should avoid repetition of words. The word cigarette appears more times than I care to count. Rather than being a sign of poor writing it is a clue. Not one that is ever explicitly explained but the inference is there right at the end. This is the kind of thing that you will find throughout this book. It is certainly not the kind of book that explains itself every chapter.
On a simplistic level this is just a detective story. Joe has been tasked with finding Mike Longshott the author of a series of pulp fiction stories. These pulps portray Osama Bin Laden as a vigilante and leave the reader to decide whether he was a terrorist or a freedom fighter in an on-going war.
Joe finds himself crossing the world in search of Mike Longshott at the expense of his mysterious and beautiful client. The ease in which the author transports the reader to the various locations really brings the world to life. The use of opium to tie things together is very clever. Not just in the obvious sense of bringing things back to Afghanistan but you also have to think of the other reasons that opiates are important.
Overall this is a great read but one that you need to think about to really get the most out of it. It takes some chances and does some things that might not work in many books and works them in to a story of real substance (pun intended).
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant. Crime, politics, thriller, science fiction...all covered. Great page turner, feels like you are reading something new...like nothing you have read before. Read morePublished on 1 April 2013 by parry