Profile: Religion, Self-help, Cats
After Action Report:
I don’t really like self-help books. I find the concept to be disingenuous at best. Something about ‘self-help’ originating from someone else’s mind is counterintuitive to me. Still, The Dalai Lama’s Cat has an adorable kitty on the cover and it while it definitely feels like a self-help book, it’s really closer to being Vajrayana Buddhism for Dummies.
On the surface, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is the story of an abandoned kitten who is plucked from the streets by the Dalai Lama. The cat, called a variety of names including His Holiness’s Cat and Mousie-Tung, grows up at the feet of one of the most renowned spiritual leaders of our time and decides to tell her story so that some of the wisdom she has gained will not be kept all to herself. The book adopts a rambling narrative, relating little vignettes from HHC’s life that inevitably end in a lesson from the Dalai Lama or one of his close associates.
Profile: Modern Fantasy, Religion
Summary: From the dust jacket, “The Unseen:1: anonymity, a space or state of being occupied in order to commit mischief; 2: That which cannot be perceived by human eyes; 3: an unimaginable new dimension of power waiting for someone to grasp it…
In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients–dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups–from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif–the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his compter has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line.
It turns out that his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.
After Action Report:
Alif the Unseen is honestly one of the best novels I’ve read in recent memory. It practically sparkles with fresh ideas and invigorating prose. Like Throne of the Crescent Moon, I picked up Alif on the recommendation of io9.com’s best speculative fiction of 2012 list, and out of a desire to read more non-Eurocentric fantasy. But the two books shouldn’t even be compared. Alif is on a completely different level of fiction, the same level occupied by giants like China Miéville’s Kraken and Neil Gaimen’s American Gods, or perhaps more saliently, his Anansi Boys.
The novel is also a triumph of multiculturalism. The author, G. Willow Wilson, an American journalist who converted to Islam and moved to Cairo where she wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers, has written a magnificent window into contemporary Middle Eastern culture, and one that stand surprisingly accessible to readers who might not know anything about the history or culture of this incredibly interesting and diverse region. Where Saladin Ahmed utterly failed to connect with the richness of Arabian and Islamic mythology in his Crescent Moon, Wilson has succeeded in stunning fashion.
Profile: Drama, Spirituality, Religion
Summary: Taken from the back cover, “What if God told you to be a better person but the world wouldn’t allow it?
Such is the dilemma facing Joe Smith, a run-of-the-mill white-collar businessman who survives an office shooting and is subsequently touched by what he believes to be a divine vision. His journey toward personal enlightenment – past greed and lust and the other deadly sins – is, by turns, tense, hilarious, profane, and heartbreaking.
Exploring the narrow path to spiritual fulfillment and how strewn it is with the funny, frantic failings of humankind, The Break of Noon showcases Neil LaBute at his discomfiting best.”