Trekscribbler's Reviews > Drive

Drive by James Sallis
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's review
May 01, 2011

it was ok
Read in October, 2006

There's an old adage amongst some of us online reviewers that kinda/sorta goes like this: if you have to resort to frequently using words like "perfect," "riveting," "startling," and "stunning," you're more than likely describing what the story isn't for the average person because the average person -- the casual reader, Joe Six Pack with a good in his hands -- tends to find these adjectives descriptive of very specific events in his life ... events like falling in love, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass, and having a child. As a consequence of such overblown rhetoric, James Sallis' DRIVE ends up being memorable only on the grounds that one was duped into believing such a middleground neo-noir tale is destined to be literature's next classic when it'll probably be nothing in the next ten years.

Yes, it's "lean," and it could quite probably be read in a single sitting if not in a handful of hours, and, yes, it's full of the pretty-sounding, poetic prose any reader of Sallis has come to expect, but there's little meat on these bloodied bones: Driver sticks to what he does well -- he drives, be it for movie studios or as the getaway driver for a handful of hardened criminals -- but, once he's double-crossed, you find out he's a wealth of other talents in extracting revenge on those who set him up. The grim reality here is that no one REALLY sets Driver up; he simply takes the wrong job at the wrong time, and, as generally happens in noir tales, there's a price to be paid. Driver isn't fond of paying such a price, so he hits back at those he try to take him for a ... well ... er ... for a ride.

Unfortunately, unlike some of the other reviewers, I found the narrative extremely difficult to follow, as Sallis attempts to successfully unfold this yarn out of chronology -- think of it as sort of an even hipper, jet set, PULP FICTION type narrative where some events are even told twice ... with the same exact words and from the same point of view. It's a gamble -- a highly calculated gamble -- and I didn't feel it came off very well here. As a matter of fact, it forced me to flip back to the earlier section in the book to make certain I wasn't somehow lost in this 160-page novel.

Yes, DRIVE is certainly a noir tale, but it's hardly 'hard-boiled,' as Ohio's ThisWeek tries to make its readers believe. It's been my experience that critics who don't dabble in 'hard-boiled' literature usually do this -- attach the adjective to what they believe is 'hard-boiled' in order to sound relevant -- and this tends to produce a flattening effect: less people question the validity of the description and, instead, pick up the book and read. I give credit to Sallis to creating a inventive modern day noir, but, at this cynical, I give his salivating critics credit for selling more copies than was humanly necessary.
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message 1: by Kaion (new)

Kaion I haven't read this book (saw the movie adapatation last night), but what you say about use of "perfect" (etc) is really astute.

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