There are places I'll remember all my life - red square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of 8-Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theatre of Death.
–Terry Hayes - I am Pilgrim - c.2012
Where to start talking about this book?
Well, I didn’t get off to a great start with it, because something about it style of writing just didn’t agree with me. And then in chapter three someone was described as having an “Asian accent”, and that threw me out of the book as I wondered what exactly that was… That was followed by
a Chinese-American, who everyone called Bruce, for obvious reasons and I almost noped out of there then, because, what now? I get the Bruce Lee reference, but what was the obvious reason? and if he was the “Asian” guy from earlier, now identified as Chinese American why would he have this Asian accent.
So right from the start I wasn’t enamored with this book. But it was my book club’s selection, and I had heard so many people say how great it was that I decided I had to keep reading.
And, apart from the obvious anti-Islam1 slant of the novel I didn’t notice a huge amount more2 , but then again maybe I just wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention, because this is a huge book filled with a huge amount of information and data that the reader doesn’t really need to know. I think maybe you could have edited half the detail out and it still would have worked. It reminded me a lot of Tom Clancy’s style of writing, where every last technical details must be described in way too much detail; and I’ve already read his ebola-terrorism story so maybe I just didn’t need another bioterrorism warning at the moment.
That being said, it is an easy read, if you skim those bits of needless data, which I did from time to time. I also skimmed some of the torture bits because I really don’t need to know how it feels to have my eyeballs cut out.
But that brings me to another issue with the book. The narrator. Or just who is telling the story. Because it starts out as a first person narrator, and then he is the one telling us all these other bits and pieces of the story as his investigation uncovers and reveals the truth, but that is just preposterous. How on earth could this narrator know even half of what his narration revealed. And every time I’d wonder that it would pull me out of the story.
So I guess I didn’t really enjoy this book all that much. It felt very much like I’d seen this book before and really, do we need another story where a brilliant white male loner saves the world from evil brown people. I’m not objecting to books about investigating terrorism and extremist groups, but maybe have a bit of nuance in your depiction of people rather than sunglassess on a woman are enough to turn you to the dark side3
There is supposed to be a sequel out at some point, but I can’t see myself picking that one up. As for the promised film adaptations, a whole series of films is the plan so I’ve read. Thats a doubtful hmmmm from me.