The Mirage by Matt Ruff is a story that recreates the 9/11 story to a completely different reality. One where the Christian States of America is a demoralized war zone, and fundamentalist Christians hijacked planes to take down the United Arab States.
“A mind-bending novel in which an alternate history of 9/11 and its aftermath uncovers startling truths about America and the Middle East
11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca, is brought down by its passengers.
The United Arab States declares a War on Terror. Arabian and Persian troops invade the Eastern Seaboard and establish a Green Zone in Washington, D.C. . . .
Summer, 2009: Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured suicide bomber. The prisoner claims that the world they are living in is a mirage—in the real world, America is a superpower, and the Arab states are just a collection of "backward third-world countries." A search of the bomber's apartment turns up a copy of The New York Times, dated September 12, 2001, that appears to support his claim. Other captured terrorists have been telling the same story. The president wants answers, but Mustafa soon discovers he's not the only interested party.
The gangster Saddam Hussein is conducting his own investigation. And the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee—a war hero named Osama bin Laden—will stop at nothing to hide the truth. As Mustafa and his colleagues venture deeper into the unsettling world of terrorism, politics, and espionage, they are confronted with questions without any rational answers, and the terrifying possibility that their world is not what it seems.
Acclaimed novelist Matt Ruff has created a shadow world that is eerily recognizable but, at the same time, almost unimaginable. Gripping, subversive, and unexpectedly moving, The Mirage probes our deepest convictions and most arresting fears.” – The Mirage
The Mirage is the type of book that goes against the normality of mainstream books that aim at becoming bestsellers. Matt Ruff chose to create his story of an alternate history of 9/11, and deals with the moral, political, and religious issues that would surround this “War on Terror.” A brave move from an author that could be brilliant, or fall flat on its face, destined for the clearance rack.
For me, I think it worked out well. The author is able to create an alternate reality (without getting all sci-fi), and looks at the societal and cultural ethics of that reality, as well as shining the light on our current ethics and social norms. It is a thought provoking thriller that is much too good to give away surprises. So, if you want to jump into an alternate zone and find out “what if”, read this book!
* Thank you to the publisher of The Mirage, Harper Perennial, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.