Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reviewing Osama: A Novel

Osama:A Novel by Lavie Tidhar was on the surface an unlikely book for my reading list. But, when I saw it on the bookshelf of my local store, looked at the back cover blurb and then read the first few pages – the ultimate test – I knew the author had me.

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, Osama takes place in an alternate universe where global terrorism never seemed to take hold. Joe (we don’t know his last name) is a private detective living in Vientiane, Laos.  That there is still a French colonial feeling to the environment already tells a bit – not a lot - about the time and place. It’s there Joe receives a job from a mysterious woman who track down the author of a series of paperback men’s adventure novels, all with the unlikely hero: Osama Bin Laden.

Joe’s search across the world is a shrewd and observant commentary on the real-life hunt for Bin Laden.  There is a conceit of a novel-within-a-novel at work here, with long quotes from the Bin Laden series of novels, with titles such as Osama Bin Laden – Vigilante: Assignment Africa, which reminds me of the Grasshopper Lies Heavy novel-within-a-novel in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I don’t make that reference in a mean way: as a writer, Tindar is very effective and his work his work shares the vibrations of Dick’s best work. Clearly, this author is one to watch for.

Tindar deftly sketches out the universe that Joe the detective lives in. It’s a little slower-paced, a little less technologically advanced, there are clues that the Second World War didn’t fare so well for the Allies and perhaps most tellingly, the people who read the Osama Bin Laden books can’t understand the concept of killing for killing’s sake and are relieved it is only confined to the pages of a pulp novel.

Of course, there’s much, much more at play here, but I’m not one for spoilers, so I’ll end it here with a strong “buy” recommendation for the Holidays.

I’m still reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and hope to have a review for you soonish.

In the meantime, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing both Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 (both are free to preview). Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  And if you’re looking for an experienced marketing communications guy, do me a favor and have a look here. Thanks.

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