Unholy Land

Lavie Tidhar

2019 Sidewise Award nominee
2019 Locus Finalist
2018 Sarah Anne Langton is a British Science Fiction cover Award finalist
2019 Dragon Award Best Alternative History nominee

Selected as an NPR, Library Journal, Guardian, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018. World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar (Central Station) delivers a brilliantly subversive new novel of homeland and identity that recalls The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The City and the City.


Unholy Land

by Lavie Tidhar

ISBN: Print: 978-161696-304-0 Digital: 978-1-61696-305-7

Published: November 2018

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital


An NPR Best Book of 2018
A Library Journal Best Book of 2018
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018
A Guardian Best Book of 2018
A Barnes & Noble Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of 2018
A Crime Time Book Best Book of 2018
Locus Recommended Reading List
2018 SCKA Award nominations

2018 British Science Fiction Award finalist, Best Artwork: Sarah Anne Langton

“Lavie Tidhar does it again. Magnificent.”
—Warren Ellis

Lior Tirosh is a semi-successful author of pulp fiction, an inadvertent time traveler, and an ongoing source of disappointment to his father.

Tirosh has returned to his homeland in East Africa. But Palestina—a Jewish state founded in the early 20th century—has grown dangerous. The government is building a vast border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in Ararat City is growing. And Tirosh’s childhood friend, trying to deliver a warning, has turned up dead in his hotel room. A state security officer has identified Tirosh as a suspect in a string of murders, and a rogue agent is stalking Tirosh through transdimensional rifts—possible futures that can only be prevented by avoiding the mistakes of the past.

From the bestselling author of Central Station comes an extraordinary new novel recalling China Miéville and Michael Chabon, entertaining and subversive in equal measures.

Praise for Unholy Land

An NPR Best Book of 2018
A Library Journal Best Book of 2018
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018
A Guardian Best Book of 2018
A Barnes & Noble Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of 2018
A Crime Time Best Book of 2018  

2018 Sarah Anne Langton is a British Science Fiction cover Award finalist

“Lavie Tidhar does it again. A jewelled little box of miracles. Magnificent.”
—Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine

[STARRED REVIEW] “World Fantasy Award winner Tidhar (Central Station) will leave readers’ heads spinning with this disorienting and gripping alternate history. Author Lior Tirosh, grieving a personal tragedy, travels home after years abroad and immediately has a series of strange encounters that pull him into a complex plot to destroy the border between worlds. He arrives in Palestina, the land that the Jews were offered on the Ugandan border in 1904, which both closely resembles and is profoundly different from the Israel of our world, and is followed by two government agents who are trying to stop the destruction of ‘borders,’ though it’s unclear whose side they are really on. Tirosh discovers a niece he had forgotten, is accused of murder, narrowly dodges threats to his life, and takes on the role of a detective from one of his own novels as he tries to understand what is endangered and by whom. ‘No matter what we do, human history always attempts to repeat itself,’ Tidhar writes, even as he explores the substantial differences in history that might arise from single but significant choices. Readers of all kinds, and particularly fans of detective stories and puzzles, will enjoy grappling with the numerous questions raised by this stellar work.”
Publishers Weekly

[STARRED REVIEW] “On the suggestion of his agent, pulp fiction writer Lior Tirosh flies back to the home he hasn’t seen since childhood: Palestina, an East African Jewish state formed in the early 20th century. He soon discovers a lot has changed. In the capital, Ararat, unrest is at an all-time high. Palestina is creating a border wall to deter refugees from entering. Lior then learns from an old childhood friend that his niece Deborah is missing and takes on the persona of one of his own detective novel characters as he searches for her, only to be hunted by his own state’s security. VERDICT Shifting perspectives will keep readers trying to catch up with this fast-paced plot involving incredible twists on multiple realities and homecoming. This latest from Campbell and World Fantasy Award winner Tidhar (Central Station) is fascinating and powerful.”
Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW]Unholy Land is a wonder and a revelation—a work of science fiction capable of enthralling audiences across the multiverse.”

“Lavie Tidhar is a genius at conjuring realities that are just two steps to the left of our own . . . Gorgeous in its alienness . . .”
NPR Books

“Adventurous readers will appreciate this well-written and ambitious book. It should find a place at any library that offers high-quality literary fiction.”

“Tidhar has turned a suspenseful adventure tale into a complex meditation on the possible paths of modern Jewish history.”
Chicago Tribune

“5/5 stars. A world (worlds) of thoughtfulness, suspense, imagery, and beautiful prose. Highly recommended.”
Fantasy Literature

“Extraordinary, confronting, intriguing. Unholy Land is a dream of a home that’s never existed, but is no less real for that: a dream that smells like blood and gunpowder. It’s precisely what we’ve come to expect of Tidhar, a writer who just keeps getting better.”
—Angela Slatter, author of the World Fantasy Award-winning The Bitterwood Bible

“There are SFF writers. There are good SFF writers. And there is Lavie Tidhar. In a genre entirely of his own, and quite possibly a warped genius, he rummages in the ruins of our centuries and our genres and makes out of them something strange, dark and utterly unique. There is no one like him writing in genre today. This [Unholy Land] is a twisted piece of alt-history/geography that refuses to go where lesser writers would drive it. Bold and witty and smoky, it plays games and coquetries, makes dark dalliances and will leave you dazzled and delighted.”
—Ian McDonald, author of Time Was and Luna: Wolf Moon

“Lavie takes us through a haunting, mesmerizing Judea, across multiple timelines into the promised night shelter in British East Africa. Here is an expedition at once proposed and taken, an alternate reality in which the holocaust is averted but the mechanics of displacement remain the same, where people are oppressed and oppressor at the same time. A genius, dreamlike fantasy for those who slip across might-have-been worlds.”
Saad Hussian, author of Escape from Baghdad

Unholy Land is a stunning achievement. It is packed to the brim with engaging ideas and features a captivating story . . . beautiful and thought-provoking.”
The Speculative Shelf

“By combining spatiotemporal mind games reminiscent of Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts with a cosmopolitan wit evocative of Graham Greene’s screenplay for The Third Man, Lavie Tidhar has given us a mystically charged, morally complex vision of Theodor Herzl’s famous Jewish state that might have been.”
—James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and Shambling Towards Hiroshima

“Lavie Tidhar’s daring Unholy Land brilliantly showcases one of the foremost science fiction authors of our generation.”
— Silvia Moreno-Garcia, World Fantasy Award-winning editor and author of Certain Dark Things

“Full of ideas and unafraid to tackle big, controversial, important issues. Warren Ellis compares him to Michael Moorcock in an afterword, and like Moorcock, Tidhar writes books that are unpredictable and experimental, consistently and reliably surprising, yet always readable and engaging.”

“Loaded with thought-provoking takes on identity, the fluidity of reality, and weighty moral questions.”

“A powerful meditation on the ethics of history and the power of borders . . . Unholy Land is a call to imagine and fight for alternatives.”
World Literature Today  

“Sophisticated and assured.”

“Lavie Tidhar is the science fiction writer to be discovered now.”
Italian Esquire

“Tidhar’s magic touch is the result of a very concise and evocative prose, an ingenious imagination, and the ability to poke the reader’s social conscience . . . Any fan of good speculative fiction with a pitch of noir, some pulp hints and a lot of sense of wonder will enjoy Unholy Land.”
Sense of Wonder

“If you enjoyed Central Station, you’ll recognize Tidhar’s beautiful prose and lush imagination . . . Unholy Land is without a doubt one of the best books I read this year and one I will revisit numerous times in the future. Highly, highly recommended”
—The Curious SFF Reader

“This was a thoroughly engrossing, entertaining and thought-provoking novel which, like Lavie Tidhar’s previous book ‘Central Station’, provides a cross-section of a marvellous world, though in this case a less fractured picture than that previous book. Part physics, part mysticism, it conveys a truly compelling multicultural tale of discovery and mystery.”
SF Crowsnest

“With gentle wit and strong alternate history, Tidhar pokes at the folly of humanity and wonders whether even if historical calamities are avoided, we’ll just come up with new ones to replace them. Threaded with themes of identity and belonging, Tidhar once again delivers an intriguing novel with multiple realities and hard-boiled detectives.” –Geek Dad “I’ve long been convinced of Tidhar’s genius, and Unholy Land just further cements that in my brain. What Tidhar writes today is where science fiction will go tomorrow. Unholy Land is a stunning achievement, a masterful and thought-provoking novel.”
Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar took me on a crazy ride across genres and space and time and I want to do it all over again.”
The Literate Quilter 

“A gripping thriller: clever, bloody, ironic and twisted.”

“A novel which can be read on all sorts of levels, each as rewarding as each other, whether as sheer entertainment or serious speculation, making Tidhar a rather unique writer who seldom comes up with the expected and for whom each book is a challenge to the imagination.”
Crime Time

“An unconventional book, from an author who is wildly imaginative and innovative. The prose is wonderful, the ideas are fascinating, and the whole book is very sensual, in that it evokes all your senses.”
We Three Readers

“Award-winning fiction… Beautiful, lyric prose… Dramatic, cathartic science fiction stories. That’s the arena that author Lavie Tidhar occupies when he writes.”

“The blend of politics, allegory, and alternate-history detective novel is unconventional yet weirdly wonderful.”


About the Author

Lavie Tidhar (The Bookman; A Man Lies Dreaming; The Violent Century) is the author of the breakout Campbell and Neukom award-winning novel Central Station, which has been translated into ten languages. He has also received the British Science Fiction, Neukom Literary, and World Fantasy awards. Tidhar was born in Isreal, grew up on a kibbutz, has lived in South Africa, Laos, and Vanuatu, and currently resides in London.


Praise for Central Station

Awards and Achievements

2017 John W. Campbell Award winner
2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award winner
2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, Best novel
2016 British Science Fiction Award longlist, Best novel
2017 British Science Fiction Award winner, Best artwork
2017 Geffen Award, Best Translated Science Fiction Book nominee
An NPR Best Book of 2016
A Tor.com Best Book of 2016
An Amazon Featured Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book
A Kirkus 2016 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy pick
A Barnes and Noble Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016
A UK Guardian Best SF & Fantasy Book of 2016

[STARRED REVIEW] “World Fantasy Award–winner Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming) magnificently blends literary and speculative elements in this streetwise mosaic novel set under the towering titular spaceport . . . Readers of all persuasions will be entranced.”
Publishers Weekly

[STARRED REVIEW] “A fascinating future glimpsed through the lens of a tight-knit community. Verdict: Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming; The Violent Century) changes genres with every outing, but his astounding talents guarantee something new and compelling no matter the story he tells.”
Library Journal

“It is just this side of a masterpiece — short, restrained, lush — and the truest joy of it is in the way Tidhar scatters brilliant ideas like pennies on the sidewalk.”
NPR Books

“Beautiful, original, a shimmering tapestry of connections and images—I can’t think of another SF novel quite like it. Lavie Tidhar is one of the most distinctive voices to enter the field in many years.”
—Alastair Reynolds, author of the Revelation Space series

“If you want to know what SF is going to look like in the next decade, this is it.”
—Gardner Dozois, editor of the best-selling Year’s Best Science Fiction series

“A dazzling tale of complicated politics and even more complicated souls. Beautiful.” —Ken Liu, Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy winner and author of The Grace of Kings

“If Nalo Hopkinson and William Gibson held a séance to channel the spirit of Ray Bradbury, they might be inspired to produce a work as grimy, as gorgeous, and as downright sensual as Central Station.”
—Peter Watts, author of Blindsight

Central Station is masterful: simultaneously spare and sweeping—a perfect combination of emotional sophistication and speculative vision. Tidhar always stuns me.”
—Kij Johnson, author of At the Mouth of the River of Bees

Central Station boasts complexity without complication, sharp prose, and a multi-dimensional world.”
—Jeffrey Ford, author of The Girl in the Glass

“A unique marriage of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, C. L. Moore, China Miéville, and Larry Niven with 50 degrees of compassion and the bizarre added. An irresistible cocktail.”
—Maxim Jakubowski, author of the Sunday Times bestselling Vina Jackson novels

“A mosaic of mind-blowing ideas and a dazzling look at a richly-imagined, textured future.”
—Aliette de Bodard, author of The House of Shattered Wings

“I recommend it highly. It’ll stay with you for days, because every idea in it has more ideas under it. It’s all of science fiction distilled into a single book.”
—Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan and Gun Machine

“Sublimely sensual, emotionally moreish, and composed with crystalline clarity irrespective of its incredible complexity.”

“Brimming with sensory detail and paying tribute to a plethora of science-fiction tropes, there are few works to rival Central Station.”
Intergalactic Medicine Show

“Amidst the loves and the fears, Tidhar reminds us of the intoxicating and invigorating power of longing and nostalgia.”
The Jewish Standard

Praise for  the World Fantasy Award-winner, Osama

“Bears comparison with the best of Philip K. Dick”
The Financial Times

World Literature Today

Praise for The Violent Century

“A tour de force”
—James Ellroy, bestselling author of L.A. Confidential

“A stunning masterpiece”
The Independent

“A new masterpiece”
Library Journal

Jewish Standard

Praise for A Man Lies Dreaming

“A twisted masterpiece”

The Telegraph


Praise for The Bookman

“An emerging master”

“A steampunk treasure”
SFF World

“Sparks like a Roman candle”
Publishers Weekly


Visit the Lavie Tidhar website. Follow him on Twitter.

Other books by this author…