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Osama [hc] Hardcover – October 1, 2011
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About the Author
Lavie is a prolific writer, keeping up a steady stream of highly-regarded novels, novellas and short stories. He has been described as an “emerging master” by Locus Magazine, with his work compared to the late, great Philip K. Dick’s in both The Guardian and the Financial Times. His novels include the Bookman Histories trilogy of steampunk novels – comprising The Bookman (2010), Camera Obscura (2011), and The Great Game (2012) – which borrow equally from mythology, classic literature, pulp fiction and noir and kung-fu cinema. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This matters to Joe because a mysterious woman appears at his office and hires him to track down the author of those same novels. Soon, as he travels the world, he finds himself running into people who don't quite seem to belong. Then he meets people who don't want him investigating further. And then things start to get odd. Philip K. Dick comparisons seem apt, though I was also reminded of China Mieville's City and the City and the mind-bending story in the computer game Braid.
This is, without question, a novel whose meaning hides in its obliqueness and blurring of reality. Who is Joe, exactly? Who are the ghostlike "refugees"? What is the connection between his world and ours? Tidhar offers hints, but no certain answers. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance that Osama bin Laden himself becomes an anti-presence in the story. Made imaginary in Joe's world, he becomes more visible as what he really is in ours: a omnipresent icon that haunts without having any real definition or connection to what the actual bin Laden was. The symbolism is open to interpretation, but, to me, it expressed the ultimate elusiveness of either escape or understanding in the endless feedback of the human response to terrorism.
Of course, open-ended, strange-loopy novels aren't the sort of thing that speaks to every reader (at least, not without chemical enhancement), but this one hit most of the right notes with me. I liked the audacity of Tidhar's vision and the tight, noir-ish, slightly hallucinatory writing. And it's not a long book.
I would characterize OSAMA as more of an "alternate reality" essay than an "alternate history." At its conclusion, it leaves many unanswered questions. "Joe" (the protagonist) is often described by the other characters as a "refugee," a "ghost," or a "fuzzy-wuzzy." Has Joe died as a result of a terrorist bombing in our "real" world? Is he now trapped between our world and a reality in which Osama bin Laden is only a persona appearing in under-the-counter pulp fiction? Or is Joe simply immersed in an opium-filled hallucination? (The cover of the book and pages between chapters depict apparent cigarette or pipe smoke.)
On the plus side, Tidhar penned several thought-provoking sections. I particularly liked the scene in which Joe, wandering though a strange house, spots a large picture frame titled TIME'S MAN OF THE YEAR, and sees an image of himself. It turns out that the frame outlines a mirror, and Joe simply gazes into his own reflection.
Unfortunately, the author's constant use of short, choppy sentences and agonizingly poor similes and metaphors makes OSAMA difficult to read. A few examples are listed below:
"The girl closed the book and laid it back down on the desk, carefully, as if handling a valuable object. 'Do you think so?' she said. He didn't know what to answer her.Read more ›
And noir, with its long history of engaging with questions of violence and culpability, seems an obvious way to try to access, and personalize, a story about terrorism. So it makes sense that Osama is a noir. And not just some run-of-the-mill the-author-just-watched-The-Maltese-Falcon rip-off, either, although Tidhar hits all the right beats: the staccato dialogue, the curling smoke, the steaming coffee, the chases through the chiaroscuro of grimy city streets.
Joe's a consummate everyman, an anonymous PI out of place and happy to be there. Set in a world without terrorism, Osama begins as all good hardboiled novels begin: a beautiful woman walks into Joe's office and offers him a job - find Mike Longshott, the apparently pseudonymous author of the wildly popular, critically derided Osama: Vigilante series of pulp novels. All expenses paid, of course. The chase leads Joe from one end of the world to the other; in his wake he trails confusion and violence, while each clue leads him to question not only his employment, but his own life.
But Osama isn't a straight-up hardboiled novel. It's a noir. And the best noir isn't about the mystery, or the atmosphere - although they're both important components of the whole. At base, noir is about character; that is, a character. A single person, in search of something. Noir requires a complex point-of-view character, someone who's both wholly certain of himself and entirely lost. An shadowy person, in a series of shadowy settings, searching not just for answers to some mystery-for-hire, but for himself.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have a strange feeling after having read Osama....a kind of helplessness and a shrug against the stupidity of the violent world we live in. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Andreea Pausan
Even though I guessed at the ending (broadly speaking) by about page 10 I kept on turning them thar pages. Read morePublished on December 21, 2013 by Nibiru
Joe, a private detective, lives somewhere in the back of Asia, smokes a lot and drinks whiskey. When once he returns from the bar to his office, he is suddenly visited by a woman... Read morePublished on September 22, 2013 by Ray Garraty
Simplistic, no real plot, poor knowledge or investigation into most venues and finally boring. I could not discover a writing talent.Published on August 13, 2013 by H.G. Bergmann
This book won the World Fantasy Award a couple of years ago. That's how I discovered it. I find the Kindle page and there's seven reviews? Huh. Okay. Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by Rachel Shapiro
This book is not the kind of thing I usually enjoy. It owes too much to Chandler and Hammett for me to be entirely comfortable with its style and sensibility. Read morePublished on May 16, 2013 by Marcy L. Thompson
I tried extremely hard to like this book. I was immediately sold on it the moment I saw it due to the Philip K Dick comparisons, the theme, the artwork, etc. Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by nullpointer
Osama is a film-noir/post 9-11 anxiety/fantasy mashup. With a dash of X-files. If you like reading detective novels while hearing James Cagney doing the dialogues in your head,... Read morePublished on February 5, 2013 by Itamar Netzer
This was an interesting idea, but the execution could have been better. The writing was kind of an homage/mashup of Haruki Murakami and detective noir. Read morePublished on February 1, 2013 by Neil Shader