- File Size: 566 KB
- Print Length: 276 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: PS Publishing Ltd (September 21, 2011)
- Publication Date: September 21, 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005OSXJO2
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,089 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Osama Kindle Edition
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|Length: 276 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"Bears comparison with the best of Philip K Dick's paranoid, alternate-history fantasies. It's beautifully written and undeniably powerful." - The Financial Times
"Intensely moving." - Interzone
"A novel about the power of fantasy, about the proximity of dreams and reality, about ghost people and ghost realities. Lavie Tidhar has written a fine, striking, memorable piece of fiction here, one that deserves to be widely read." - Adam Roberts
"A provocative and fast moving tale that raises good questions not only about the heritage of Al Qaeda, but about the slippage between reality and sensational fiction that sometimes seems to define our own confused and contorted experience of the last couple of decades." - Locus
"A powerful and disturbing political fantasy by a talent who deserves the attention of all serious readers." - Strange Horizons
"Mind bending . . . This book will shake you. It left our reviewer in a hazy nightmare state, left in a waking dream that rattled him for hours. Literally, the complex construction of Osama and rekindled intense collective PTSD of 9/11 woke our reviewer from his sleep." - Boston Book Bums.
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The publisher of Longshott's books, Medusa Press, is located in Paris, but «the address was merely a post office box, not a street address». After talking with a bookseller friend, Joe finds that Mike Longshots is a pseudonym. From the same seller the detective discovers that Medusa Press publishes all sorts of pulp, from thrillers to softporno. «Filth. Utter junk, of course. Wonderful stuff» - says about these books the seller.
Joe immediately books tickets for a flight to Paris, but before leaving, someone attempts to kill him. To solve the client's case, Joe will have to go to London and New York, meet with shady characters who work for the state, a mysterious private investigator, booksellers and opium dealers. His entire journey, Joe will be reading Longshott's books, trying to get closer to unraveling the truth.
World of Joe is a world in which we haven't lived, a world without terrorism. Explosions of buildings and airports, 9\11 - this never happened in the world of «Osama». And you begin to undersand it only some time since the beginning of the book, when Joe reads Longshott's novels, and we know that he reads books about the bombings and deaths of thousands of innocent people as fiction. He reads and wonders: in his world, it was nothing like this. Joe travels around the world, but perhaps not as a private detective, but as a universal consciousness. Terrorism covers all countries and nations, even those there terrorist attacks have never been. And Joe is just the invisible element that unites the nations, though Joe himself has no idea about it.
Yes, the protagonist here drinks hard, sometimes is trying to crack jokes, falls in love with a client, whom had seen only once, but it is all the formal signs of what «Osama» is not, namely, a PI novel. If Tidhar'd make Joe not a detective with a license, but simply "a master of all trades", this would only make the book better. One can hardly believe in Joe's detective skills, but he does not pretend to be able to find someone. Joe's more comfortable to sit at the bar and sip alcohol, walk through the streets of capital cities, than in solving the case. Joe, and this is obviously, is one of those who are looking for himself, not for others. Tidhar is lucky that with the search of himself, Joe finds what he was looking for, otherwise the novel would fallapart.
Lyrical style of the author alone is at odds with a pace of a thriller, who then serves as a screen. But behind the screen is just lovely Tidhar's prose, with its accurate descriptions of urban landscapes and the ability to capture the sadness of man in a bar with a glass in his hand (Tidhar sometimes overdoes lists, it should be noted):
«The air felt humid, feverish, but not of the tropics: a city's smell hung on it like limp laundry, a smell of pavement slabs and concrete blocks and cars and fumes and smoke and food and urine and spilled alcohol and spilled tears, it was a smell of many lives».
It is difficult to say, has Bin-Laden turned over in his grave after this novel or not (even harder to say is Bin-Laden alive or dead), but who cares about Bin-Laden? Just read «Osama».
This was my first time reading this author's work. It won't be my last.
I always gauge whether I'm enjoying a book by how often I pick it up at unusual times - ie, not at bedtime, when I usually read. I read this at lunch time, on the bus, waiting to see a doctor, etc, and even, towards the end, simply sat up in bed during the heat of the day and finished it off. So it must have had something going for it. Curiously, now, a few months later, nothing much sticks in the memory.
Top international reviews
Unlike the Philip K Dick novel, in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, this book features more recent atrocities. Odd to think that there are 16-year olds around now who didn’t experience the existential shock of the destruction of the World Trade Centre; for those of us who did, this novel seems incredibly bold, perhaps even bolder than the same author’s ‘A Man Lies Dreaming’, which reimagines Adolf Hitler as another gumshoe PI.
All the more reason for it to happen in my view, although there is always the risk that events in the ‘Osama’ novel are overshadowed by the astonishing reality, particularly when elements of ‘Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante’ narrate parts of the actual terrorist attacks, including Al-Qaeda’s bombing of an African embassy.
‘Osama’ bravely resists building on the thriller elements of these passages, instead following Joe on a strange journey across the world as if he is riding some kind of emotional shockwave from the events themselves. Correspondingly, there are elements don’t appear to make much sense, especially when one sequence moves to another with little transitional movement across space and time.
It’s a good device for showing how fiction and reality seem to trip over each other, much as in they did in September 2001; from the sense that the exploding skyscrapers were something out of a Hollywood special effects extravaganza to Bin Laden’s mythical status to both his followers and pursuers. In another twist, ’Osama’ was published the same year US Navy SEALS killed the Emir, revealing his hermetic existence in Pakistan spent watching old videos of his speeches and dyeing his beard. It was as if the man himself had become subservient to his own legend and ‘Osama’ feels like it inhabits that dissonant hinterland that is the preserve of those who influence purely with ideals.
Both the PI and the vigilante are outsider characters; archetypes the author uses here to refract experience of the events that defined our new millennium in ways none of us could have imagined. We know these images so well because their horror was recorded with such dreadful accuracy. I actually can’t watch the footage any more, even sixteen years later; kudos then to Lavie Tidhar for enabling me to reconsider this scar on our collective memory in such an imaginative, haunting way.
OK, it's a little more complicated that than that. Joe, a private detective and narrator of the tale, is hired (by the inevitable attractive woman) to find the author of the 'Vigilante' novels. He sets off on a quest to find the implausibly named Mike Longshott, and the closer he gets, the more he realises that something strange is going on.
All the genre tropes are here. Whisky, hat, cigarettes and wisecracks, all feature. There are mysterious forces at work trying to prevent Joe from reaching his goal, but he tenaciously sniffs out every lead. He's the type of PI who takes fists to a gunfight, yet somehow stays alive. So on one level, there's not a lot new here, but this book has a lot of levels.
Firstly, there are the excerpts from Mike Longshott's novels that Joe reads as he searches for him. These are semi-fictional accounts of real-life Al Qaeda plots and bombings; they are well rendered and compelling. Then there is the fact that the world Joe lives in is subtly different from our own. I won't spoil how, but Tidhar feathers in teasing observations, that hint at where we might be, and what is really going on.
The work as a whole reminded me of Auster's The New York Trilogy and Mieville's The City & The City , but I enjoyed 'Osama' much more. It's more readable than either of them. Tidhar never forgets to be entertaining, even whilst deep in his metaphysical constructs. He examines our responses to terrorism, as individuals, and by the institutions that represent us. The whole novel can be viewed as an investigation into the fallout of being involved in a terrorist attack, yet it is full of wit and humour. This type of layered reality novel normally leaves me cold, but whilst I wouldn't pretend to have understood all of Osama's nuances, there wasn't a single point at which I thought this was a novel I didn't want to read.
The hardback is beautifully packaged with a gloriously tactile cover, featuring terrific and evocative art. The production values between the covers match that on the outside. 'Osama' is a novel that defies expectations. A peculiar between-worlds narrative, detailing notorious acts of terrorism investigated by a classic noir gumshoe, it's a mix that could have been an unholy mess. Instead, it's a compelling mystery with a handle on the state of the world. Highly recommended.
And the plotting is masterly. Exposition and travel handled deftly, like an expert card shark. A strong thread of questions pulled me from page to page.
I'm not sure what to think of the woman who hires Joe, the main character. Certainly I did feel a lack of defined female characters, but haven't yet decided if I think there's a lack of defined characters in general. Not due to poor writing, but due to the protagonist's world view, and the world he's in.
Never-the-less, a beautiful book.