20 December 2012

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow WIlson

This is a curious little book - and yes, I tend to consider anything under 500 pages "little" because this is Reading the Bricks, not Reading Some Thin Things. Keep up!

Alif is the hacker name of a kid in an unmentioned Middle Eastern town who gets dumped by the upper-caste girl he was in love with and writes a computer program to identify her "signature"-  that is, not just her ISP and other internetty things, but there's a keylogger that figures out her keystroke pattern and over time learns to identify her based on her syntax.

In other words, he creates a program that is essentially AI, and then the Government hears about it and gets ahold of it and they try to start using it to find hackers. Which is TYPICAL, Big Bad Governmental Propaganda Machine, and you should stop doing that! Information wants to be figuratively free!

Sidebar: my boss recently told me that "information literally wants to be free." To which I smiled and nodded because if I'd opened my mouth at that particular moment I might have figuratively died on that grammatical hill. In retaliation that seems to be taking the form of torturing only me, I've started over-using the word "figuratively." So, I apologize in advance. Literally.

G.Willow Wilson has a way with ideas, my friends. As in her way, if you knowwhutImean.
"Dear Nurse, as much as I love you, you are terribly muddled when it comes to the morals of stories."
"Dear child, some stories have no morals. Sometimes darkness and madness are simply that.
"How terrible," said Farukhuaz.
"Do you think so? I find it reassuring. It saves me from having to divine meaning in every sorrow that comes my way" (139).

Just think about that for a minute. If we accept the nurse's first premise, then we can accept the second - and I can share with you from experience that accepting the second premise makes life much more bearable - not to mention self-centered.

But she's unexpectedly sly, too:

"You have that sullen expression young men get when they've been jilted. It's why men are meant to have beards - growing all that hair leaves no energy for moodiness. Much more dignified" (190). 
And lastly, a girl whose sense and responsible nature we can all get behind:

"No," said Dina. "We don't burn books."
"Who's we?"
"People with an ounce of brain." 

Renly Baratheon would probably not burn books either. Too bad he dies.

The thing that struck me most about this book is how not Western-centric it was. As if people who aren't Westerners generally don't give two figs about us - which is an interesting reminder that the bulk of the world will never read ANY of the books I've read, simply because there are books originally written in their own languages that are more important to them. How can Middlemarch and House of Mirth not be important to everyone?

That is so weird, you guys.

8.5 out of 11 Djinn Posing as Mob Leaders in your Home Town