This was a fun find – I heard about it in an online thread about books not written by white, Western authors. (The author is white, but Muslim.) Alif is a hacker – Alif being his handle, but it’s the name he uses internally, so it’s his name throughout the book. He lives in an unnamed, but repressive, Middle Eastern emirate. His hacking is to help people.
He’s in love with a girl named Inistar, and when she dumps him, in his efforts to avoid her, he creates a computer program that brings him to the attention of the local web police, who want what he’s built. At the same time, he comes into the possession of a book that makes him aware that certain things he’s always thought of as fantasy are very real indeed.
This is a hard book to describe. It’s got a fascinating mix of modern politics and Muslim belief. I enjoyed it – it was nice to get a view into a world that many people in this country view with suspicion, and therefore colors a lot of what we hear about it.