Peter Carey has wholly reimagined the world in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. It is vaguely futuristic, underlain with the sediment of a recently ruined past, just post-colonial, culturally monolithic, and although everything seems familiar, nothing is quite recognizable. Our guide here is Tristan Smith himself: a freak of nature, a 'cracked and mended pot' of flesh that hides a 'normal' human being. Tristan is everything one could ask for in a companion and interpretive center of attention - one way or another - wherever he goes, he is sharp-eyed and quick-witted, unsentimental and unforgiving: the perfect witness to the fact and extraordinary effect of his own 'monstrosity.'. Tristan takes us barrelling through his life and times (learning to be invisible and viable, coming of age, losing his mother, searching for his father, transforming himself from something people are afraid even to imagine into something already sanctioned for their imaginations), down a riotously populated, circuitous path that leads, finally, to the Sirkus: the newest entertainment opiate, the inspiration of slavish devotion in audiences, and, perhaps, the source of Tristan's ultimate transformation. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith is the picaresque made post-modern, a tragicomedy in constant, convulsive motion. It is Peter Carey's most audacious and powerful novel yet.