This week I finished reading G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen. Overall, I liked the book. I admire the way she’s introducing mythological creatures from Middle Eastern traditions into a Western fantasy genre. She also does a great job of treating the creatures as characters rather than animals.
The strongest move she makes is bringing computers into the fantasy world. The scene where Alif fixes the Effrit’s (a shadow creature) computer is hilarious and makes me a feel a greater connection to the seen and unseen worlds she’s creating.
Alif is full of allusions and tropes, but she turns them from cliches to humor by acknowledging them and making light of how overused some of them are.
I will say that the writing was, at times, sloppy. She’d have too many words at the end of the sentence of unnecessarily bulky phrasings near the beginning. As the book went on, it got better.
For the most part though, it was very good. It captured my imagination with the beautiful descriptions of the Unseen world and the Empty Quarter. She is a tremendous talent.
Next week, I’ll be talking about Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes and possibly Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg. (I’m going to finish those two eventually, though I’m moving at a glacial pace).