It begins with Alif, like all good books should.
A lonely young Middle Eastern geek is in love with an Arabian princess. She is smart, funny, erudite, and — of course — as beautiful as the dawn sun on crystal sands. She agrees to be his wife, poor as he is, and they spend their wedding night in bliss. But her father has not agreed to this union. He promises her hand to a prince, and she must abide by the betrothal. And not just any prince does this man turn out to be. He is the chief architect of a new security crack-down on information, the Hand of God who is watching the every move of hackers like Alif, tearing down their networks and making them disappear like so much smoke on the wind.
Alif — one of the greatest of the information protection purveyors — is discovered through his elaborate scheme to wipe his name from his beloved's life. He must go on the run from the Hand and the State. And then when his beloved sends him a mysterious manuscript filled with fables, things get very interesting indeed.
Alif and his childhood friend, Dina, enter the Unseen lands with the aid of a cat and her brother Vikram the Vampire. They get help from strange allies and find shelter in odd places. Alif is caught at one point, but even naked, starving and in the darkness, aid comes to him and takes him barreling over the dunes in a BMW.
Alif the Unseen is one of the best romps through Middle Eastern myth, mysticism and folklore ever written. It is a study of language and meaning, code and logic, and the fine line between the seen and unseen. It is a nail-biting adventure in the guise of an introduction to revolution against the tyranny of information control. It is also a simple story of a computer geek with girl trouble who finds love looking out at him where he has least expected it.
And I challenge anybody to not laugh at Star Wars references in the mouth of a two thousand (give or take a century) year old Djinn.
It begins with Alif. And it ends. . . well, it doesn't end. Alif is always the beginning.