UNHOLY LAND

I read an advance copy of Lavie Tidhar’s UNHOLY LAND last week.  It’s one of those lovely books that starts out presenting itself as one thing, and mutates into another almost without you seeing it.

It begins with a minor pulp detective-fiction writer leaving his home in Berlin to revisit the land of his birth – a Jewish state in Africa.  Right away, we’re in alternate-history space — this was actually a floated idea around 1900, the British Uganda Program, also referred to as the Uganda Scheme, in the wake of Russian pogroms against the Jewish people.  So far, an African take on THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION.

But.  The writer’s name is Lior Tirosh. Compare that to Lavie Tidhar.  Partway through, Tidhar ascribes the authorship of one of his own books to Tirosh. OSAMA.  An alternate-history novel featuring a detective and a series of pulp novels.   One detects the wake of the grand galleon of Michael Moorcock sailing by on the way to Tanelorn.  Tidhar, as most recently evidenced by CENTRAL STATION, is a game-player of a writer who uses the spectrum of science fiction canon for his pieces.

And then the book turns into what it’s really about, a grand game of alternate worlds cast like jewels on the sand.  The long second act is all dust and blood and madness and glory, and the fast third act comes down on you like a sharpened spade.

Lavie Tidhar is a clever bastard, and this book is a box of little miracles. I liked it.

More details here.  It’s out Sept/Oct.

UNHOLY LAND, Lavie Tidhar (UK) (US)