Friday, May 3, 2013

The mirage by Matt Ruff

On November 9 2001, Christian fundamentalists hijacked four planes and aimed them at targets in the United Arab States.  One was brought down by the passengers, one flew into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh, and the others flew into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad - killing thousands of people.  These unspeakable acts lead to the United Arab States declaring a War on Terror sending troops to establish a Green Zone in Washington, D.C.  It was supposed to be a relatively easy war to win, but nearly a decade later the UAS still has troops deployed in the Green Zone, and their troops are still coming under attack from Christian insurgents.

In the summer of 2009, Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured suicide bomber, but before the Arab Homeland Security agent can get the information he needs his investigation runs into resistance.  As part of his ongoing investigation, Mustafa discovers a puzzling artifact which shows the act of terrorism happened in New York on 9/11 - he immediately things it is a sick joke, a cruel part of a larger picture.  As he investigates further with the help of his team Amal and Samir, Mustafa learns that knowledge of the Mirage is growing, but he also learns that some people will stop at nothing to change the Mirage, while others will stop at nothing to keep it firmly in place.  But what is the Mirage, how did it come about, and what will it take to find the truth - and what will it cost Mustafa and his team?

The Mirage is one of those books that really opens your eyes and challenges you to really think about what is happening in the story - and by extension in our own world.  For some people this story will be offensive, plainly for the fact that it could appear to mock the tragedy of 9/11.  I am not an American, and while I was (and continue to be) horrified by the events of 9/11, I am far enough away to be able to read this book for what I think it was intended to be - a chance to look at the War on Terror from another perspective, a chance to really think about the causes of conflict and how we respond to it. 

Matt Ruff has been respectful of the situation, but he has also created a novel that makes you sit down and think about what happened and what continues to happen.  You can also see the dominoes of history, as each part of the story changes not only the 9/11 story, but also tweaks with some of the other countries and histories to create a world of Christian and Muslim nations that are not what (and sometimes where) you expect them to be.  This book wont be to every one's taste, but I found it fascinating and completely absorbing.  The names you would expect are all there, as well as some names you may not have, and I did not see the end coming - it was not what I was expecting but it was also very satisfying.  A thought provoking and absorbing read, with attention paid to the details that matter, and enough humanity built into the storyline to keep you attached to the main characters as they strive to uncover the truth of the Mirage - for themselves,. and for you.

If you like this book then try:
  • Bad monkeys by Matt Ruff
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer
  • Arctic rising by Tobias S. Buckell
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • Empire State by Adam Christopher
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  • The last policeman: A novel by Ben H. Winters

Reviewed by Brilla

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