Lavie Tidhar
Osama Cover



Joe is a private detective based in Vietnam. One of his guilty pleasures is reading a popular series of trashy pulp novels featuring Osama bin Laden: Vigilante. From the excerpts we get, these novels seem to parallel most of the major terrorist acts of the recent past. Joe's world is not our world. Terrorism is an outrageous, thrilling plot line for popular fiction. In Joe's world, such things simply do not happen.

Since this is a detective novel, within a few pages Joe has been hired by a beautiful, mysterious woman to track down Mike Longshott, the author of the Osama novels. She gives him a black piece of plastic, an unmarked credit card that will finance his search. She suggests he start in Paris where the novels are published. He will also go to London, New York City, and into the "Osamaverse."

Tidhar's novel accompanies Joe on his quest, with all the elements of hardboiled detective fiction well deployed. Shady characters, dangerous men in dark suits, opium dens, dirty bookstores, cheap hotels, beatings, and shootings. The tone is more melancholy than suspenseful. As an alternate history novel, Osama has been relentlessly compared to Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. But Dick's novel is a straightforward adventure story compared to Tidhar's elliptical, unresolvable puzzle.

As Joe's reality unravels, he comes to accept that he may be a refugee, one of those who live between the world he knows and the world created by Longshott. Don't come near this book if you expect a great deal of resolution in your narratives. Tidhar's creates eloquent, disturbing moments that maneuver the reader into Joe's own ambiguous state. Toward the end of the story, as Joe reviews his life, he realizes that every morning he finds himself in a room with a bed that never appears to have been slept in.