The Mirage by Matt Ruff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Christian fundamentalists destroy the Tigris and Euphrates towers on 11/9, the United Arab States declare a war on terror on the nations of North America. Eight years later, Homeland security officers Mustafa, Amal, and Samir stumble upon relics from another world, a world where America is a super power and the Middle East is a fractured region...
On the heels of Lovecraft Country, I knew I had to read more Matt Ruff. This one sounded intriguing and it was definitely that.
The Mirage is an alternate history tale, one where the roles in the War on Terror are reversed, with the Arabians as the super power and the former United States as rogue territories. If I'd ever read The Man in the High Castle instead of only knowing it by reputation, I'd say they were in a similar vein.
The Mirage is essentially a detective story with Mustafa, Amal, and Samir trying to get to the bottom of things, like the relics and who was really behind the 11/9 attack, before falling victim to the machinations of Al Qaeda, the UAS secret police in this tale. Interspersed are entries from the Library of Alexandria, an online Wikipedia type of resource in this world, giving us tantalizing glimpses at the world's history without infodumping them in the text.
While the detective aspect was pretty cool, the fun of the story was seeing where everyone ended up in this reality. Saddam Hussein is an underworld kingpin, Osama bin Laden is a senator, and Dick Cheney is head of the Texas CIA and known for eliminating his rivals in hunting accidents.
I wolfed this book down in three sittings. It was quite readable and I couldn't wait to see how things panned out. By showing the war on terror in the mirror universe, Ruff shows what a shit show the whole thing was.
This is my favorite quote from the book:
"So in the other reality, Osama bin Laden is an Iraqi?"
"No, he's still from Jeddah," Amal said. "A 'Saudi' Arabian."
"Then why the hell would America invade Iraq?"
"Because God put a Texan in charge!"
I don't have many bad things to say about this book. I almost gave it a 5 but I thought the characters were a little skimpy and the ending could have been better. Overall, The Mirage was a great read and an interesting look at how things might have went another way. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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