Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lior Tirosh, the main character in Lavie Tidhar's novel, may as well be the author. I mean, the author certainly seems to think so, both being more or less a self-described semi-successful pulp-fiction writer of SF, and like writers being in their own stories, they tend to go absolutely nuts on the imagination bits.
Well, at least, the good ones do. And guess what? He's one of the good ones. :)
This book wears several hats and unlike a normal hat-trick, this one does it gently enough that we barely even realize we've gone from a noir mystery in an alternate history to jump headlong into an existential crisis across multiple Earths where neither memory, history, or selfhood is set in stone.
Add to that the wonderful little twist where this is a history where Isreal never happened, where the grand refuge takes place in Africa... a thing that really and truly MIGHT have happened... throw in the Zohar and wonderfully interesting quasi-religious ideas that drive the Qabbalah, including the words of God and reading the Torah from a prism of different experiences and world-building viewpoints, and we've got a much deeper reading experience than anyone might assume from a first glance.
In fact, even tho the actual tale is fun to follow and only gets more and more interesting even as it amps up the bloodshed and deeper mystery, it deserves another read-through for the subtext. It's not just about the Jewish condition although that is a big part. It's about identity on a much deeper level.
I only read Central Station before this and both are very different beasts, but neither of them is lightweight or pulp in nature. Indeed, I'm rather thrilled at how many levels both succeeded.
Unholy Land is probably BETTER than Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union, by the by. The other had them all retreat to Alaska and this one had them wind up in Africa, but the true joy isn't in the location. It's in everything. :)
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