G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen begins in the stiff-still stasis of a long afternoon. With a boy—an anti-censorship, and thus anti-state, hacker, called Alif by his internet acquaintances—stuck in a line of work that, while it endangers, challenges, and taxes him, seems to consist of so much monotonous shoving-fingers-into-dikes. Stuck in an awkward, unexplained lull in his relationship. Stuck in a clutch of emirates that has long seemed out of touch with the surrounding world. Stuck, more particularly, in his nameless City, which the Arab Spring has passed over. A city which has “begun to feel as though it were outside time: a memory of an old order, or a dream from which its inhabitants had failed to wake” (p. 11).