Carey has a gift for establishing an intriguing and somehow "believable" albeit fictitious environment, and I really appreciated some of the smaller, intimate sections between characters (with the exception of our boy Tristan Smith). Carey's almost on to some intrinsic quality of human nature, something very promising... and never quite delivers. Tristan himself is agonizingly bland; freakish, monstrous, petulant, and somehow simultaneously aware of it all, he still doesn't move the reader to either like or dislike him. I found myself not pitying Tristan, nor rallying behind him, so much as wishing he would quietly go elsewhere and let the other much more interesting characters take up the story. The majority of the book is delivered through Tristan's oddly flat and sterile remembrance of his childhood. I couldn't help but think of Herbert's Dune and the characters' weird abilities to somehow remember experiences of their parents while they were in utero. While Herbert pulls off the unusual device, Carey's sickly little Tristan has a narrative tone that is nothing short of odd, uncomfortable, and actually quite boring. The Sirkus is another disappointment; Tristan's muted recall dampens even the highlight of the book. Better to have written a fictitious tale of Australia, with "normal" people committing monstrous acts than use a monstrosity himself to banally reflect upon social unease. Tristan Smith is unusual; his life is not, and the difference breaks the book.