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Osama by Lavie Tidhar

Osama cover imagePublisher: Solaris Books
Paperback (306pp)

Osama is a meta-fictional masterpiece that is quite unlike anything you will have ever read. Stop reading this review and get your hands on a copy now before anyone spoils it for you by trying to describe the characters, plot lines and themes in any conventional manner, which is simply an impossibility given the fluid nature of the narrative.

Oh, you’re still here? Guess you want to know a little more information before you commit to picking up a copy? Well let’s start by describing the story in identifiable genre terms. Osama is first and foremost an alternate history story set in a world much like our own but where the atrocities of 9/11 never happened and Osama Bin Laden is instead a character in a popular series of pulp action novels by Mike Longshott. There are also subtler differences, in particular technology is less advanced with mobile phones yet to be invented. Osama is also an affectionate tribute to the noirish detective stories and the strangers meeting in times of adversity situations of films like Casablanca (influences which the author discusses on SF Signal). Additionally the book has strong elements of Slipstream when the alternate reality of the book starts to have crossovers with the world known to the reader.

The story begins, like all good detective stories do, with a mysterious woman hiring private detective Joe to track down the elusive author of the Osama books. Over the course of his investigations Joe takes in an Osama convention, where people dress as Osama and discuss the novels on panels, and reads fictional passages from the books that recount actual terrorist events from our world. This adds a surreal aspect to the novel but also serves to highlight the unimaginable nature of these incidents prior to them occurring in our reality.

To say more really would be to rob the reader of the impact of reading without pre-conceptions however it is certainly a book that has extra dimensions to offer on re-reading.


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