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Alif the Unseen Audiobook

Alif the Unseen

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Publisher's Summary

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients — dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups — from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif — the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind.

The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God”, as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground.

When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.

©2012 G. Willow Wilson (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (255 )
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4.1 (233 )
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Performance
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  •  
    David 03-14-16
    David 03-14-16 Member Since 2017

    Indiscriminate Reader

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    "Charming contemporary fantasy with djinn"

    Taking place in an unnamed country in the Middle East, Alif the Unseen is a mix of alternate history/contemporary political thriller with fantasy elements.

    Alif, the eponymous main character, is a pseudonym for a young hacker in an autocratic Islamic country where he is a poor immigrant offering anonymity and Internet access to anyone who wants it. He helps Islamists, secularists, feminists, religious minorities, anyone who wants to evade the state's Internet firewall and ever-present monitoring.

    He also has a rich girlfriend and poor (girl)friend with a crush on him, setting up the rather obvious climax. His rich girlfriend dumping him for her arranged suitor is the precipating event which causes Alif to write a computer program to "erase" him from her presence on the Internet. This program proves to be one that would be very useful for a hyper-monitoring regime like the state, which brings Alif to the attention of the Hand, the head of the state's secret police. Alif becomes a fugitive, on the run and putting everyone he knows and cares about in danger. That's when he runs into djinn.

    Alif the Unseen is a work of Western-style fantasy but from a sympathetic Muslim perspective; almost all the characters are Muslims, of varying degrees of piety, and presented from within the context of a modern Muslim country, they manifest as very believable and non-archetypal, for the most part. Alif himself is only nominally a believer, though the author's own Islamic belief can be seen in the way that all the good guys are eventually guided towards some level of faith, or at least appreciation of faith, without hammering the point home with divine intervention.

    Rather, the supernatural in this book comes from the various types of djinn, evil, good, and in-between, as befits the original Arabian and Persian myths. Alif walks between the two worlds of humans and djinn. He cleans one djinn's computer of viruses so she can check her email again - these are djinn who also have been touched by the modern world.

    The climax, in which humans and djinn alike play a part in bringing down the evil Hand, with uncertain consequences for the future, reads a bit like a more optimistic prelude to the Arab Spring. Even Alif admits, in the finale, that what comes after the revolution may not be particular benevolent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-07-15

    Kelli A

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    "Fascinating Story, Learned a Few Things"

    Interesting story, new culture. Cool ideas about holy books, religion--Not quite L'Engle but sort of.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    khaalidah 03-27-15
    khaalidah 03-27-15 Member Since 2014

    I am a time-traveler from Vega, with the secret to youth. I write, narrate, and am Assistant Editor @PodCastle_org.

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    "Not what I expected"
    Would you listen to Alif the Unseen again? Why?

    I expected to enjoy this book as I am already a fan of GWW, but I was pleased with the broad scope of this story. It was fun, funny, action packed, smart, techy, fantasy, with tons of social commentary.
    Lovely fun ride.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan London, Ontario Canada 10-22-14
    Nathan London, Ontario Canada 10-22-14 Member Since 2017
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    "An urban fantasy taking place in the middle east"

    An urban fantasy taking place in the middle east, which may feel like a different world for western readers. Computer hacker inadvertently get involved with mystics, government censors and involves the Arab spring. At the heart it's a coming of age and romance story. Good introduction into middle eastern culture and themes. If you're use to western fantasy it's worth a read for something different.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Amissville, VA, United States 06-18-14
    David Amissville, VA, United States 06-18-14 Member Since 2011
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    "A disappointment"
    What disappointed you about Alif the Unseen?

    Too much minute description of everything, from walls, to floors, to every creatures, to clothing, while the story drags and drags and drags.


    Would you ever listen to anything by G. Willow Wilson again?

    Probably not. If this is his typical style, I probably could not get through another book.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Sanjiv Jhaveri?

    Don't know...but his attempts to give every character a different voice failed miserably. He was awful.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Can't think of any.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PhilR 02-06-14
    PhilR 02-06-14
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    "A great adventure"

    Tagged a fantasy—and rightfully so, but for those believing they don’t like fantasy I encourage you to suspend a modicum of belief in order to enjoy a wonderful adventure that informs us about culture, religion, philosophy, politics, and technology.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cleveland NEW YORK, NY, United States 12-30-13
    Cleveland NEW YORK, NY, United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Thousand and One Nights for our time"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely! It is more than just an entertaining story. It is a window into a culture that we often see in two dimensions through the filter of governmental and extremist actions.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Alif and the girl next door of course.


    What about Sanjiv Jhaveri’s performance did you like?

    Sanjiv's performance was spot on. He is an excellent linguist capable of many varied accents. He had studied the text and was spot on with his reading, building to climaxes and softening to a whisper at all the write times.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randy aurora, CO, USA 12-12-13
    Randy aurora, CO, USA 12-12-13 Member Since 2017
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    "Interesting"
    Any additional comments?

    I found this listen entertaining though not engrossing. The author presumes that things are understood without explanation. I find it questionable the abilities of the actions by those in the book. The book highlights the good though of the Muslim and Islam people, something lately misunderstood.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nessa near Atlanta, GA, USA 11-14-13
    Nessa near Atlanta, GA, USA 11-14-13 Listener Since 2004

    Nessa

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    "Just not good"
    What disappointed you about Alif the Unseen?

    I was hoping for a rich picture of the middle east, interesting characters, and some fun fantasy. Instead, the characters are barely developed and the creatures are so unimaginatively written (lots of faceless blobs), that I couldn't bring myself to care about them.

    The biggest disappointment was the ridiculous idea of a guy writing code so quickly, mindlessly and amazing that it simply melts computers. The explanations of how and why things work are way beyond the normal suspension of disbelief that the reader expects in a fantasy novel.

    Lastly, it was more an advertisement for Islam than I expected. I felt like the author's agenda was to show how this religion is so wonderful. I don't mind reading religious fiction, but I want to know about it ahead of time. If you want a good book that includes the Djinn, I would send you elsewhere—The Golem and the Jinni is far more developed and interesting.


    Would you ever listen to anything by G. Willow Wilson again?

    no


    How could the performance have been better?

    The reader's exaggerated performance of the supernatural characters was distracting and terribly annoying. He also made the American convert sound like a witless idiot, when her character was plainly not written that way.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I was very disappointed, and more than a little irritated.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Tepperman Berkeley, CA 12-06-12
    Jean Tepperman Berkeley, CA 12-06-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great look at today's world"
    Any additional comments?

    This book is a very entertaining adventure story that also gives a great picture of some serious issues, from repression in today's Arabian peninsula to the hubris of technology geeks who think that computers can solve life's basic dilemmas.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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