Unholy Land

Lavie Tidhar

Returning from Berlin to a Jewish homeland in East Africa, pulp-fiction author Lior Tirosh believes himself to be a detective from his own books. World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar (Central Station) delivers a brilliantly subversive new novel 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


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

When pulp-fiction writer Lior Tirosh returns to his homeland in East Africa, much has changed. Palestina—an alternate Jewish state established in the early 20th century—is constructing a massive border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in the capital, Ararat, is at a fever pitch.

While searching for his missing niece, Tirosh has come to believe he is a detective from one of his own novels. He is pursued by ruthless members of the state’s security apparatus while unearthing deadly conspiracies and impossible realities.

For if it is possible for more than one holy land to exist, the barriers between the worlds are beginning to break.

The author of the critically acclaimed, Campbell and Neukom Award-winning Central Station returns with this subversive new novel evoking Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and China Miéville’s The City and the City.

Praise for Unholy Land

“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

“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

About the Author

British Science Fiction and World Fantasy Award–winning author Lavie Tidhar was born in Israel. He has lived all over the world, including in Vanuatu, Laos, and South Africa, and is currently making his home in London. Tidhar has been compared to Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and to Kurt Vonnegut by Locus. His most recent novels, The Violent Century and A Man Lies Dreaming, were published to rapturous reviews in the UK, with the Independent referring to them as “masterpieces.”

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
“Exceptional” —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
“Unforgettable” —Jewish Standard

Praise for A Man Lies Dreaming

“A twisted masterpiece” —Guardian
“Unmissable” —The Telegraph
“Incredible” —Tor.com

Praise for The Bookman
“An emerging master” —Locus
“A steampunk treasure” —SFF World
“Sparks like a Roman candle” —Publishers Weekly

Visit the Lavie Tidhar website.

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Other books by this author…