By Peter Carey
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385352772, 320pp.)
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
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The two-time Booker Prize winner now gives us an exceedingly timely, exhilarating novel—at once dark, suspenseful, and seriously funny—that journeys to the place where the cyber underworld collides with international power politics.
When Gaby Baillieux releases the Angel Worm into Australia’s prison computer system, hundreds of asylum-seekers walk free. And because the Americans run the prisons (let’s be honest: as they do in so many parts of her country) the doors of some five thousand jails in the United States also open. Is this a mistake, or a declaration of cyber war? And does it have anything to do with the largely forgotten Battle of Brisbane between American and Australian forces in 1942? Or with the CIA-influenced coup in Australia in 1975? Felix Moore, known to himself as “our sole remaining left-wing journalist,” is determined to write Gaby’s biography in order to find the answers—to save her, his own career, and, perhaps, his country. But how to get Gaby—on the run, scared, confused, and angry—to cooperate?
Bringing together the world of hackers and radicals with the “special relationship” between the United States and Australia, and Australia and the CIA, Amnesia is a novel that speaks powerfully about the often hidden past—but most urgently about the more and more hidden present.
PETER CAREY is the author of twelve previous novels and has twice received the Booker Prize. His other honors include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York City for more than twenty years.
Peter Carey's novel opens as a hacker's computer virus is unlocking prison cells around the world. He says, "Assange was the reason I started writing the book, but I didn't want to write about [him]." More at NPR.org
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“[This] lively 13th novel from the Australian magus Peter Carey will leave the mind reeling. It is tremendous fun, a satiric burlesque as fast as a speeding car, barbed as only Carey can be, seething with benign rage and as black as reality. . . . Carey is an intellectual magpie. Not much escapes the cerebral writer’s notice. . . . [Carey’s] inventive unpredictability is part of his appeal. The narrative energy of Amnesia is impressive, as are his brilliant handling of the many voices and his always fluent prose. . . . Carey has always been a gifted ventriloquist, and the dialogue in this fast-moving narrative gives the impression that the speakers are in the next room. We don’t so much read the dialogue as overhear it. Amnesia contains some of the sharpest characterization Carey has written. . . . Carey has always been a clever, entertaining writer with an adroit grasp of how things work, as well as a subtle feel for the political in everyday life, but this time he has created characters that are unnervingly human. . . . Amnesia is blunt and funny, brave and outspoken. . . . Carey says a great deal in an entertaining, provocative novel, weighty with polemical intent, yet he never forgets to tell a story that is as large as life and as exuberantly complicated, and, as regards setting the record straight, long overdue. If fiction can summon the now, this novel has.”
—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
“The brilliant Australian author explores digital activism, legacy journalism, US political interference and Australia’s collective forgetfulness about its past in this probing but rollicking novel. . . . Amnesia crackles with energy, inventive in its language (not least in its profanities) but never pretentious, emphasizing the value of straight talking and laughter.”
—Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express
“Peter Carey is such a varied and intriguing novelist there are times when it seems he can write anything. . . . [Amnesia is] exhilarating. It even has a viral twist at the end. As I said, Peter Carey can do anything.”
—James Runcie, The Independent
“Amnesia is exhilaratingly suffused with Carey’s wild prodigality of invention. . . . Amnesia glitters with nervy verbal inventiveness and pungent characterization. Carey conjures the longings and anxieties of his wayward teenaged idealists with the same pathos and precision with which he depicts the pains and disillusions of middle age.”
—Jane Shilling, Evening Standard
“A novel about the new American empire and its repercussions around the world, about technology and, most movingly, about family. It is slippery and compelling, written with the vivid precision that marks Mr. Carey’s best work. It appears at first as though he might, like Thomas Pynchon in Bleeding Edge or Dave Eggers in The Circle, be attempting to recreate the constantly shifting virtual world in the fixed text of a novel. But humanity, not machinery, lies at the book’s heart. . . . Mr. Carey, who has already won the Man Booker prize twice should be in with a chance for a third prize next year.”
“A twisting, thriller-ish tale . . . A sharp ripost to those who say fiction can’t cope with the cyber age. . . . Intriguing.”
—Paul Dunn, The Times
“All kinds of political trickery is afoot in this indignant, robustly and funny novel.”
—The Sunday Times (best recent books)
“Carey has twice the energy of most writers; but comedy, it’s clear, is something he takes very seriously indeed. . . . An ambitious novel that mixes the story of an Assange-like activist on the run from the US government with stories of political betrayal and bad faith stretching back to the Second World War.”
—Tim Martin, The Daily Telegraph
“When you open a new novel by Peter Carey you’re never sure what’s going to leap out at you. . . . [Amnesia] sizzles with indignation . . . Often rumbustiously funny, it has an almost Dickensian zest for colourful characters. . . . The cyber-underworld and its bizarre obsessives buzz with fascination. . . . Metaphorical vitality pulses through Carey’s prose. . . . Australia’s natural beauty . . . is as sensuously celebrated as the treacheries and lies he sees infesting its politics are scathingly portrayed.”
—Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times
“Australia’s greatest living writer.”
—David Robinson, The Scotsman
“A tale of betrayal, paranoia and conspiracy . . . Amnesia is at once a bold account of Australia’s uncomfortable and slippery relationship with the United States and an ambitious meditation on the writer’s uncomfortable and slippery relationship with facts and their audience. . . . A terrific book.”
—James Kidd, The Independent
“Peter Carey’s fiction is turbo-charged, hyperenergetic . . . Carey’s book is whirling and intricate, yet such is the excitement of the writing, we take the ride very gladly. . . . Like many of Carey’s books, Amnesia generates an aura of the fantastical but is completely grounded; it is high-spirited but serious, hectic but never hasty. . . . It responds to some of the biggest issues of our time, and reminds us that no other contemporary novelist is better able to mix farce with ferocity, or to better effect.”
—Andrew Motion, The Guardian
“Peter Carey, like John le Carre, has an uncanny knack of timeliness. . . . A remarkable novelist . . . The novel moves like wildfire. . . . Carey does intellectual ambition with a comic hand. . . . A wild ride . . . exhilarating . . . Carey is Australia’s lyrebird master of dialogue, perfectly tuned to every nuance, or upward intonation. . . . Effortlessly lyrical . . . In the great tradition, novelists (Dickens included) . . . [Carey] reconfigures life and times into provocative fictional form that we might better ponder who we are and what we might—or must—do next.”
—Morag Fraser, Sydney Morning Herald
“Never have I read a novel in which I could see the genius of the writer’s mind so phenomenally at work. Melbourne and the Australian language have never been so celebrated. I laughed and laughed, too.”
“Fantastically brilliant, gripping and astonishing it is . . . I couldn’t believe I was so completely caught by the throat by a story about malware and cyberspace and sabotage, with all its bravura language of the system, but then I began to realise it’s also about a whole dark stain of political history, about a mother and daughter, about power and brutality, about being young and furious, and above all, seductively to me, about the bloody strenuous painful work of writing a life from mixed testimonies, putting a life together, under the worst possible conditions—I thought Felix Moore in all his humanness, messiness and determination, was a masterpiece.”
“A raucous meditation on dissent . . . an ambitious novel . . . Carey’s capacity to define a character in a few cutting yet somehow empathetic words that gives the story its energy and depth . . . When Carey scratches the surface of his characters, he draws blood; he exposes raw emotions that are sometimes incoherent, sometimes self-serving, sometimes deeply compromising. . . . Carey is a writer who seems to want to celebrate, as much as to castigate, human flaws. He is sardonic and withering, but somehow optimistic. In Amnesia, the world is insidious and magnificent.”
—Patrick Allington, Australian Book Review
“A dystopian political thriller . . . exquisite . . . [with a] debt to everyone from Faulkner to Kerouac to Bob Dylan . . . [and] borrows from Graham Greene and John le Carré. . . . [Carey] rushes in, tests boundaries, takes risks, relying all the while on cantankerous charm and his innate dexterity as a prose writer. . . . It is the ferocious forward motion that impresses most.”
—Geordie Williamson, The Australian
“The story of WikiLeaks as if transmogrified by Dickens and turned into a thrilling fable for our post-Edward Snowden era. Written with forensic precision . . . Australian fauna and flora are done in glorious technicolour: kookaburras, butcherbirds, killer magpies.”
—Luke Harding, The Guardian