Literature / The Mirage
An Alternate History
novel by Matt Ruff
, published in 2012.
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 ...
This book provides examples of the following tropes:
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Idris to Samir. The lives of Samir's sons are in the balance.
- Action Girl: Amal.
- Affably Evil: Saddam Hussein.
- Alternate History: The original 13 United Arab States broke away from the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century, later expanding to include the entire Arab world. According to the Library of Alexandria website, the second world war was ended when a third atomic bomb was dropped on Tokyo, Hitler didn't commit suicide and was instead beheaded at Nuremberg, there was a Mexican gulf war fought over the Kingdom of Louisiana, and it's implied that the UAS landed men on the moon and underwent an equivalent to the civil rights movement. And, of course, Christian fundamentalist terrorists attacked and destroyed the Tigris and Euphrates world trade center towers on November 9th, 2001, prompting a war on terror and invasion of the Christian States of America.
- Balkanize Me: After World War II, Germany was divided into two states: one Christian and one Jewish.
- Bury Your Gays: Unfortunately for Samir, this is true for the Islamic society of the UAS.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Abounds.
- Divided States of America: The Christian States of America is made up of 18 states along the east coast, as well as Alabama and Mississippi. Texas is an Evangelical Republic with claims over Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Coahuila, though the residents there would disagree. Missouri, rather than Utah, is a Mormon State. The Pentecostal Gilead heartland borders the CSA and Great Lakes. A Rocky Mountain nation controls, more in theory than fact, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. It's split up between many tribal factions.
- The Ghost: There's lots of talking about Bin Laden, but he's never seen directly.
- Guile Hero: Amal's mother.
- The Men in Black: Al Quaeda.
- Poly Amory: Mustafa was married to two women at the same time. He gets critisized plenty for it.
- Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: While it initially seems to be a III or IV, it becomes Alien Space Bats when it's revealed history was changed by a wish made to a Djinn.
- The Rapture: What militant Christians believe in.
- To the Pain: Idris' penchant.
- Villains Out Shopping: Saddam, who does it on EBazaar.
- Wretched Hive: The Christian states of America is