BOOK REVIEW: Osama

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The first thing that hits you about this novel is the stunning cover. The second thing is the looks you get reading it in public. You can practically feel people wondering what a book named after this generations prime terrorist is really all about. Several people asked me if the author was worried about making himself a target for extremists. I’ll have to ask him. The author in question, Lavie Tidhar, was last year nominated for the BSFA and Campbell Awards and won the World Fantasy award He was in Dar-es-Salaam during the American embassy bombings in 1998, and stayed in the same hotel as the Al Qaeda operatives in Nairobi. Since then he and his now-wife have narrowly avoided both the 2005 King’s Cross and 2004 Sinai attacks—experiences that eventually led to the creation of Osama.

Osama is set in a, a world like ours but slightly different. It’s a world without global terrorism. It’s a world that is not as technologically advanced as ours, there are no cell phones or tablet computers, for example. The protagonist, Joe, is a private detective, who does what all good private detectives do – own an office with nothing in it but a filing cabinet, a chair and a desk containing a bottle of whiskey. Naturally Joe smokes a lot and hangs out in a coffee shop underneath his office.

All of this changes the day a mysterious beautiful woman walks into his office and hires him to find Mike Longshott, the author of the crime series Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante.

The resulting quest takes him on a globe-trotting journey, that has him shot at, beaten up (and like all good detectives, Joe knows how to take a beating), and chased by at least 2 different parties that want him of the case.

For some reason Joe keeps going beyond all reason and finds himself in a nightmare of confusion, identity crisis and paranoia.

The thing is that through the Bin Laden books our world is leaking into theirs and ‘refugees’, from our world live a shadow existence in theirs.

Everything about this book is stereotypical pulp from Joe’ s character straight through to the dialogue and the locales. As the book progresses it becomes layered with an increasingly opium misted narration which at first seems somewhat repetitious and unclear. The point of the book at this point seems to mirror Joes mental state and leaves you wondering what the hell is happening, and beggars the questions, where and why is this book going?

The book reaches its climax and it is not necessarily a satisfying one but like everything in this book, it is intentional. Tidhar presents perspectives and leaves conclusions to the reader.  The story operates on more than just a narrative level, giving the reader clear allegories to modern political/terrorist conundrums without ever clearly coming down on one side or another, simply presenting facts, heart rending testimony and food for thought.

This book is an incredible work of meta fiction, fantastically aware and will be hard to penetrate for some. Its air of paranoid, claustrophobic chaos is unsettling and the author has been compared to Phillip K Dick, with good reason. Osama should be required reading.

Osama is available from Pspublishing and is available as an ebook and audio book.

You can see more of Lavie Tidhar’s work here – http://lavietidhar.wordpress.com/

GS Reviewer: Monts

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