Review: Osama

By Lavie Tidhar

Solaris Books, out now

Haunted by a character who seems to be far more than just the central character of a set of pulp novels, Joe sets out to find out the truth about Osama…

Over the last two years, I’ve had cause to investigate more closely into the activities of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda than I would otherwise have done, once for a book on conspiracy theories, the other for a history of spying. The research involved reading the speeches of this man who was able to instigate some of the most distressing events in recent history.

Lavie Tidhar approaches Osama from a very different angle. The world he creates is at right angles to ours, where the (well-researched) excerpts from pulp novels are in fact descriptions of the London bombings, and other terrorist attacks. People aren’t what they seem; nor is Joe himself.

As well as making you consider bin Laden in a different light, Osama deals with questions of ghosts and reality and uses the tropes of alternate history and inter-dimensional conspiracies (such as Fringe) to make you ponder recent history with a new perspective. Some of the writing throws you into the position of Osama’s victims; other bits make you almost complicit in the attacks.

Verdict: A powerful book that bears comparison with some of Philip K. Dick’s finest work.  8/10

Paul Simpson

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