The Unknown Terrorist is a fast-paced, sexually charged whodunit8230;Flanagan's writing is a brilliant reflection of Gina's world. Full of steamy sex, drugs and violence, with a touch of high-status voyeurism, packaged into short chapters perfect for readers with limited attention spans, The Unknown Terrorist mocks the thriller genre even as it fulfills its expectations.
The New York Times
The standard model of good and evil is simple if not simplistic: Everybody on our side is good, and everybody on their side is bad. For anyone in the post-9/11 world who still believes this, Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist should be required reading -- with eyelids pinned open, if necessary, and forced to look. Flanagan, whose previous works are set in his native Tasmania, turns his unflinching gaze toward modern-day Sydney, in the aftermath of a terror bomb scare. Over three scorching summer days, we follow a dissolute cast: an exotic dancer, an opportunistic journalist and a populace blinded by the politics of fear.
The Washington Post
A life quickly flames out in Flanagan's firebrand follow-up to 2002's acclaimed Gould's Book of Fish. Gina Davies, a 26-year-old nightclub pole dancer (referred to throughout as "the Doll"), leads a provincial life in Sydney, Australia, spends $2,000 a month on clothes and is given to the occasional racist rant. But after a one-night stand with a man named Tariq, she turns on the TV and learns she's been pegged as the accomplice in an attempted terrorist attack on Sydney's Olympic stadium. She's instantly the most-wanted woman in Australia and the source of a raging tabloid media feeding frenzy led by sleazy TV journalist Richard Cody. The fast-paced narrative builds to a fittingly bloody crescendo, and Flanagan drops astutely cynical observations along the way (the Doll, for instance, "realized that her life was no longer what she made of it, but what others said it was"). A true page-turner as well as a timely, pithy critique of celebrity culture and the politics of fearmongering. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Sydney, Australia, post-9/11, may lack Mad Max's cutthroat gasoline pirates but is no less paranoid and dark. Gina Davies, a.k.a. the Doll, already leads a life in the margins. A pole dancer at the Chairman's Lounge, she's learned to embrace life's disappointments, socking away hundred-dollar bills in a hole in her bedroom ceiling while allowing herself one dream: to buy her own home one day. A chance meeting with a handsome surfer leads to a night of drug-infused sex. When the Doll wakes up, her tenuous shot at a "normal" life has disappeared, along with her lover—whose face can be seen all over the news, a su)spected al Qaeda terrorist. The Doll is wanted for questioning, and soon the relentless media and government propaganda machine is spinning lies about every aspect of her existence, sending her up as Australia's first domestic terrorist. Flanagan's (Gould's Book of Fish) 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.
Australian novelist Flanagan's creepy, heavy-handed suspense tale develops around a Sydney stripper caught tragically in a media-frenzied terrorist hysteria. At the Chairman's Lounge, an upscale gentlemen's club in Sydney, works a 26-year-old pole-dancer known as Krystal, or more often, the Doll, though her real name is Gina Davies-a dark-skinned loner who ran away from western Australia when she was 17 and has saved nearly $50,000 from her years dancing to escape to a new life. However, a series of unfortunate events shatters that dream when she spends the night with a fabulously rich, handsome, young foreign stranger, Tariq al-Hakim, a computer programmer and cocaine smuggler, with whom she is photographed entering his apartment house. At the time, the police are looking for a suspected terrorist in the recent bombing at Homebush Olympic Stadium, and Tariq, apparently, is their man, along with his suspected lady accomplice, the Doll, whose photograph is plastered all over the news. Enter the recently demoted second-rate TV newscaster Richard Cody, who frequents the strip club and recognizes the Doll-and a way to bolster his sagging on-air ratings. He begins shamelessly to pump the story in the news so that a veritable manhunt ensues for the stripper, who out of fear and a drug-induced muddle-headedness (cocaine, Zoloft, Stemetil) rejects the idea of turning herself in, and, with the help of her friend, fellow stripper and single mom Wilder, dyes her hair blond and goes into hiding. Nothing will stop Cody, however, especially when Tariq is found dead near the Doll's apartment; and the poor stripper's fate as the Unknown Terrorist is sealed. Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish, 2001) narratesthe story from a position of godlike omniscience, making grim pronouncements on society's rampant discrimination and fear of foreigners. His tender characterization renders Gina Davies's tale mightily plausible, and terribly sad. A writer who knows his characters and setting creates a compelling, timely work.