Reviews

Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson

dobeesquared's review against another edition

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3.0

Fun, page-turning read. Liked the blend of the magical world with very concrete modern reality. Liked the (pretty predictable but not unsatisfying) ending less. Would be a good beach read.

ibk_reads's review against another edition

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5.0

Everything I wanted in a book, and then some.

casella's review against another edition

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4.0

This was great, really enjoyed it. Present-day-ish cyberpunk in a key similar to Doctorow's Little Brother, set in a fictional Middle Eastern country, with a supernatural layer of djinn thrown into the mix. Very well paced and plotted, a fun read.

badmc's review against another edition

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3.0

Alif is a young adult living in a unnamed Middle Eastern country. He is a hacker who escapes censors from his room in a duplex he shares with Dina, our veiled protagonist. He gets jilted, saddled with ancient book, and jinns...

Alif is a prick at the beginning of the book, but progresses through the plot. Dina was a more interesting character, if somewhat predictable and condescending. Side characters were each interesting in thir own way, and I liked the short stories intervowen with the plot.

The plot is fast-paced and takes us through town, alleys, deserts.. We meet jinns, an imam, princes, and digital demons.

The firts half of the book was engaging - even if Alif was unnapealing. The characterization is nice, and the themes interesting. Second half of the book feels disjointed and rushed, and thr ending felt abrupt and unsatisfying.
bingo: non-western setting, stand alone

misspalah's review against another edition

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4.0

Whatever good review you read about this book, just know this ; yes they are true indeed and yes, this book is amazing. The plot is mind blowing. The characters is so diverse by ethnicity and divided by the way of thinking and life, yet they are bounded together, sort of, in the journey of finding the hidden meaning of Alf yeom book. It was well written with a few pages of philosophical ideas about religion, technology , human and djinn. This by far would be the best fiction I've ever read in 2015.

gobblebook's review against another edition

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2.0

There is decent potential here, but the book really falls flat. The plot is uninteresting. Young hacker draws the attention of the government, tries to hide, gets involved with some jinni, eventually saves the world and gets the girl. The plot relies way too much on coincidences: for instance, it just so happens that when Alif realizes he is in trouble, someone makes the plot-moving suggestion of getting help from a guy who turns out to be a jinni. There are also some major plot holes that are never explained: for instance, Alif writes a program that turns out to do some very sophisticated things, and he doesn't understand how the program works. I kept expecting for a jinni to reveal that they had written the program for him or something, but this is never explained, despite the fact that this is the event that gets the whole plot started. The book also suffers from uninteresting characters. Even worse, it has the Trinity problem: just like Trinity from the Matrix, there is a female character who is way more mature, level-headed, and bad-ass than the hero, but in the end she is just a prize for the dumb doofus of a hero. A book about Dina would have been far more interesting than a book about Alif. The characters never really develop: even after being tortured with three months of sensory deprivation, Alif is basically the same person that he was before (okay, sure, he realizes that Dina is important to him, but that just exacerbates the Trinity problem). This is a hacking story, but the hacking aspects were totally ridiculous and unbelievable. Even in a book about jinni, the programming stretched my suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. Finally, I couldn't help but think that Wilson has an agenda in this book: to expose Westerners to Islamic culture. That's a good agenda, and frankly that's part of the reason I wanted to read the book. Unfortunately, she doesn't pull it off very well. In her defense, this is something that is hard to do well - very few authors succeed at this sort of thing. The characters end up talking about their culture and their faith in ways that come across as very contrived and even pedantic, because the conversations are pitched for a Western audience that knows little about Islam. I listened to the audiobook, and I wasn't impressed with the narrator, which probably didn't help my perception of the book overall.

scriptrix's review against another edition

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adventurous dark fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

rusalka's review against another edition

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4.0

Really enjoyed this fun, engrossing contemporary fantasy read. I loved the characters (especially Dina), the way fantasy was situated within Islam, the plot and pacing, and the treatment of (fictional) Gulf state society and Arab Spring-style revolution. I felt like I learned a fair bit - for example, about the racial/ethnic tensions between Arabs and immigrant South Asians in the Gulf - without being lectured or info-dumped, and the whole story was just tremendously fun. The only people I wouldn't recommend this to are those with a very low tolerance for religion - I think on the jacket there was a quote about this being a Golden Compass for the Muslim world, but this book shows much more reverence to Islam than Philip Pullman does to, well, anything - so if rosy treatments of religious devotion really annoy you, it could get old. Everyone else should read it!

svenseven's review against another edition

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4.0

What an amazing book. This book transported me to the middle east of the modern era where the state tries to control everything and information is restricted. The characters dealt with situations in a believable way. I was suprised that the author chose protagonists that were so young for this story but it works. Using young characters lets you see the flaws of the hero's without them becoming bland an flawless. I loved every bad decision the characters made, even when it made situations worse for them. Through in the invisible creatures of middle east lore and the book gets even better. The action scenes were gripping and the part where the hero types code does not get boring(that maybe the greatest accomplishment of this book). It's worth a read to explore the beliefs, politics, and social structures of the middle east. Especially the American convert just to see what struggles she has. A great Urban fantasy that is not about werewolves, vampires or witches.

jlstein's review against another edition

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adventurous mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

2.75