This one came to me when I was a little desperate for something new, and was trying to find some new female sci-fi/fantasy writers, I think that period of digging also produced Seraphina, which is one of my favourites of the year.
G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen, isn’t. Yes, I’ve already finished. It lasted most of the train from Berlin to Vienna, and then I finished it over breakfast and bedtime the last couple of nights (I think my reading speed is becoming a worry). It’s actually quite an inventive, enjoyable read, with enough changes in scene to keep it from dragging, I think the problem for me is that it’s a little too pat, almost to being cliché in both characters and settings, and in the narrative arch, which resembles a Hollywood action movie right down to the final fight between pro- and antagonist.
I think what disappointed me the most was that besides being written by a woman, and paying some attention to women as main supporting characters, it’s almost exclusively about a young male. Whether one can argue of the necessity of this in retaining authenticity, it just bored me a bit. I’m really not interested in reading yet another “Adventures of Boy/Man” around whom everything revolves. This was particularly irking when, having spent three months in lightless solitary confinement, the final days (or weeks) of which without food, he seemed to bound back to full vitality – and not be especially troubled by glaring desert sun – within a few pages.
The actual Persian/Arabic fantasy side, with Djinn, deserts, mirages and all the rest I liked very much. I’d love to read more sci-fi/fantasy like this. But compared to Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon it’s somewhat glib and unconvincing.