The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

the-unknown-terroristFiction — print. Grove Press, 2007. Originally published 2006. 320 pgs. Library copy.

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. After spending a night with an attractive stranger, she has become a prime suspect in the investigation of an attempted terrorist attack. When police find three un-exploded bombs at a stadium and her enigmatic lover goes missing, Davies spends five days on the run and witnesses every truth of her life twisted into a betrayal.

Flanagan’s novel is not what you would expect because the jacket blurb did not completely, accurately portray what the novel is about. Yes, Gina Davies, known professionally as “The Doll” or “Krystal,” is an adult entertainer, who finds herself the prime suspect in a terrorism case after a one-night stand with Tariq. But The Unknown Terrorist is more about the modern world as it is when fear is rampant and politicians, the media, and the world play off the common man’s fear. The novel is more about how if you’re in the wrong place and the wrong time and dots that don’t exist are connected, you can be presumed guilty until proved guilty and you can locked away without a warrant, without a trial.

“The police, if she turned herself in, were not going to believe her; she worried that the media, if she approached them, would set her up, while killing herself seemed attractive but painful and difficult. And so she hoped that something outside of herself would change and prove her innocent, just as something outside her had changed and seemed to be turning her into an outlaw.” (pg. 141)

It’s an interesting read because of its commentary on the state of the society we live in. The Unknown Terrorist declares that terrorism is more of a threat from within a society than from the terrorists. Blame has to placed somewhere, and fear makes people do things they would not normally, not should, get away with.

“They can take everything from you, Wilder. They makes these things up, they take something innocent about your life and say it proves you’re guilty, they take a truth and they turn it into a lie. How can they do that? Like, there’s this guy today at the ferry terminal, reading these lies about me in the paper, and he’s shaking his head and swearing about me. I knew he believed them because up until yesterday I was like him, just hanging around, waiting for this or that, swallowing all the crap I read and heard, and then just puking all the crap back up.” (pg. 164)

For the last one hundred pages, I was frantically flipping the pages, trying to reach the conclusion. But for most of the beginning and certainly the middle, I bored out of my mind. The ending was a bit of a letdown and, in the traditional sense, it wasn’t much of an ending at all. However, The Unknown Terrorist isn’t exactly a “traditional” book.

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