The New York Times - Notable Books of 2012


Alif the Unseen (2012)

Written by G. Willow Wilson

From the author of award–winning graphic novels comes a stunning and propulsive debut novel, blending cyberpunk adventure with the enchantment of Middle Eastern mythology.

Alif the Unseen is a masterful debut novel, an enchanting, incredibly timely adventure tale worthy of Neil Gaiman. In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker protects watched groups from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble—until he falls in love with the wrong woman and unleashes a forbidden text thought to be written by the jinn. 

As the book opens, Alif ’s computer has just been breached by the “Hand of God,” as the hackers call the state’s electronic security force, and he is scrambling to protect his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other vulnerable groups in autocratic states across the region. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and when it turns out the fiancé is the Hand, and the state security forces come after Alif with guns drawn, he must go underground, trying all the while to fight back against a piece of code he wrote to protect his lover but which the Hand is using to create the most sophisticated state surveillance the world has ever known. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, has fallen into his hands and may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death. 

With shades of Neal Stephenson, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Wilson’s Alif the Unseen is a tour de force that will enchant readers—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, religion, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner. (Copyright © Grove Press. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Grove Atlantic, Inc.

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982, and later moved to Colorado. She began her writing career at 17, when she freelanced as a music and DJ critic for Boston’s Weekly Digg while a student at Boston University. After graduating with a degree in History and coursework in Arabic language and literature, Willow moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2003. Willow's articles and essays on Islam and the Middle East appeared in publications including the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, and Glamour. An avid supporter of new and alternative media, Willow has written for politics and culture blogs from across the political spectrum, including and Dean’s World.

Her first graphic novel, Cairo, with art by M.K. Perker, was published by Vertigo in 2007, and named one of the best graphic novels of 2007 by Publishers Weekly, The Edmonton Journal/CanWest News, and Comics Worth Reading. The paperback edition of Cairo was named one of Best Graphic Novels for High School Students in 2008 by School Library Journal, and one of 2009's Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens by American Library Association.

Her first ongoing comic series, Air, launched by Vertigo in 2008 reunited her with Perker, and was nominated for an Eisner Award for 'Best New Series' of 2009. NPR named Air one of the top comics of 2009, and received acclaim from the Fairfield Weekly, Comic Book Resources, Marie Claire, and Library Journal. Other works for DC Comics include fill-in issues #704 and 706 of Superman, the five-issue mini-series Vixen: Return of the Lion, starring the Justice League member Vixen with art by Cafu, and The Outsiders. Her most recent comics project is the relaunch of Mystic, a four-issue miniseries for Marvel Comics with art by David Lopez. 

Her memoir about life in Egypt during the waning years of the Mubarak regime, The Butterfly Mosque, was named a Seattle Times Best Book of 2010.

Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, won the 2013 World Fantasy Award, shortlisted for the 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan Award and was a 2012 New York Times Notable book.


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