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Alif the Unseen - Through Chapter 6

Alif the Unseen
Discussing through Chapter 6

Alif the Unseen

No spoilers beyond Chapter 6 in this post!
If someone forgets and posts a spoiler, the comment will be screened with a reminder note.
Feel free to repost your comment without the spoilers in there!  :)

Reminder of where we are in the story:
Alif is a young Arab-Indian hacker living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. He calls himself a Gray Hat hacker, and what he does is to hide his paying clients' computers from government surveillance.

Alif's girlfriend, Intisar, who is from a wealthy family, reveals that she is engaged to be married to another powerful acquaintance of her father's, and has to break things off with Alif before her father finds out. Alif is infuriated by this. He sends his childhood friend Dina to Intisar with a package containing a blood-stained sheet that he saved from when he took Intisar's virginity, with a note that she might need it back. He then proceeds to try and erase himself from Intisar's life by writing a computer program that will recognize her style of typing and prevent her from contacting him via email or accessing his web pages.

Alif's computer is hacked by the Hand, government computer surveillance, and he needs to disconnect all of his clients from his systems so they aren't compromised. His friend Abdullah reveals that the Hand is both a program and the man in charge of it, who is actually Intisar's fiance. They suspect that Alif's new computer program has gotten the Hand's attention.

Intisar calls Dina and asks her to bring a package to Alif. It turns out to contain a book called The Thousand and One Days.

Alif and Dina try to go home only to find a government agent waiting there. Dina tries to go in by herself and is harassed by the agent on her way in. Alif and Dina flee to Abdullah's, where they hide out. Abdullah suggests that Alif might be able to find protection with a man named Vikram the Vampire, who he has heard of.

Alif and Dina go looking for Vikram, and they start by going to the person that Abdullah heard of him from. Dina takes charge and gets the information they need. When they find Vikram, he initially refuses to help and they flee. Dina recognizes Vikram as a jinn. They realize they forgot the backpack containing the book in their hurry.

Dina is shot while they are trying to hide from a government agent. Vikram comes to their rescue and brings them back to his tent again. He and his sister Azalel help remove the bullet from Dina's arm and bandage it, despite her protests. Vikram reveals that Intisar's book is a rare collection of stories narrated by the jinn. He offers to take them to another acquaintance of his who may be able to trace the book. As they're leaving, they run across another government agent. Vikram, apparently unseen by the man, plays a 'mind trick' on the man and makes Alif and Dina invisible to him.

Ideas for discussion:
1) What do you think of the story so far?

2) What do you think of Alif as the main character?

3) Why do you think Intisar sent Alif the book? Do you have any thoughts or theories on where the story will go from here?

4) Anything else you'd like to say about the book?

Next Discussion:
Monday, September 8th
Through Chapter 10


1) It's ok so far, I haven't been super pulled into it but it is interesting. Honestly, what Alif does is close enough to things I am familiar with (obviously I don't deal with "hackers" in this sense but I'm a front end web dev and my husband does programming too). When I saw Alif talking about his text editor Komodo all I could think was "if he were a REAL hacker he'd be using Emacs or Vi~" I spend far too much time feeling like the technology references are awkward even though I can't necessarily point to a particular reason why

2) He's kind of annoying so far. The way he was spying on his ex made me really uncomfortable and really lowered my opinion of him. Putting that program on her computer was ridiculous, then backing up her stuff, and ughhhh Alif please get out.

I like that Dina calls him on his shit. Dina is the best.

3) Unfortunately I got semi spoiled for this because I read a summary on goodreads somewhere, so I can't answer

4) We've only recently begun to see the more fantastical elements of the story, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of them!
1) It's okay. I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what sort of genre it is, or what sort of story I'm getting. I like a lot of the side characters though.

2) He's a jerk, but there's enough good in him that I do want him to realize he's being a jerk and fix it. (As contrasted to the main character of The Magicians, which I've been thinking a lot about lately, where the guy was so unlikeable that I didn't care if he improved, the only thing I wanted was for characters I liked to get out of his disaster zone)

3) I haven't actually given it much thought, which is weird since this is a book I've been looking forward to reading for a while and usually I'm all over overthinking my reading material. Not sure what it is, but something in this book is just carrying me along sort of thoughtlessly. Given consideration, I'm sure he'll find some truths in the stories themselves, but as to what kind, I do not know

4) I mentioned I love the secondary characters, and I absolutely do. Dina is amazing. I feel like Intisar could be if we saw more of her (and I want to!)

January 2015


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Updated 9/12


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