Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
G Willow Wilson is better known for her work on comics, particularly Ms Marvel. This is her first novel, and it is wonderful – in the old sense of being full of wonders, as well as the newer sense of being very fine writing.
Alif is the handle of a computer hacker in a Middle Eastern state. He’s been careful, up to now, but his luck is about to run out – and when he goes on the run, he falls into a world of djinns and magic.
There is a book, too – very old, probably magical, and maybe the key to a computer program if only they can decode it. For this they need the help of someone at the university, an American woman who has converted to Islam. As the plot unfolds, there is also room for stories from the book, and discussions about Islam, some of them with a very sweet old sheikh at the great mosque.
So, will Alif escape the computer genius known only as the Hand? Things aren’t looking good, even with the help of djinn Vikram the Vampire and his feline sister, and Alif’s ex-girlfriend Intisar and his childhood sweetheart Dina.
This is a story with magic, computers, discussions about religion, a djinn city in the desert, and stories within stories, romance, and action as the State closes in on Alif. I loved the descriptions of a modern Arab city, and the way the characters slide sideways into an older world of magic just beneath the surface.
I love G Willow Wilson’s comics, but I hope she writes more novels like this, too.