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ayashi in bookclubfiction

Alif the Unseen - Full Discussion

Alif the Unseen
Full Discussion


Alif the Unseen

Ideas for discussion

Ideas for discussion:
1) How did you like Alif the Unseen? What would you rate it out of 5?

2) What did you think about the inclusion of the fantasy/religion elements in the book? Did you like how they were woven into the story? Would you have preferred the book to be more realistic, or did you like the jinn and others as characters?

3) What did you think of Alif's character progression and his relationships with Intisar and Dina and how they changed through the book?

4) Did you have a favorite character? Who is it and why?

5) What was your favorite part of the book?

6) Anything else you want to say about Alif the Unseen?


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Comments

1) I thought it was well written but I never really started to like Alif that much (though he did get better than he was at the beginning) and I never really got into the book as much as I had hoped. I gave it a 3/5.

2) I thought they were cool but honestly had not quite expected it - I expected more of a contemporary thriller with a tad of fantasy but oops no there were a lot of jinn in this book! I actually ended liking Sakina, Vikram, etc, but at the same time I wish they had been in the story more so they could develop as characters. Vikram got the most development but he doesn't feel that developed to me overall.

3) He did not as change as much as I would have liked (I honestly hardly know what I'm saying by that, he changed quite a bit, but he never stopped irritating me). I expected him to eventually see Dina's merits but it bugs me that he had literally never thought about her in that light before, and it takes right up to the very end for him to see Intisar as the selfish person she was the entire book.

That's not even really a criticism of Intisar - she is definitely Team Intisar and No One Else and I think she was in a pretty awful situation for the whole book and I could not have blamed her for any of the choices she made. At the end of the book, she admits that she didn't want Alif's lifestyle and lack of riches because she is used to nice things blah blah blah. That was the closest I got to disliking her because it was finally something bad that she admitted about herself vs things that are just like "well, you are trapped between a rock and a hard place and there is not really a right choice you could make in this situation."

I feel like we were meant to really dislike Intisar by the end and that bugs me a little :P I prefer to think of her as a more complicated person than it seems like we were supposed to think

4) Dina gave me life! She was never much of a damsel though ultimately she did have to be rescued from the jinn realm. But I loved her.

5) I really liked the part where Alif was locked up in the mosque.
1) I gave it a 4 out of 5, because, although I thought it was a little slow to start, I really enjoyed it once it got rolling.

2) Considering how misunderstood Islam is, especially in the USA, I really enjoyed the insight into the religion and its folklore. The mystical elements were easily my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed the mixture of ancient folktales and religious myths with the more modern backdrop of computer hacking and programming.

The only thing that bugged me was the role of the convert. I mean, we never even get to learn her name, or why she converted. Is her role in getting pregnant with a half-jinn child supposed to be a parallel to Mary from Christian folklore? Marrying the natural and the supernatural, bringing them together in her child? I wonder how much of the convert is the author herself, also being an American who converted to Islam.

In that context, I also found Alif's real name interesting, as Mohammed is the name of the central prophet of Islam. It kind of reflected his role as a 'prophet' of the information age.

3) I like that he grew up as the book progressed. In the beginning, he was just kind of a rude little snot, especially to the women around him. He treated his mother, the family maids, and even Dina like he barely saw them, and the thing with the sheet that he sent back to Intisar was just kind of creepy-wrong.

I agree with ayashi that Intisar felt more complicated than just someone we were supposed to dislike because she jilted Alif. She was looking out for herself, in a society that traditionally treats women as lesser creatures. I really can't fault her for taking care of herself, and also for changing her mind about Alif and realizing she couldn't live in his world. Beyond the whole bit where she's upset that she'd have to do laundry and housework (which was the closest I came to getting irritated with her), Alif is living a dangerous life as a hacker, protecting insurgents and other anti-government people. If she decided to stay with him, she'd be putting herself and potentially any children they had in the same danger. I doubt the State as they were presented would go easy on the wife and children in a situation like that.

I did really like Alif's sudden realization of Dina, though. When she accepted him beneath her veil to offer him comfort. I thought it was very moving, how he suddenly sees her, and knows she's always been there.

4) Dina was amazing. I love her so very much. And I love the fact that despite her being very devout and wearing the veil, something that most Westerners have coded as being oppressive to women, Dina herself is very feminist and very strong. She uses the veil as something that gives her power and strength, not diminish it, and that makes her awesome. I loved so many of the minor characters too.

5) NewQuarter coming to the rescue of Alif was pretty awesome. I also really liked Alif's philosophical and religious discussions with the Sheikh from the mosque.

6) World of Battlecraft. :D I actually remember the author saying that she plays World of Warcraft so that actually really amuses me.

Edited at 2014-09-22 06:56 pm (UTC)

January 2015

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