Osama podcast and Jesus review

Jesus and the Eightfold Path is reviewed in Abyss & Apex:

What happens when Lavie Tidhar,  an Israeli and Jewish author,  visits the story of Jesus with Zen koans and a Kung-fu movie sensibility? What happens is a romp.

Another reviewer called this book,  Kick-A** for the Lord,  and I’d have to agree.  Jesus and the Eightfold path is a mash-up of the story of Christ and martial arts movies. The Monkey King becomes one of the Three Wise Men. Each chapter starts with a familiar Biblical quote from the Christmas and Easter stories,  and sort of goes downhill from there – but in a good way. It is fitting that the cover looks like a seventies Kung Fu movie poster,  and it all leads up to The Big Fight Scene where the Chosen One throws the money changers out of the Jewish temple. Everything after that is simply the denouement.

Add a star if you’re a fan of martial arts movies,  and add another one (believe it or not) if you’re a Christian. As Gardner Dozois remarked,  it’s great fun.

And I joined the Skiffy and Fanty show to talk about Osama, global terrorism, opium and a bunch of other stuff – you can listen to it here.


Osama now available for the Kindle!

The press release:

Lavie Tidhar’s new novel, Osama, is now available for the Kindle on both Amazon and Amazon UK.

Osama, published by PS Publishing in the UK, has been called “intensely moving” by Interzone, and a “powerful and disturbing political fantasy by a talent who deserves the attention of all serious readers” by Strange Horizons.

Osama tells the story of a private detective hired to locate the obscure writer of pulp novels featuring one Osama bin Laden: Vigilante. The detective’s quest takes him from Vientiane to Paris, London, New York and Kabul, across a subtly-changed world where nothing is quite as it seems – including himself.

Locus called the novel “a provocative and fast moving tale that raises good questions not only about the heritage of Al Qaeda, but about the slippage between reality and sensational fiction that sometimes seems to define our own confused and contorted experience of the last couple of decades.”

Tidhar is the author of the popular steampunk novels The Bookman and Camera Obscura, and is a current World Fantasy Award nominee for his work on the World SF Blog.

PS Publishing is the award-winning publisher of limited hardcover editions by the likes of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, China Mieville and Lawrence Block, among others.


“The Last Osama” to be published in Interzone

Very glad to say my 7000 word story “The Last Osama” will be published soon in Interzone. “The Last Osama” is my own personal postscript to the novel and the two short stories, “My Travels with Al-Qaeda” and “Wrong Number”.

In other Osama news, Strange Horizons has a long, in-depth review of the novel by Michael Levy, concluding that:

Moving seamlessly between intense realism and equally intense surrealism, Osama is a powerful and disturbing political fantasy by a talent who deserves the attention of all serious readers.


Pedro Marques on designing the OSAMA cover

Pedro Marques, the Portuguese artist responsible for the Osama cover, has a fascinating post on his blog detailing the process of creating the image used. I’m reproducing the English text below.


Pedro Marques

In doing the cover for Lavie Tidhar‘s wonderfully complex novel Osama (very soon available through PS Publishing), I drew inspiration from a magnetic image created in 1951 by Gertrude Huston (the wife of New Direction’s publisher James Laughlin) for Julien Gracq’s A Dark Stranger, which I found on Will Schoffield’s blog.

I replaced the greco-roman classical silhouette with the more complex turban clad, bearded one of Osama Bin Laden, deciding later to add his eyes over the texture made up of debris (from a photo of one of the 1998 bombing sites in Africa) that fill this silhouette.

In Tidhar’s novel, Bin Laden is nothing but a fictional character in apulp paperback series, and the world hasn’t lived through 9/11, but what one reads in those pulp novels is pretty much what happened inour own dimension in the 1998 Dar es Salaam and Nairobi bombings. Maybe a pulp cover would have been more suitable, but I could not resist trying to assemble an iconic summary of the figure hiding behind the name: Osama.

Here’s what I believe to be the “dark” specter of our very sombre first decade of the new century and millenium, the very dark essence of our present days: not the late Bin Laden (a pathetic middle-aged sick man living in a well-to-do neighbourhood in a quiet town of Pakistan), nor even what may be known as Al Qaeda, but the fear, the willingness to accept brutality as a way of going forward in history, the loss of hope in the future.


short stories

The Last Osama

I’m working on what I hope will be my final Osama story – following My Travels with Al-Qaeda, Wrong Number and, of course, the forthcoming Osama.

It’s a story collaboration with “Mike Longshott”, the pulp paperback writer Joe is hired to find in Osama, as well as featuring him as the hero of a pulp story about a special sort of bounty-hunter. At the same time, like in Osama, it has its metafictional element, a second layer of narrative written by “Lavie Tidhar”. I have no idea yet where it will be published, but here is a short extract from the “me” sections, explaining where “Mike Longshott” originally came from.

I plucked “Mike Longshott” out of the moulding Hebrew pulp novels of the sixties and seventies. He was a composite being, a man who did not really exist. Longshott wrote soft core pornography, tales of Nazi concentration camps where prisoners were abused, physically and sexually, by Aryan goddesses, sadistic nymphomaniacs of the Third Reich.

He was a pen-name broke young writers hid behind for cash. He was a collective, burrowing into the sexual and social taboos of his era. He wrote crap, was paid crap, and his books, sold under the counter, went from hand to hand and bathroom to bathroom, their covers featuring naked flesh and whips, guard posts and POW slaves and a plethora of large improbable breasts. He never lived, he never breathed, his prose was eminently forgettable. He was a hack, a pulpster, a paperback writer. His name was Mike Longshott and he was going to be my hero.

Two Hebrew pulp novels, the one on the left by Mike Longshott (The Murder in the Stalag), the one on the right by “Mike Baden” (the notorious Stalag 13).


T.J. McIntyre Reviews Osama

Over at Skull Salad Reviews, T.J. McIntyre reviews Osama:

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit Lavie’s someone I know and interact with online. I received an electronic review copy straight from the author himself. That said, Tidhar’s new novel, Osama (PS Publishing, 2011), is a difficult novel to review without spoilers. I will do my best here. But let me just say upfront that I loved, loved this book! Sometimes when getting a book from a friend or acquaintance, there’s a hesitance to review it because of the risk of hurting feelings. There was no need to hesitate reviewing this one.

On a superficial level, at least through roughly two-thirds of the novel, the story is pretty simple to explain. It is about a private investigator named Joe living in an alternative present where 9/11 and The War on Terrorism are the stuff of pulp novels. Osama bin Laden is a popular character in a series of cheap paperback thrillers detailing the lives of terrorists by an author named Mike Longshott. When removed from reality, the exploits of the terrorists make for entertaining reads in this alternative history. There are even conventions dedicated to Longshott and his Osama novels. People dress up like Osama and terrorists at these conventions and have roundtable discussions concerning the social relevance of these novels, much like at a Trekkie convention. The fictional acts of terrorism are all entertainment, nothing to fear.

Joe’s story itself reads much like a paperback thriller. He’s a hard-drinking, smoking private investigator searching through the seedy underworlds of Europe. Joe is hired to track down Longshott and travels around the world looking to uncover this author. In the process, he starts to learn a thing or two about himself.

The last third of the book is full of revelations. Our reality and Joe’s alternate reality collide and the text grows increasingly slipstream and surreal. I won’t say anymore about plot because I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone. The less one knows going into this novel, the more they will enjoy it, I believe.

Ultimately, this is a novel about identity, a novel which reflects a reality of the modern age in which we live. We choose our identities in many aspects of modern life – whether it be through a pen name as a writer, the personas we take on in differing social situations, or through online handles and avatars. As one character states in the novel:

“‘You have to choose what to be. When you’ve been stripped of everything; a
name, a face, a love – you could be anything. You could even choose to be

A wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking book – My six pack rating: 6 out of 6 Trader Joe’s Vienna Style Lager


Colin Harvey reviews Osama

Colin Harvey reviews Osama:

Osama is written in an elliptical tone reminiscent of Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories; Tidhar describes the minutae of coffee, cigarettes and clothes, but omits exposition, instead creating a narrative tension through the reader’s need to puzzle out the background; as Joe wonders what the World Trade Centre is, Tidhar starts to explain his alternate world, but slowly, slowly, and always by allusion. Rather like the protagonist, the reader is left with the sense that “The…writer was leaving…a trail of crumbs to follow” (p.120).

As the novel progresses, it becomes ever more Dickian, as Joe slips between realities, alongside the refugee ‘ghosts’ that he glimpses from the corner of his eye. In the novel’s clearest homage to The Man in the High Castle, Joe undergoes a reality slip that echoes Mr. Tagomi’s, visiting what appears to be ‘our’ London

. . .

Osama is an unsettling, oddly poignant look at what might have been, a world that is not necessarily better –because human nature precludes that- but simply different; it shows Tidhar’s originality and growing accomplishment in one of the best novels of the year so far. – read the full review!

book news

Adam Roberts reviews Osama

Adam Roberts reviews Osama:

Osama is a bold, gripping, atmospheric and thoughtful novel; easily the best thing of Tidhar’s I’ve yet read. The protagonist is a Chandleresque private eye, called (of course) Joe, living in a Greene-ily rendered Vientiane (that’s in Laos, of course—not the Vientiane in Hampshire). He is hired by the requisite bombshell mystery woman to locate a writer of pulp fiction, one ‘Mike Longshott’, author of a variety of lowrent adventure or porn-y novels, not least a series of novels about “Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante”. So, yes, in this alt-Earth Bin Laden is a fictional character. Interspersed between the chapters of Joe’s varied, kinetic adventures are excerpts from Longshott’s novels detailing the terrorist attacks in ‘our’ world (Dar Es Salam, the shoe bomber, London’s 7/7 and so on) with which we are familiar. In other words, Tidhar does that The Grasshopper Lies Heavy thing of giving us a perspective on our actual world from the point of view of an alt-historical location (that’s not quite right, though; because, although the world of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is closer to ‘our’ world than the world ofThe Man in The High Castle there are nonetheless key differences between reality and Dick’s novel-within-the-novel. But the analogy is close enough for government work).

Tidhar’s novel generates an impressive degree of emotional traction by setting an deftly replicated pulp noir ’tec idiom (the frame novel) against a carefully rendered neutral, reportage rendering of terrorist atrocity in the interleaved sections. The violence of the main novel figures after the manner of pulp adventure violence — dramatic, but more-or-less consequence-free — but the violence described in the embedded section genuinely shocks.

Despite the exceptionally cool cover image (up top, there) Osama Bin Laden is not actually a character in this novel. But that’s as it should be; Osama the novel is in the largest sense about the way ‘terrorism’ is actually a mode of making war upon our imaginations, and not, however it might appear, upon our bodies and our infrastructure. Accordingly this is a novel about the power of fantasy, about the proximity of dreams and reality, about ghost people and ghost realities. Lavie Tidhar has written a fine, striking, memorable piece of fiction here, one that deserves to be widely read. Kudos to PS for picking it up. You should read it.

Read the full review!