Your Humble Blogger doesn’t blog books anymore, but I did want to mention having read and thoroughly enjoyed Alif the Unseen. It’s an Urban Fantasy novel that doesn’t irritate me the way urban fantasy novels generally do. It’s a political novel that doesn’t irritate me the way political novels sometimes do. It’s an adventure novel that does entertain me the way adventure novels do. So that’s all right.
I would say, for any Gentle Reader who may happen to pick the thing up—don’t sweat the prologue thing. Give it another chapter beyond that. And after that, it builds in intensity and excitement—really, it picks up when the vampire shows up. Not a vampire. Don’t worry.
The main character, the titular character, is one of those fellows who exists primarily on-line, a person whose handle is more important to his sense of self than his name. Or, at least, a person who thinks that he exists primarily on-line—the action is real-world action, which tends to trump on-line identity, after all.
I hadn’t thought about it, but that does resonate with another thing I read this week, the play Water by the Spoonful. It’s a strange and beautiful playscript. We get to know several of the characters through their on-line identities, seeing the way their real life and on-line life overlap. Much of the play involves attempts to make or to avoid making real-life overlap with the on-line world. And, now that I’m focused on it, death and absence in both spaces. Hm.
Digression: One of the main characters is an adjunct at Swarthmore, teaching some sort of advanced Jazz History course. My immediate reaction was that Swarthmore doesn’t hire adjuncts to teach that sort of class. Then I thought to myself, well, they didn’t do that twenty-five years ago. Who knows what they do now? And then I thought, you know, self, you don’t really have any idea whether there were adjuncts teaching you. You didn’t know or care, self, whether the profs were full-time, tenure-track, whatever, unless you had some sort of crush on them. And this is largely accurate and fair. On the other hand—would Swat really hire a jazz composer as an one-course adjunct? End Digression.
YHB has written about mobile phones onstage before, and it’s something I still find interesting. Spoonful does take into account the mobile phone thing, but is much more interested in the internet. Alif (which of course is a very different story-telling form) is interested in the internet as a connecting web, and takes away the smartphones from its characters early—and the dumb phones are pretty nearly useless, which as an old guy I find entertaining.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,