I have always been a big fan of alternate fiction so I was very excited when I came across a review for The Mirage by Matt Ruff. The Mirage presents a world that is a mirror image of the world we live in now. On November 11, 2001, twin towers on the Tigress and Euphrates are destroyed by planes flown by Christian fundamentalists. The United Arab States (UAS) is a world superpower and America is a bunch of disjointed city states, including an independent Texas. Much of the back story is revealed in excerpts from the Library of Alexandria, this world’s version of Wikipedia invented by Muammar Gaddafi.
Nine years later, Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi and his team — Samir, and Amal, capture and interrogate a suicide bomber. The prisoner claims that the world in which they are living 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, which recounts the destruction of the twin towers in New York City. As Mustafa and his team continue to investigate this bizarre claim, they come in contact with the gangster Saddam Hussein and Senator Osama Bin Laden, both of whom know about the mirage claim and provide both help and hindrance as the investigation proceeds. Mustafa and his team also make a visit to America and the independent republic of Texas where they come across a “who’s who” of well known and sometimes notorious American political and religious leaders, including David Koresh, Dick Cheney and Lyndon B. Johnson.
A typical problem with books that start with a great premise is that sometimes the author doesn’t know how to end it without becoming too farfetched or unsatisfying to the reader. Fortunately, I felt that Matt Ruff did a good job with the ending. I came away feeling that sometimes no matter how much things have changed, in many ways they still stay the same, and yet there is hope for the future and maybe this time we will get it right.