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From the internationally acclaimed author of Gould’s Book of Fish comes an astonishing new novel, a riveting portrayal of a society driven by fear. 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 From the internationally acclaimed author of Gould’s Book of Fish comes an astonishing new novel, a riveting portrayal of a society driven by fear. 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. In The Unknown Terrorist , one of the most brilliant writers working in the English language today turns his attention to the most timely of subjects — what our leaders tell us about the threats against us, and how we cope with living in fear. Chilling, impossible to put down, and all too familiar, 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.


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From the internationally acclaimed author of Gould’s Book of Fish comes an astonishing new novel, a riveting portrayal of a society driven by fear. 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 From the internationally acclaimed author of Gould’s Book of Fish comes an astonishing new novel, a riveting portrayal of a society driven by fear. 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. In The Unknown Terrorist , one of the most brilliant writers working in the English language today turns his attention to the most timely of subjects — what our leaders tell us about the threats against us, and how we cope with living in fear. Chilling, impossible to put down, and all too familiar, 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.

30 review for The Unknown Terrorist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    I'd like to report a case of identity theft. Someone has taken the name of Richard Flanagan, the author of the brilliant Gould's Book of Fish and the very good Death of a River Guide and published a novel, pretending it to be by him. They even used his picture on the back flap. I'm actually a bit worried because the first sentence was so good it sounded like Flanagan actually wrote it: The idea that love is not enough is a particularly painful one. This led me to believe that the kidnappers found h I'd like to report a case of identity theft. Someone has taken the name of Richard Flanagan, the author of the brilliant Gould's Book of Fish and the very good Death of a River Guide and published a novel, pretending it to be by him. They even used his picture on the back flap. I'm actually a bit worried because the first sentence was so good it sounded like Flanagan actually wrote it: The idea that love is not enough is a particularly painful one. This led me to believe that the kidnappers found him at his laptop and rendered him incommunicado. I hope he's safe and that the Australian authorities have been notified. What followed from that first sentence is dreadful. Made for TV shallow crap. Oh, Casting! Get me a TV journalist without a conscience. Get me a narcotics cop searching for truth. A stripper, please. Give her a female friend with a kid. Some mid-eastern guy with a line of coke. Make sure before every commercial break to pop up another coincidence to show how all these people are interrelated. Make sure everybody's favorite tune is Chopin's Nocturne in F minor. Like what else would a random taxi driver be playing? I have no idea how Flanagan's kidnapper's thought they could pull this off and have anybody believe Flanagan could or would write such drivel. I only hope he's safe and will be able to write again.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A taut, fast-paced thriller that owes a huge and well-acknowledged debt to Böll's Katharina Blum. The similarities are obvious: both protagonists spend a night with an attractive stranger who turns out to be a wanted criminal, and then find themselves tried and sentenced by the unscrupulous media. Each of them ends by murdering the journalist they see as responsible for the destruction of their personality. The differences are interesting: Böll's novel is set in the time of the Red Army Faction, A taut, fast-paced thriller that owes a huge and well-acknowledged debt to Böll's Katharina Blum. The similarities are obvious: both protagonists spend a night with an attractive stranger who turns out to be a wanted criminal, and then find themselves tried and sentenced by the unscrupulous media. Each of them ends by murdering the journalist they see as responsible for the destruction of their personality. The differences are interesting: Böll's novel is set in the time of the Red Army Faction, and pillories the populist 'Bild' newspaper, Flanagan is right up to date with the kind of hysterical response to the terrorist threat after 9/11, and has much to say about the role of fear in our Western societies. It's quite different to the other books I've read by Flanagan, but that doesn't detract from my enjoyment of it. I am full of admiration for a writer who does not stick to a winning formula but tries out a different genre, especially when it is so well executed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book is utterly unlike Richard Flanagan's other literary fiction novels. If this is the first and only book you have ever read by this Australian writer, don't make the mistake of dismissing him as a writer of polemic not-very-convincing thrillers. His other books, Death of a River Guide, Gould's Book of Fish and Wanting are brilliant, intriguing, complex novels that will reward every millisecond you put into reading them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gregsamsa

    If you like polemics as well as bad American summer movies, this is the ideal book for you. I however, as a huge fan of Richard Flanagan, found this novel painfully disappointing for a variety of reasons. These flaws stood out much more starkly for me because after having read Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish,Death of a River Guide and The Sound of One Hand Clapping, I have proof that he should know better. I hate to think that anyone would read this, his fourth novel, and base their If you like polemics as well as bad American summer movies, this is the ideal book for you. I however, as a huge fan of Richard Flanagan, found this novel painfully disappointing for a variety of reasons. These flaws stood out much more starkly for me because after having read Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish,Death of a River Guide and The Sound of One Hand Clapping, I have proof that he should know better. I hate to think that anyone would read this, his fourth novel, and base their opinion of him on what is quite a departure in terms of subject matter as well as quality. That first one, Gould's, is not just good. It's One Hundred Years of Solitude good. But this. This is an angry book, and I think he let it get the better of him. While he attempts to keep the narrative voice to a terse noir-ish cool, occasionally he loses control. One particularly over-the-top example is when some media elites are living their swimming pool and Mercedes lifestyles, building a life of luxury and privilege on lies and sensationalism while riling up the public with fear and hatred. Flanagan starts speaking for them in a wildly unself-conscious "We" as they brag (to whom?) about how deliciously decadent they are in terms so bald even outright sociopaths would cringe and look for euphemisms. It was Flanagan inserting himself with embarrassing obtrusiveness to render a scene that was not only unnecessary to the plot but was redundant thematically, pounding away at a point even the densest reader would have gotten many pages ago. Occasionally, however, when he gets carried away it is campy fun. For example, The Doll (the stripper who is mistaken for a terrorist) concocts an act where she appears onstage to twangy Middle Eastern music shrouded in the head-to-toe black of a chadoor with conveniently removable panels that she teasingly unlaces (?!) while her ever-more-naked flesh is crossed with the flickering loops and slashes of Arabic script that is being flashed on her body with a projector. Whoa. Settle down, dude. At the heart of the book is a coincidence of such jaw-dropping, head-slapping brazenness that is so insulting to the reader I almost felt like putting that spoiler at the very top of this review as revenge. Despite all this, I'm still a fan and would encourage anyone to Read Richard Flanagan; just not this one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Campion

    The cover art and the description of the book on the back cover are, unfortunately, the best part of this book. The author seems to want to make the point that people are sheep who enjoy being terrorized and who willingly submit themselves to manipulation by the government and mass media to that end. To make that point (which was, even by WW2, utterly a cliche), the author relies on lofty sounding phrases that are utterly empty and two dimensional characters, none of whom are sympathetic. I found The cover art and the description of the book on the back cover are, unfortunately, the best part of this book. The author seems to want to make the point that people are sheep who enjoy being terrorized and who willingly submit themselves to manipulation by the government and mass media to that end. To make that point (which was, even by WW2, utterly a cliche), the author relies on lofty sounding phrases that are utterly empty and two dimensional characters, none of whom are sympathetic. I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as I read, because the lack of strong editing meant that the author repeatedly (as in, about every 30-40 pages) using the construction, "All of a sudden, she realized that everything was X. And so it seemed to her it had always been. But the more she thought about X, the less true it seemed that everything was X." Plutarch made the point thousands of years ago that one of the best ways to unify a people is against a common enemy, even if you have to create one. If that's thematically appealing to you, avoid this book and read Plutarch instead.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    I hope Flanagan isn't going in this thriller direction again. Really miss his previous style. The one saving grace was that it forced me to listen to Chopin's Nocturnes. 29/11/2013 1 0f 20 books for $10 the lot

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    A solid three star book about a stripper who gets tangled up with a suspected terrorist, therefore becoming a suspect herself. The writing is fairly good, the dialogue lacks in parts, and sometimes the plot is a bit too far-fetched for my liking, but Flanagan delivers nonetheless an enjoyable read. Note: This is my 900th shelved book on Goodreads.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    Gina Davies, or "The Doll", is a pole-dancer working in a club in King's Cross, Sydney. Her life is simple, she works to save money for her own apartment and has nearly $40,000 already. She has no interest in politics or any issues that don't directly relate to her. On the night of the Mardi Gras, she bumps into a young man, Tariq, who, the day before, had saved the little son of her best friend, Wilder, from drowning at Bondi. He's attractive, and they start dancing before going back to his pla Gina Davies, or "The Doll", is a pole-dancer working in a club in King's Cross, Sydney. Her life is simple, she works to save money for her own apartment and has nearly $40,000 already. She has no interest in politics or any issues that don't directly relate to her. On the night of the Mardi Gras, she bumps into a young man, Tariq, who, the day before, had saved the little son of her best friend, Wilder, from drowning at Bondi. He's attractive, and they start dancing before going back to his place. He tells her all about his boring job, they have a wild night, and in the morning he's gone. The Doll leaves his building just before the police cars turn up, surrounding it. She thinks nothing of it. It's only later, when footage from the security cameras of her walking in with Tariq are all over the tv stations, that she freaks. The media quickly spin the story, turning it into a hunt for "the unknown terrorist" Gina Davies. Her life story is retold on the telly, and she is made out to be what they want her to be: a terrorist. This is inspired by true stories of people being followed and shot by police because they were carrying a backpack, or of the PhD student who was interrogated after borrowing certain books from the university library for his thesis. It's not far-fetched. It's a story that starts in one place and then starts spinning out of control. It takes place over just 5 days, and the pace is quick, the writing style reflective, introspective, thoughtful and omnipresent. It picks you up and sweeps you along to the inevitable conclusion. It's timely, especially in light of the whole Maher Arar situation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    This took a while to get going, but certainly packed a punch within a second half of impressive tension. The story follows a lap dancer in Sydney, and how her life begins to unravel after she has a one night stand with a man linked with Islamic terrorism. It’s an interesting slant in the frequent subject of ‘ordinary person caught in a series of unfortunate circumstances that bring them under threat’, but one which chooses more to satirise the media, the public, the authorities than to just use This took a while to get going, but certainly packed a punch within a second half of impressive tension. The story follows a lap dancer in Sydney, and how her life begins to unravel after she has a one night stand with a man linked with Islamic terrorism. It’s an interesting slant in the frequent subject of ‘ordinary person caught in a series of unfortunate circumstances that bring them under threat’, but one which chooses more to satirise the media, the public, the authorities than to just use this trope as a framework upon which to hang a thrilling adventure. This isn’t to say I was completely convinced - amongst a lot of really good characterisation there were some mis-steps, amongst the plot some slightly unconvincing coincidences - but it certainly was affecting in describing the brutality of inhumanity. Not quite as impressive as ‘The Narrow Road...’ as to me I felt more alienated from the characters, but certainly worth reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Flanagan states the thesis of this novel--for it is a novel in service of an idea--right up front: "The idea that love is not enough is a particularly painful one. In the face of its truth, humanity has for centuries tried to discover in itself evidence that love is the greatest force on earth." I thought The Unknown Terrorist was terrific, but not at first. It was more than just well-written. Flanagan is a dynamite writer, but it seemed to me it was all set up perfectly and it was clear what wou Flanagan states the thesis of this novel--for it is a novel in service of an idea--right up front: "The idea that love is not enough is a particularly painful one. In the face of its truth, humanity has for centuries tried to discover in itself evidence that love is the greatest force on earth." I thought The Unknown Terrorist was terrific, but not at first. It was more than just well-written. Flanagan is a dynamite writer, but it seemed to me it was all set up perfectly and it was clear what would happen. True enough. Then about half way through, having left the book idle for weeks on the bedstand, I picked it up again and suddenly couldn't stop. True enough it played out as I expected (and it turns out Flanagan says he took the plot from The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll) but the text and the commentary on trust and truth and love in our culture was phenomenal. Far more powerful than any political tract. The main character is "the Doll" or "Krystal", a pole dancer at a gentleman's club called The Chairman's Lounge in Sydney. Her real name is Gina Davies. She's in her 20ies, living a completely materialistic life dressed in designer clothes, eschewing banks and stashing cash to the amount of nearly $50,000 for a down payment on a apartment. She's chosen to exploit her body because she can make real money and buy some respect--more than she got of either at a call center. One night she meets the handsome Tariq at a Carnival and spends an passionate night with him. At the same time Richard Cody, aging TV anchorman in danger of being eclipsed, recognizes her in a surveillance photo with Tariq who's become a suspect in a failed stadium bombing that has scared the population and made it necessary for the perpetrator to be caught and punished. Cody recognizes her because she snubbed him outside The Chairman's Lounge. As security and news and government personnel seek to find the would-be terrorist, they latch onto Tariq largely because he's disappeared, though they later find he's been in and out of Pakistan (where he has relatives and where he's gone to collect drugs). Richard Cody identifies Gina in the photo and decides to consider her an "accomplice" to the "terrorist". As the authorities pull out all the stops to find her, Cody plans a TV exclusive that will show the government at work to catch the dangerous terrorists--and fast. He ignores the possibility that Gina--and even Tariq--might be innocent. When Tariq's body turns up in a trunk, Gina becomes "the terrorist" and a likely murderer as well. By that time the government, the security services, and Cody and his TV network have too much at stake to care about the truth. After all a programmer cum low-level drug dealer and a pole dancer are just the sorts you want to accuse of being "homegrown terrorists" if you have to accuse anyone--and of course they do in order to ally public fears and remain in control. As she flees, the reader learns more and more about Gina, both why her background makes her the perfect "fall guy" and why she is afraid to try and clear her name by going to the police. I've read two others by Flanagan: Gould's Book of Fish and Wanting, both of which I liked and both of which were rich in the kind of cultural observation that really makes sense to me, but neither with the sheer power and single-mindedness of this one. I'm not saying that makes it a better novel, but it makes it maybe the best political argument I've read in a long time. I will recommend that everyone read it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    B. Asma

    The story captivates because the irony and hopelessness of Gina Davies's (aka the Doll) situation escalates over a couple of days. She is unable to rebut her slanderers or to find help without risk. Listeners to and readers of the media are relieved that the authorities find their man and woman. Her solution to the spreading evil lies about her entire life is solved by her just as she meets her own final doom from the misfired gun of a potential helper. Her face the populace associates with thei The story captivates because the irony and hopelessness of Gina Davies's (aka the Doll) situation escalates over a couple of days. She is unable to rebut her slanderers or to find help without risk. Listeners to and readers of the media are relieved that the authorities find their man and woman. Her solution to the spreading evil lies about her entire life is solved by her just as she meets her own final doom from the misfired gun of a potential helper. Her face the populace associates with their fears. The story opens the possibility that she could have been anyone unconnected. Like a toy doll, she serves the fantasies of others. The novel is pessimistically critical about the human condition but is optimistically hopeful about the possibility of raised consciousness. The motivations of media and socially powerful influences are cynical, i.e., are not spared a good word. Like the Doll, consumers of material goods are manipulated into purchases, unlimited gain, and debt. Slanted news stories did not emerge in the 21st century; the spread of falsehoods about unknown or strange others did not begin then either; and the tragic, independent character with a messy problem goes back to the Greek classics. Those perennial elements of literature in this novel are set in contemporary, Antipodean life and are written about in the plotted, fast-paced style of a thriller genre. Few if any escape censure in this novel, neither those passive in overwhelming circumstances nor those deceitful in responsible office.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ali6

    This sounded like an interesting book, but I hate the way it's written. Does the author refer to each character by first AND last name EVERY TIME? Throughout the ENTIRE book?! My god, there's nothing that irritates me quicker. An annoying example to share: "Then he turned to Richard Cody and told him that exciting things were afoot at Six....He waited for Richard Cody to say something, and so Richard Cody said something, but it was like telling Jerry Mendes he didn't smoke, for Richard Cody knew This sounded like an interesting book, but I hate the way it's written. Does the author refer to each character by first AND last name EVERY TIME? Throughout the ENTIRE book?! My god, there's nothing that irritates me quicker. An annoying example to share: "Then he turned to Richard Cody and told him that exciting things were afoot at Six....He waited for Richard Cody to say something, and so Richard Cody said something, but it was like telling Jerry Mendes he didn't smoke, for Richard Cody knew whatever he said at this point was irrelevant." Where did this guy learn to write? I should've realized when it said on the cover that it "deserves to win Flanagan the sort of readership enjoyed by Don Delillo..." I should have put it down. I hated Delillo's "Falling Man" also. In my opinion, this book sucks. There aren't very many books that I'll give up on after less than 30 pages, but this is one of them.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jillwilson

    It was interesting reading this at the moment given the almost voyeuristic overkill of the 9/11 anniversary.This is a highly political nobel, even a polemic, arguing that almost anyone can be turned into a 'terrorist' given our shock-jock media, two second sound bites and the loss of civil rights through anti-terrorism legislation. It's not the best writing in the world - Flanagan has adapted the thriller genre so none of the characters are fully formed and there are was too many coincidences. I It was interesting reading this at the moment given the almost voyeuristic overkill of the 9/11 anniversary.This is a highly political nobel, even a polemic, arguing that almost anyone can be turned into a 'terrorist' given our shock-jock media, two second sound bites and the loss of civil rights through anti-terrorism legislation. It's not the best writing in the world - Flanagan has adapted the thriller genre so none of the characters are fully formed and there are was too many coincidences. It's written in the kind of bitterness that these times seem to create. (Like going to a dinner party where everyone is depressed about the current government and there is no source of hope). Our bookclub discussed it - and the next day I read about the 50 new pieces of security legisation that had come into being in Australia post 9/11 - it's real. Alan Jones is real. Politicians distort events for their own ends. All real. It's just hard to get away with a novel that's so unrelenting in its anger. Interestingly, the topic that occupied us the longest was the one sex scene in the book. Very hard to talk about, sex, because it's so personal and what is one man's turn-on is definitely not for someone else. That became clear in the discussion. We were trying to think of examples of men writing well about sex (for women). I expect that we wouldn't necessarily agree even if we could think of some examples to start with. (Let me add though, that sex is definitely not central to the novel though the main chacater is a pole dancer.)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ti

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had a hard time with this book. It started out rough.. got better...and then ended poorly. A young woman, who makes her living as a pole dancer in a gentleman's club, has a one night stand with a handsome stranger. This leads the authorities to believe that she is a terrorist. Instead of going to the police to explain the situation, she decides to go into hiding. My problem with this novel was not her profession... or her lack of education...or the dark and depressing subject matter... my prob I had a hard time with this book. It started out rough.. got better...and then ended poorly. A young woman, who makes her living as a pole dancer in a gentleman's club, has a one night stand with a handsome stranger. This leads the authorities to believe that she is a terrorist. Instead of going to the police to explain the situation, she decides to go into hiding. My problem with this novel was not her profession... or her lack of education...or the dark and depressing subject matter... my problem is that the main character seemed to to be driven, only by money, and not much else. I get that she probably needed to focus on something material, in order to get her through her grisly line of work, but when she was accused of being a terrorist... I didn't get that she was genuinely panicked over it. She just seemed to flit from one location to another.. perhaps it was her drug use. She seemed to be looking at things through a filter. The book was at least 75 pages too long. It just went on and on and when the ending finally came, it was a total let down. There really wasn't any resolution (not in a traditional sense). I would not recommend this book to anyone and I won't be reading another Flanagan novel in the future.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shonna Froebel

    This is a great book that touches on the fear-mongering and media influence of the world today. The main character, Gina Davies, aka The Doll, aka Krystal, is a pole dancer in one of the popular nightclub's in King's Cross, Sydney. She is a loner, and aims to buy a decent home when she has enough money saved. But fate intervenes and she is caught up in something that she cannot control. The story given by the authorities about Gina she knows is not true, but as it grows and morphs, she finds she This is a great book that touches on the fear-mongering and media influence of the world today. The main character, Gina Davies, aka The Doll, aka Krystal, is a pole dancer in one of the popular nightclub's in King's Cross, Sydney. She is a loner, and aims to buy a decent home when she has enough money saved. But fate intervenes and she is caught up in something that she cannot control. The story given by the authorities about Gina she knows is not true, but as it grows and morphs, she finds she cannot find anyone who will speak for her. The authorities encourage the fear created by the story, and the media enjoy their power and contacts. In just two days, Gina has gone from being a struggling young woman, with few friends and a hard life to being the most wanted terrorist in Australia. And yet the book reads true. Flanagan shows how it happens, step by step, and the sadness of it is compelling. This book is definitely worth the read, and will make you look at the media in perhaps a different way (unless you are already extremely cynical!).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    To say that I was disappointed with this novel would be an understatement. After enjoying Flanagan's amazing Gould's Book of Fish I expected a similar performance. That did not occur and this novel is pedestrian at best. Although the basic outlines of this story come from Heinrich Böll’s novel “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum,” written in response to the terrorism scares that Germany suffered in the late 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Flanagan has turned the story into a meditation upon the post-9/11 wor To say that I was disappointed with this novel would be an understatement. After enjoying Flanagan's amazing Gould's Book of Fish I expected a similar performance. That did not occur and this novel is pedestrian at best. Although the basic outlines of this story come from Heinrich Böll’s novel “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum,” written in response to the terrorism scares that Germany suffered in the late 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Flanagan has turned the story into a meditation upon the post-9/11 world, a globalized world in which fear is a valued commodity for terrorists and governments alike, a world in which rumors and misinformation circumnavigate the globe in the flash of an eye, and narratives replace facts and truths. While the plot was nicely paced the writing and characterization was barely adequate and his attempt at a message suffered as a result. I hope that Flanagan's next novel returns to the quality of his earlier work.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Silver

    I felt compelled to write a review of this book because of all the loathing I am seeing against it. Now this is my first Flanagan so I cannot compare his writing style in this book to others but as someone reading the author for the first time I did not find the writing to be off-putting, lacking or inadequate in any way. I thought the prose was quite compelling and honestly I felt there were subtle complexities woven within the story. Flanagan shows the balance between both the ugliness and bea I felt compelled to write a review of this book because of all the loathing I am seeing against it. Now this is my first Flanagan so I cannot compare his writing style in this book to others but as someone reading the author for the first time I did not find the writing to be off-putting, lacking or inadequate in any way. I thought the prose was quite compelling and honestly I felt there were subtle complexities woven within the story. Flanagan shows the balance between both the ugliness and beauty in people and society as a whole. Some of the characters may be just outright despicable others have both their unappealing moments with glimmers of redeeming qualities. None are perfect and granted few are entirely likable without deep flaws. One thing I have observed is often books/authors that are heavily criticized tend to be books written by authors who heavily criticize the masses. While this book gives us glimpses of goodness, optimism, and hope it shines a very ugly (though I tend to think truthful) light on society. Many people state that the themes and ideas of this book are outdated and cliche but the issues he addresses, predominately governments wanting to control through fear and the media sensationalizing the truth in order to stir up the bees in the hive our currently happening right now. I would say the book is far more poignant than it is dated.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Billie-Jade

    This book is equal parts suspenseful, emotional, and sociopolitically relevant. A stripper is falsely accused of being a terrorist when she one night dons a burka to enhance her seductiveness and mystery. One of her clients is a 'failing' journalist, and hoping to reclaim his career, pitches a story about the stripper's 'extremist' behaviour. Bolstering this claim is photographic proof of the stripper and her one-night-stand lover; the man is "Muslim", but seems very moderate considering his par This book is equal parts suspenseful, emotional, and sociopolitically relevant. A stripper is falsely accused of being a terrorist when she one night dons a burka to enhance her seductiveness and mystery. One of her clients is a 'failing' journalist, and hoping to reclaim his career, pitches a story about the stripper's 'extremist' behaviour. Bolstering this claim is photographic proof of the stripper and her one-night-stand lover; the man is "Muslim", but seems very moderate considering his party animal penchant. (The two had met at The Mardi Gras, and celebrated after with cocaine and sex). Such is evidently not the case when the following morning he leaves her sleeping and sets out to bomb Homebush Stadium (in Sydney). Disoriented from excessive booze and drugs, the stripper leaves his apartment and the headlines soon appear. To be continued when I get a chance!!! Just knockin' off work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I hate-read this book after the first 60 or so pages instead of quitting entirely, because it was just so awful, but I felt like I couldn’t give up on it because Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North was so excellent that I still think about it years later. This book is the opposite. I understand what he was going for thematically, but it was so terribly written and so predictable that I can’t even understand how this was written by the same author as Narrow Road.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robbo

    Great book, on par with his Booker award.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate Mitchell

    This is the second novel by RF that I have read and enjoyed. Assured, beautiful prose, compelling plot and characters. To add to the pleasure, I find that despite, or perhaps because, he is Australian, he has written a book about the Franklins, explorers from just down the road here. That's going on my TBR pile immediately.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Walter Van praag

    Always assured of a well researched good read with Flanagan and this is no exception. This book chronicles a series of events that lands The Doll, a Sydney Kings Cross Poledancer, as a nation wide hunted suspect terrorist. If you ever wondered how a smart young woman ends up working in a strip club, how the media influences our lives and how it effects us do read this captivating book. Read how The Doll is chased through life and meet the seedy side of Sydney. Well worth the read!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    Although it is very different in tone and style and subject matter, my experience reading this book reminded me a little of how I recently felt reading "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England". The narrator of that book did one stupid thing after another and the reader was supposed to accept these actions as reasonable because the character is described/definned as a bumbler. In real life of course people do not fall quite so neatly into such categories. Someone may bumble most of Although it is very different in tone and style and subject matter, my experience reading this book reminded me a little of how I recently felt reading "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England". The narrator of that book did one stupid thing after another and the reader was supposed to accept these actions as reasonable because the character is described/definned as a bumbler. In real life of course people do not fall quite so neatly into such categories. Someone may bumble most of the time in certain areas but navigate smoothly through other sets of circumstances. As Chris Rock noted in one of his comedy routines when describing his political leanings - "I have some things that I'm conservative about, and some things that I'm liberal about". Nobody is always liberal or always conservative or always a bumbler, though it is true that some people act a certain way far more often than not. The "title" character of The Unknown Terrorist is a fairly complex one with a well fleshed out background, and the storyline is fueled by much bigger ideas than the comical Arsonist book. But I couldn't shake the feeling as I sped through its pages that the actions of pivotal characters were specifically intended to promote strong opinions held by the author and nothing but. He wanted to make certain points about politics and the media and about how easily the sheep like masses can be led to a prefabricated conclusion. If at any point one of the major characters in this reasonably but not overwhelmingly well written book behaved in a way that I personally believe would have been more realistic reactions/responses, the book would completely fall apart because little else was holding it in place. The wrongfully accused woman needs to be so paranoid from the get go (her drug use helped in this regard, I suppose) and distrustful of authority that the only thing she can think to do is run and hide even before she's really being chased. The decision makers in the media need to be so obsessed about breaking a big story that not only does truth become irrelevant, but so does having supporting evidence of any kind. The author is OBVIOUSLY cynical about our post 9/11 world, and anyone who does not have their head shoved deeply in the sand can recognize why this might be so, but I found myself torn between wanting to follow the storyline to where it was blatantly leading and wanting the characters to break free of the author's plot machinations and act in a common sense manner that would likely clear matters up within a few pages of text. Despite such frustration with plausibility, this was definitely a gripping and smooth flowing read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    P.A. Baines

    This another book I am going to review early because there's a chance I may not finish it. The author writes some excellent prose, but this alone is not enough to make a good story. It is rare that my mind will wander during the first few chapters, but this is exactly what happened this morning. The prose is good, so what's the problem? Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that the author relies almost completely on "telling" as opposed to "showing". This is key because a reader will strug This another book I am going to review early because there's a chance I may not finish it. The author writes some excellent prose, but this alone is not enough to make a good story. It is rare that my mind will wander during the first few chapters, but this is exactly what happened this morning. The prose is good, so what's the problem? Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that the author relies almost completely on "telling" as opposed to "showing". This is key because a reader will struggle to invest his emotions into a character that we are told is a great person. It is like listening to your friend at a funeral tearfully recounting how wonderful the dearly-departed was. You never met the person so your friend's description means nothing to you. Had you spent a lot of time getting to know the deceased, however, then you might feel something. Similarly, an author should not tell you about their characters but rather introduce them to you and move you in with them. Also, the story's beginnning lacks a hook. He waxes philosophical about love and Nietzsche, even taking a hopelessly ill-informed swipe at Jesus, but it adds nothing. Next, he introduces a (the?) main character, but there is still no story. Then, without warning, we have a small drama. There is no tension or pacing. Something bad happens, clearly as a vehicle for introducing another character. It's all very slow and predictable. I'm going to continue and hope for the best. I want to finish this one, but it isn't looking good.... Update: I'm at the halfway point and things are definitely improving. The author managed to hold my interest in spite of my earlier misgivings. The suspense is building nicely and I want to know what is going to happen next. My biggest complaint about the first half the book is that it is sexually very explicit. If this were a film it would be x-rated (at least). The author goes into a lot of detail regarding the MCs job (pole dancer) and her sexual encounter with a mysterious stranger. This felt gratuitous at times and he could have created the same effect with a lot less.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christina M Rau

    Within the first few pages of Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist, I learned that Jesus Christ was a terrorist. I liked the book already. Then I was wisked away from Jesus Christ Terrorist to the strip clubs of Sydney, Australia where a stripper with four names (The Doll, Krystal, Gina, and The Black Widow) saves her cash in the ceiling instead of using a bank and finds a random man named Tariq to do coke with after giving several lap dances and shoving her bare ass into rich men's faces. Th Within the first few pages of Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist, I learned that Jesus Christ was a terrorist. I liked the book already. Then I was wisked away from Jesus Christ Terrorist to the strip clubs of Sydney, Australia where a stripper with four names (The Doll, Krystal, Gina, and The Black Widow) saves her cash in the ceiling instead of using a bank and finds a random man named Tariq to do coke with after giving several lap dances and shoving her bare ass into rich men's faces. The world of media blitz that blurs reality intertwines with the on-the-verge-desperate government attempt to oust all terrorists to create a very possibly world of entrapment and helplessness. When you're a stripper with no family, one friend, and bad judgement, you're a prime target for mistaken accusations. However, the intrigue wears thin by the middle of the novel. I wanted a fast-paced Dan Brownesque suspense novel. Instead, I got an introspective glance at divorce, parenthood, custody battles, affairs, and small time drug running. I do not need five pages of what the stripper is thinking when she's trying to make her next move. One page will do. We know the dire straits. Now go on with it. At points, I was hoping she would get caught, be stunned by a stun gun, and then get amnesia from falling from the shock, and then the book would be over and the final pages would be blank. Still, once I found my skimming skills to be quite helpful, I got to the part where the plot picks up and shoots ahead full steam, all seemingly unrelated lines braiding themselves together again and again. The pace picks up again. The world sucked me in once more. Then I got to the end. Then I got to the next end, wondering what more could be said? Oh, yes, there's that end and that end. I'm so used to novels that don't explain it all, it was surprising and nice to see that this one does give answers.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kim Elith

    Even though this was written 10 years ago it feels even more relevant to our current political and social climate. A complete departure from Flanagan's other works, this is a thriller which exposes and challenges the intolerance, fear and corruption that has characterised Australian society since Bush's era of the war on terror. Really riveting and shocking how quickly things escalate when you are fed half truths or "alternative facts" by politicians and the media - highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Woflmao

    The Unknown Terrorist tells the story of how, due to hysteria and fear mongering of the media, a stripper becomes a terrorist suspect overnight. Flanagan is a skilled writer whose prose flows along elegantly. The main character (the stripper whom the author only refers to as "The Doll" for some reason) is developed throughout the story, we get to know her bit by bit. She has a rather simple mindset, is mistrustful of authorities, and these traits keep her from trying to resolve the mistake which The Unknown Terrorist tells the story of how, due to hysteria and fear mongering of the media, a stripper becomes a terrorist suspect overnight. Flanagan is a skilled writer whose prose flows along elegantly. The main character (the stripper whom the author only refers to as "The Doll" for some reason) is developed throughout the story, we get to know her bit by bit. She has a rather simple mindset, is mistrustful of authorities, and these traits keep her from trying to resolve the mistake which leads to her being terrorist suspect, and instead make her go on the run. The weakness of the book lies in the construction of the plot and the other characters. The plot is driven by absurd coincidences, and it seems hard to believe that Flanagan was not able to do better. The characters other than The Doll, are cartoonishly overdrawn, vain, vengeful, vicious and corruptible (one might be tempted to think that Flanagan believes all people to be evil). The plotting and scheming of the people in power are a conspiracy theorist's wet dream and so exaggerated that this story must be taken as a satire rather than a serious take on the public's fear and its the manipulation by the media and authorities. For me, in the end the good writing outweighs the weakness of the plot, so I can still recommend this book for readers with an interest in the subject.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan Leonard

    Young woman has a date with a hot guy only to find out the next day that he is wanted by the police as a terrorist and she is sought as his accomplice. I thought this sounded like a great story, and the blurb on the back cover was glowing. Overall I was very disappointed. I found the characters to be stereotypical and the political comments so heavy-handed I felt I was being beaten over the head with a shovel. The story is set in Sydney which I have never visited so any sense of place was lost on Young woman has a date with a hot guy only to find out the next day that he is wanted by the police as a terrorist and she is sought as his accomplice. I thought this sounded like a great story, and the blurb on the back cover was glowing. Overall I was very disappointed. I found the characters to be stereotypical and the political comments so heavy-handed I felt I was being beaten over the head with a shovel. The story is set in Sydney which I have never visited so any sense of place was lost on me. I struggled throughout with the central character Gina - this is the story of a young female pole-dancer but is written by a man and written in the third person, and she is mainly referred to as The Doll. I found it very difficult to relate to her until almost the end of the novel, when Flanagan writes the back story of how Gina met Wilder which adds some much needed depth to their characters. I didn't like the ending much - I thought this over-sensational and unrealistic. But it's not all bad - I wanted to keep reading to find out how the story would finish, and there are some gems of great writing. I particularly loved how Flanagan described very hot weather: "It was difficult to sleep, yet almost impossible to move. It was easy to be irritated about everything of no consequence, yet care about nothing that mattered." Yep, I can relate to that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Unknown Terrorist is the fourth novel by Australian author, Richard Flanagan. After a night of passion with an attractive young stranger, Gina Davies wakes to everyone’s worst nightmare: she finds she has become a terror suspect. Within the space of three days, her life goes from one of happiness, of an optimistic future, to the surreality of being a fugitive with nothing. All it took was a bit of post-9/11 hysteria, some unexploded bombs in backpacks, a journalist’s career on a downhill sli The Unknown Terrorist is the fourth novel by Australian author, Richard Flanagan. After a night of passion with an attractive young stranger, Gina Davies wakes to everyone’s worst nightmare: she finds she has become a terror suspect. Within the space of three days, her life goes from one of happiness, of an optimistic future, to the surreality of being a fugitive with nothing. All it took was a bit of post-9/11 hysteria, some unexploded bombs in backpacks, a journalist’s career on a downhill slide, some sagging government approval ratings and a snub. For Sydneysiders, Flanagan’s characters feel familiar, their dialogue is genuine and the whole series of events has a completely plausible and a frighteningly authentic feel, even as they hurtle towards their tragic conclusion. As Flanagan demonstrates how easily a set of circumstances can condemn an innocent, he also shows the power of the media and fear-mongering. On terrorism, his main character muses: “…she had the odd idea that the terrorism question had become a fad, like body piercing or flares; a fashion that had come and would go like this season’s colours.” This powerful read is fittingly dedicated to David Hicks.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Covo

    This idea had potential, but is let down by the inconsistency of the writing. There's huge disparity between the best and worst of Flanagan's prose. His strongest writing was seen in his descriptions of Sydney. At times he really captured the flavour of the city, which is a pretty good accomplishment for a Tasmanian! His sketches of Bondi, the harbour, the Cross and the Mardi Gras were, for me, the highlights of the novel. Unfortunately it's let down by the cartoonish character development. I foun This idea had potential, but is let down by the inconsistency of the writing. There's huge disparity between the best and worst of Flanagan's prose. His strongest writing was seen in his descriptions of Sydney. At times he really captured the flavour of the city, which is a pretty good accomplishment for a Tasmanian! His sketches of Bondi, the harbour, the Cross and the Mardi Gras were, for me, the highlights of the novel. Unfortunately it's let down by the cartoonish character development. I found any scene containing the journalist Richard Cody to be completely unconvincing. The drug cop Nick Loukakis seemed to be an exact replica of Detective Leon Zat from the film "Lantana", and the drug baron Frank Moretti was a badly-drawn caricature. Any realism or grit Flanagan is able to inject into the novel through the city settings is lost with the appearance of his cast of clowns.

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