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Alif the Unseen Audiobook, by G. Willow Wilson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: G. Willow Wilson Narrator: Sanjiv Jhaveri Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781455895410
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In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line.

Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Wilson instills imaginative storytelling in her debut novel set in the modern Middle East…Wilson skillfully weaves a story linking modern-day technologies and computer languages to the folklore and religion of the Middle East. For readers ready for adventure and looking for original storytelling, this excellent novel supersedes genres as easily as its characters jump from one reality to another.”

    Library Journal

  • “Wilson provocatively juxtaposes ancient Arab lore and equally esoteric computer theory.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A fantasy thriller that takes modern Islamic computer hackers fighting against State-based repression and entangles that with the fantastical Djinn-riddled world of One Thousand and One Nights…Like a novelization of one of Joss Whedon’s best Buffy episodes crossed with a Pathé newsreel of the Arab Spring uprisings.”

    Austin Chronicle

  • “Outstanding…Wilson’s novel delights in bending genres and confounding expectations: It’s both a literary techno-thriller and a fantasy that takes religion very seriously…One of the most inventive, invigorating novels of the year.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Wilson writes beautifully, tells a great story, and even makes computer hackery seem like magic.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “An intriguing mix of fantasy, romance, and spirituality wrapped up in cyberthriller packaging…Wilson’s desert fantasy moves at the breakneck speed of a thriller through cityscapes, wilderness, and ethereal realms as she skillfully laces mythology and modernity, spirituality and her own unique take on technological evolution…Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind story, both contemporary and as ancient as the Arabian sands.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Wilson manages to keep the various fantastical, technological, political, and religious plates spinning without ever losing track of the story, or getting bogged down in polemic…Though Alif the Unseen was recently compared to Harry Potter…it has more in common with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.”


  • “Outrageously enjoyable…The energetic plotting of Philip Pullman, the nimble imagery of Neil Gaiman, and the intellectual ambition of Neal Stephenson are three comparisons that come to mind.”


  • “A Harry Potterish action-adventure romance [that] unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring…A bookload of wizardry and glee.”

    New York Times

  • “G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.”

    Neil Gaiman

  • “Imaginative…Brilliant…[It] draws on Islamic theology, the hacking underworld, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, spy thrillers, and the events of the Arab Spring to weave an ‘urban fantasy’ in which the everyday and the supernatural collide…A first novel that is witty, imaginative, and unorthodox in all senses.”

    Observer (London)

  • “Written just before the Arab Spring, this wild adventure mixes the digital derring-do of Neal Stephenson with the magic of The Thousand and One NightsAlif the Unseen is a rich blend of storytelling magic.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Passion, power, and technology converge in this imaginative novel.

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • Alif the Unseen is a true chimera…There are few authors who can pull off dealing with religion, dogma, and mysticism as well as sci-fi, and Wilson is one of them. Alif the Unseen contains elements that will appeal to fans of the ecstatic digital visions The Neuromancer, devotees of the mythological richness of The Thousand and One Nights, international-news junkies, and fellow hacktivists.”


  • “A delirious urban fantasy which puts the unlikely case for religion in an age of empowering and intrusive technology.”

    Guardian (UK)

  • “A fast-paced, thrilling journey between two worlds, the seen world of human beings, and the unseen world of the supernatural.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “A book of startling beauty and power.”

    Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

  • “A magical book. The supernatural and sociopolitical thriller Alif the Unseen is timely literary alchemy, a smart, spirited swirl of current events and history; religion and mysticism; reality and myth; computer science and metaphysics…Alif the Unseen richly rewards believers in the power of the written word.”

    Seattle Times

  • “An intoxicating, politicized amalgam of science fiction and fantasy…that integrates the all-too-familiar terrors of contemporary political repression with supernatural figures from The Thousand and One Nights.”

    Washington Post

  • A 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Finalist
  • Selected for the July 2012 Indie Next List
  • A 2013 John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalist
  • Longlisted for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction
  • A 2013 World Fantasy Award Finalist for Best Novel
  • A 2012 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A 2012 Hammett Prize Finalist
  • A 2013 Locus Award Nominee

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zac | 2/11/2014

    " As an IT boffin, I was excited when I saw the word 'hypervisor' and then a little disappointed when the computing became increasingly nonsensical. However, geeky disappointment aside, it was a pretty great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Harriet | 1/31/2014

    " What a refreshing novel,it has magic and a brilliant computer hacker and middle east unrest and Arab fantasy. It was hard to put down, it moved so well. I haven't read anything that I enjoyed as much in a long time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sonia | 1/26/2014

    " Very much enjoyed this well-written fiction which brings together the modern IT age with the fantasy of A Thousand and One Nights, particularly the story of Aladin and the Genie. Modern and fun. Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern land, this book is one long chase through the souk, and then through the netherworld of unseen beings that can help or hurt our protagonist who must be very clever to outwit his enemies in the natural and unnatural worlds. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kupkake | 1/24/2014

    " Wonderful premise, the mashup of Islamic Revolution and Arabic mythology, but by the end the premise fell flat and I was left feeling like I had just read another fantastical YA novel, albeit written from a novel concept of a Djinn influenced Arab Spring hacker story. I'm sorry it devolved into a coming of age love story, superimposed on that fantastical backdrop. Still, it allowed me a greater glimpse into a world not many of us Western Judeo-Chritianized folk often have contact with. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Simone | 1/17/2014

    " Lots of people will compare Alif to a William Gibson novel, like Idoru for instance, and they won't be entirely wrong. But, they will be wrong. The time is now, the tech exists now, and the characters have lots more depth and texture. There's more humor, and serious intertexual complexity (elegantly handled, not slap dash, not just cultural tags). And there the bits I like THE MOST which I won't tell you, my friends, because that would spoil the fun, and there is fun. Fun, fun, fun. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ms. | 1/2/2014

    " ..interesting thoughts, interesting characters, but the writing felt a bit immature to me... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly | 11/25/2013

    " Islamic cyberpunk a la American Gods set in the Arab Spring ... quite a mix. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joe | 11/8/2013

    " 3.5 stars. A fun read with well written and interesting characters. It sort if fizzles out in the end, but definitely worth the time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenine | 11/2/2013

    " Yay! I liked this one. Place, culture, religion, djinn and expats. All rolled up in a rushing sandstorm of a narrative. I was never bored. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terry | 10/6/2013

    " I felt out of breath, running headlong with the revolution. Fantastic story! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Arielle | 9/30/2013

    " This was awesome! It did remind me of Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials, but less irreverent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan | 8/22/2013

    " I really liked this book, but didn't quite love it. Part of that is probably the fact that I did love the graphic novel Cairo written by the same author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Manek | 8/1/2013

    " Very interesting mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and Islam... A little bit disappointed in the writing at the end, but otherwise very good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Makduda | 12/3/2012

    " Sometimes the bad language is unwarranted, but otherwise a good book and well written. Goes a little towards the realm of fantasy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff | 9/17/2012

    " My wife gave me this book to read. I enjoyed it because I like stories about computer hacking and monsters. I look forward to the next book my wife gives me to read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve | 8/28/2012

    " This is pretty fantastic. Read it ASAP. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alana | 8/16/2012

    " a quick read with an interesting premise - a hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern country who gets involved with demons and/or djinni - and has to come to recognize the value of all those he previously thought of as uninteresting. "

About the Author

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. She is also the author of a memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, and the critically acclaimed comics Air and Vixen. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle.

About the Narrator

Sanjiv Jhaveri is a New York actor with credits in television, theater, and film. His audiobook resume includes Confessions of a Thug by Philip M. Taylor, The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson, and the prologue and epilogue of Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck.