In a world without global terrorism Joe, a private detective, is hired by a mysterious woman to find a man: the obscure author of pulp fiction novels featuring one Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante...Joe's quest to find the man takes him across the world, from the backwaters of Asia to the European Capitals of Paris and London, and as the mystery deepens around him there is one question he is trying hard not to ask: who is he, really, and how much of the books is fiction? Chased by unknown assailants, Joe's identity slowly fragments as he discovers the shadowy world of the refugees, ghostly entities haunting the world in which he lives. Where do they come from? And what do they want?
Joe knows how the story should end, but even he is not ready for the truths he'll find in New York and, finally, on top a quiet hill above Kabul-nor for the choice he will at last have to make...
©2012 Lavie Tidhar (P)2012 Audible Ltd
"Not a writer to mess around with half measures ... brings to mind Philip K Dick's seminal science fiction novel The Man in the High Castle." (The Guardian)
"Lavie Tidhar's novel bears comparison with the best of Philip K Dick's paranoid, alternate-history fantasies. It's beautifully written and undeniably powerful." (Financial Times)
"Moving seamlessly between intense realism and equally intense surrealism, Osama is a powerful and disturbing political fantasy by a talent who deserves the attention of all serious readers." (Strange Horizons)
I have been a long term enthusiast for the genre of "alternative history", and Osama is a good example written from the perspective that our world is the alternative. However, I felt that this wasn't developed strongly enough in the book. Much of the book extended too far. Narration was largely good, but some of the voices a little implausible.
The book is a little slow at times, but not bad in the end. Some of the narrator's attempts at sounding like an Asian woman come off a bit silly though.
"Life Isn't a Pulp Novel"
This is not an easy or light novel. However, it is a very thought provoking one, and I suspect it's one that's going to stay with me for a long time.
What if Osama bin Laden never existed? What if his acts of terror were confined solely to pulp novels, the kind that are published alongside pornography? That's the Philip K. Dickian world the novel takes place in.
Joe is a private detective hired to find the author of the Osama bin Laden: Vigilante books. As he travels across the world attempting to track down the writer, the distance between Joe's fictional world and the real world begins to dissipate. The normal detective stuff happens - attempts are made on his life, he's told to drop the case, etc. But it gets really interesting when Joe comes into contact with "refugees" - people who seem fuzzy around the edges and appear to be trapped - and he begins to question the nature of the world he inhabits, and even of himself.
The novel asks a lot of questions about how we cope with horrible acts of violence through escapism fiction, the war on terror, about choices that we make, and classic Dickian themes like what is reality, and who we are.
The most difficult passages are those from the pulp novels - which turn out to be acts of terror that have occurred recently in our history. They're gut-wrenching on so many different levels, and it's difficult material to discuss and interact with it. Thankfully Tidhar's writing doesn't sensationalize it, and he handles it all with a certain amount of grace.
Jeff Harding gives a solid narration, but for some reason, it got off to a slow start and took a while for me to get completely invested in. That said, it's worth sticking with. This is a book that's lingered with me since I finished listening, and I'll almost certainly reread at some point.
"Took me a while to find my footing, but glad I did"
So. This one took a while for me to really turn into something I could wrap my head around, but when it happened ??? when I started to finally understand where Joe???s world diverged from ours, and started to find some hand-hold into the surreal alternate history that Tidhar creates -- really started to appreciate this book. Through a primary ???private dick??? novel structure comes interstitial chapters which are detached descriptions of terrorist attacks in our own real world ??? our world which somehow is reflected in Joe???s world through a series of pulp novels starring Osama bin Laden, vigilante. This is a novel which just refuses to come out and tell you what is going on ??? Joe???s confusion is, at times, our own, as he tries to find out who is writing these books. Amidst the seriousness of some of this, there???s a hilarious send-up of sf fandom. I???m still puzzling this book over, and plan to read it in print again soon. There are layers, there is fog, there is mud, and then there are these moments of crystallized clarity where the surreal becomes real, before going once again out of focus and out of reach.
"A noirish mind trip"
Meet Joe, an archetypal low-rent private detective living in Southeast Asia. Except, in Joe's world, 9-11 and other terrorist attacks never took place. Instead, they're just plot elements in a semi-popular series of pulp novels called "Osama bin Laden, Vigilante", which even has a yearly fan convention devoted to it.
This matters to Joe because a mysterious woman appears at his office and hires him to track down the author of those same novels. Soon, as he travels the world, he finds himself running into people who don't quite seem to belong. Then he meets people who don't want him investigating further. And then things start to get odd. Philip K. Dick comparisons seem apt, though I was also reminded of China Mieville’s City and the City and the mind-bending story in the computer game Braid.
This is, without question, a novel whose meaning hides in its obliqueness and blurring of reality. Who is Joe, exactly? Who are the ghostlike “refugees”? What is the connection between his world and ours? Tidhar offers hints, but no certain answers. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance that Osama bin Laden himself becomes an anti-presence in the story. Made imaginary in Joe's world, he becomes more visible as what he really is in ours: a omnipresent icon that haunts without having any real definition or connection to what the actual bin Laden was. The symbolism is open to interpretation, but, to me, it expressed the ultimate elusiveness of either escape or understanding in the endless feedback of the human response to terrorism.
Of course, open-ended, strange-loopy novels aren’t the sort of thing that speaks to every reader (at least, not without chemical enhancement), but this one hit most of the right notes with me. I liked the audacity of Tidhar’s vision and the tight, noir-ish, slightly hallucinatory writing. And it's not a long book.
"Not a fan"
I had to read this for class. I really don't like it. The novel itself is pretty boring. But I can't stand this reader. He does that ridiculous high-pitched breathy voice for women and his Chinese accent is pretty racist. The way he does the main character's speaking voice is pretty lame too. No one talks like this.
I have never liked sci-fi.
No. Harding's performance was why I didn't like this audiobook.
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