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This is not an easy or light novel. However, it is a very thought provoking one, and I suspect it's one that's going to stay with me for a long time.
What if Osama bin Laden never existed? What if his acts of terror were confined solely to pulp novels, the kind that are published alongside pornography? That's the Philip K. Dickian world the novel takes place in.
Joe is a private detective hired to find the author of the Osama bin Laden: Vigilante books. As he travels across the world attempting to track down the writer, the distance between Joe's fictional world and the real world begins to dissipate. The normal detective stuff happens - attempts are made on his life, he's told to drop the case, etc. But it gets really interesting when Joe comes into contact with "refugees" - people who seem fuzzy around the edges and appear to be trapped - and he begins to question the nature of the world he inhabits, and even of himself.
The novel asks a lot of questions about how we cope with horrible acts of violence through escapism fiction, the war on terror, about choices that we make, and classic Dickian themes like what is reality, and who we are.
The most difficult passages are those from the pulp novels - which turn out to be acts of terror that have occurred recently in our history. They're gut-wrenching on so many different levels, and it's difficult material to discuss and interact with it. Thankfully Tidhar's writing doesn't sensationalize it, and he handles it all with a certain amount of grace.
Jeff Harding gives a solid narration, but for some reason, it got off to a slow start and took a while for me to get completely invested in. That said, it's worth sticking with. This is a book that's lingered with me since I finished listening, and I'll almost certainly reread at some point.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
So. This one took a while for me to really turn into something I could wrap my head around, but when it happened ??? when I started to finally understand where Joe???s world diverged from ours, and started to find some hand-hold into the surreal alternate history that Tidhar creates -- really started to appreciate this book. Through a primary ???private dick??? novel structure comes interstitial chapters which are detached descriptions of terrorist attacks in our own real world ??? our world which somehow is reflected in Joe???s world through a series of pulp novels starring Osama bin Laden, vigilante. This is a novel which just refuses to come out and tell you what is going on ??? Joe???s confusion is, at times, our own, as he tries to find out who is writing these books. Amidst the seriousness of some of this, there???s a hilarious send-up of sf fandom. I???m still puzzling this book over, and plan to read it in print again soon. There are layers, there is fog, there is mud, and then there are these moments of crystallized clarity where the surreal becomes real, before going once again out of focus and out of reach.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I have been a long term enthusiast for the genre of "alternative history", and Osama is a good example written from the perspective that our world is the alternative. However, I felt that this wasn't developed strongly enough in the book. Much of the book extended too far. Narration was largely good, but some of the voices a little implausible.
The book is a little slow at times, but not bad in the end. Some of the narrator's attempts at sounding like an Asian woman come off a bit silly though.