Richard Flanagans previous novels, including Goulds Book of Fish, have been some of the most acclaimed and beloved works of fiction in recent years. He has been described as a master of sleight of hand, adept at using words to conjure worlds, an indefatigable artist by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, and his new novel has been hotly anticipated by critics and readers alike. Now he delivers a mesmerizing thriller that demonstrates the breadth of his range and vision.
What would you do if you turned on the television and saw you were the most wanted terrorist in the country? Gina Davies is about to find out when, after a night spent with an attractive stranger, she becomes a prime suspect in the investigation of an attempted terrorist attack. Three unexploded bombs at a stadium, one attractive stranger now missing, and five days on the run, she witnesses every truth of her life twisted into a betrayal. The Unknown Terrorist is a relentless tour de force that paints a devastating picture of a contemporary society gone haywire, where the ceaseless drumbeat of terror alert levels, newsbreaks, and fear of the unknown pushes a nation ever closer to the breaking point.
In The Unknown Terrorist, one of the most brilliant writers working in the English language today turns his attention to the most timely of subjectswhat our leaders tell us about the threats against us, and how we cope with living in fear. It is an extraordinary achievement, chilling, impossible to put down, and all too familiar.
The Unknown Terrorist is set against a background of draconian anti-terror laws that were passed in Australia in 2005 following the bombings in Bali, Indonesia. Written as a wake-up call for Australians by an Australian, its story is a powerful morality tale for all of us living in increasingly paranoid nations. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Austin Chronicle - Richard Whittaker The Unknown Terrorist isn't flawless. Flanagan lets internal monologues spell out too much for the reader, and that same purple prose leads to some skimmable sex scenes. It's also unapologetically Australian. But Flanagan hits hardest when he uses the clear, brusque tone of the Ocker – the average Aussie on the street .... While it may be written as a wake-up call for Australia, it's also an alarming primer on the paranoia that is sweeping the world
Flanagan's...dystopic tale is raw, timely, cynical, and bleak. Recommended for mature audiences, especially for those unwilling to buy into the mass hysteria of the war on terror.
Booklist - Ian Chipman
[A] timely work of almost pathological anger directed at the stupidity and vileness of society driven to hysteria by a fearmongering media whose fanaticism is neck-and-neck with religious fundamentalism itself.
His tender characterization renders [the] tale mightily plausible, and terribly sad. A writer who knows his characters and setting creates a compelling, timely work.
Starred Review. A true page-turner as well as a timely, pithy critique of celebrity culture and the politics of fearmongering.
The Guardian - James Buchan
Flanagan's English is a barrage of adjectives, adverbs, brand names, similes, metaphors, sunnies, boardies, barbies, westies and Logies, which all curdle together in the incessant Sydney heat. Flanagan's publishers call the book "cacophonous". But the thriller suffers. What French critics call facture - the book's plumbing and wiring - shows signs of carelessness or indifference.
Sydney Morning Herald - David Marr
[D]on't come to Flanagan's novel for any particularly fresh understanding of the way public panic is manipulated in Australia these days. Flanagan's tactical mistake has been to simplify the moral contrasts to such an extent that disbelief soon begins to undermine the narrative. Channel Six and the cops are entirely bad; the Doll and Tariq are entirely innocent. Not even on a slow news day at The Australian could the press beat up this non-story so outrageously.
The Age - James Ley
[I]t is worth emphasising that The Unknown Terrorist is, on a formal level, a more than creditable thriller. In contrast to the rough-hewn extravagance of Gould's Book of Fish and the sinuous lyricism of The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Flanagan has adopted a suitably sharp prose style and the pace is swift.
For all its flaws, The Unknown Terrorist is a book I would encourage everyone to read. Like Andrew McGahan's recently published Underground, it takes some large risks in commenting directly upon contemporary politics.
Not merely a book which forces us to confront our own complicity in reasoning away injustices, The Unknown Terrorist is a fierce portrait of Australian politics and the media... Flanagan's final apocalyptic rendering of inner Sydney, as the Doll lurches through her final hours, is truly stunning... it is a book both crucial and compelling.
Descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemens Land (later renamed
Tasmania) during the Great Famine, Richard Flanagan was born in his native
island in 1961, the fifth of six children. He spent his childhood in the mining
town of Rosebery and left school at sixteen to work as a bush laborer. He later
attended the University of Tasmania, graduating with first class honours in
1982. The following year he was awarded a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford
He wrote four history books before turning to fiction. The Unknown
Terrorist is his fourth novel following Death of a River Guide (1994), The Sound of One
Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001).
He lives in Tasmania with his wife and three children. He is
a keen canoeist, having canoed the Franklin River thirteen times, and was a
member of the first expedition to canoe the Jane River and Gordon Gorge (one of
his nonfiction works is A Terrible Beauty - History of the Gordon,...
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