February 19, 2015

Review: Amnesia

Amnesia By Peter Carey
Available now from Knopf (Penguin Random House)
Review copy

Two-time Man Booker Award winner Peter Carey has written some amazingly beautiful books.  AMNESIA is not one of them.  It starts promisingly, with a young woman (Gaby Baillieux) using a computer virus to release Australian prisoners - and accidentally unleashing the virus on American prisons too.  I couldn't wait to read Carey's literary take on a sci-fi thriller premise.

Unfortunately, the actual main character is Felix Moore, a disgraced journalist who kisses basically every woman in the story despite being old, in debt, nationally regarded as a liar, and otherwise devoid of any personal magnetism.  The blurb describes him as 'known to himself as “our sole remaining left-wing journalist,”' which says basically everything you need to know about his self-aggrandizing asshole tendencies.  This is pretty typical of his thought process:

"I wasn't really a creep.  I was a good person. I had been secretly in love with her.  I had lost her to another man.  Now was not the time for that discussion." - page 62, ARC

The plot is a meandering thing, weaving back and forth in the past for multiple generations, tying obscure Australian history to Felix's romantic woes to Gaby acting like a twenty year old when she was supposedly born in 1975.  Not to mention Gaby herself doesn't really come into play until a third to halfway through the book, and then mostly through rambling tapes that get filtered to Felix.  Felix, whose only interesting quality is being an unreliable narrator.

I thought AMNESIA was a total, nigh impenetrable slog.  I kept having to look at the cover to confirm that yes, this wasn't some random other Peter Carey.  I don't even think this is essential for fans.

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