peteg's blog - noise - books - 2016 09 14 MattRuff TheMirage

Matt Ruff: The Mirage.

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Kindle. A recommendation from David S. The premise is quite promising: what if there was United Arab States (UAS), a superpower, while North America was composed of the underdeveloped Christian States of America (in the east), with Texas being a republic with close (OPEC) ties to the UAS. Let's quietly forget about Asia, Africa, Australia and South America for today. Ruff also places Israel in central Europe, and aligns the Jews with the Muslims. (I wonder how possible that ever could have been.) The key event that gets things moving is that September 11 in this world happens on November 9, and involves twin towers in Baghdad.

OK, he's not going for plausibility with any of that, and this is not always a profitable vantage point for humour, pathos, provocation or insight, but when it does click he has a very slick device on his hands. (I'd say he is mostly respectful of what he needs to be.) Perhaps it would have been more successfully deployed as a TV mini-series however; the many descriptions of violence are often wallowed in, and while he pushes modern Muslim lady Amal to the front with her American-style violent-woman abilities (martial arts and guns) she's never more than a cartoon. One of the weakest points is Ruff's remaking of some of America's evilest dudes (Koresh, McVeigh, ... but not Manson) into heroes in his alt universe. Or perhaps I got confused. Of course bin Laden is evil in all universes, just as Saddam and sons are sybaritic.

Shrug. It was sort-of fun. There is an obvious debt to Dick's The Man in the High Castle that I read last year and completely forgot about.

Joshua Hammer reviewed it for the New York Times.