Tony Mac's Reviews > I Am Pilgrim

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

did not like it

This long and often rambling thriller just left a bad taste in my mouth. There's no denying that the author has clearly done a lot of research and he has an economical way with words that allows his often fragmented narrative to remain essentially readable. But there is still a lack of realism, shoddy plotting and a nasty veneer of racism, xenophobia and right-wing triumphalism that is barely hidden throughout.

For all the intricate plotting the story too often depends on some pretty unbelievable coincidences, all of it a result of trying to lever far too much in. There is simply no need to try to mesh a New York murder mystery with an international terrorist plot (not to mention a revenge vendetta). It all ends up contrived and silly and Hayes would have been better saving one plot for a sequel.

It's not even clear what kind of book the author is trying to write. Is it a serial-killer detective thriller, or a CIA confessional, or a middle-eastern polemic, or a James Bond exotic caper, or a race-against-time globe-trotting adventure? It tries to be all of these things and simply ends up confusing itself. As for our hero, a super-spy come existentialist loner, he's equally bemusing and unbelievable throughout: his backstory maudlin, his pompously self-styled expertise unconvincing, his effortless retirement unlikely and his actions irrational. He's like a cypher squeezed into whichever literary genre Hayes is cheerfully butchering at any given time.

However it's the tone and undercurrent of this book that are particularly repellent. The neocon posturing is endless as the author tut-tuts at every hackneyed liberal position from freedom of information to European Union immigration policy. One can only wonder at the kind of functional world he actually wants. All foreigners are reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes: corrupt officials, leering gigolos, psychotic jihadists, incompetent policemen, unscrupulous bankers, crass nouveau-riche. We even have a comic-relief Turkish hotel manager who seems to have wandered in from an old episode of the Benny Hill Show. All of them are irredeemably sleazy, particularly in contrast to our ever-principled American heroes, and all of them, bizarrely, appear fluent in American-style English, to avoid the author the trouble of translation or language barriers. Even the Saracen, for all the commendable detail put into his story, never amounts to much more than a typical fundamentalist nutjob, and his Achilles Heel at the end is totally unconvincing and negates 600 pages of careful development.

If you are a conservative American you'll probably love this. If not, beware. It's like Jack Ryan with Fox News editorials.
137 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read I Am Pilgrim.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 15, 2014 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Terry Foster I liked it a lot.

Francescopennesi Every word of this review is true.

Lawzdot completely agree. The racist xenophobia of this book is putting me off even tying to finish this book. White American government agents doing terrible things is apparently justified but if you are an Arab / Muslim doing it you are evil! A very warped view of world politics!

message 4: by Sean (new) - rated it 1 star

Sean Your review was wonderful. Funny while making good points.
I just wish I'd read your review before I finished this mediocre book.

Emmalc I completely agree. I persisted till the miraculous remaking of smallpox, then I threw it in the bin.

Shabina I am half way through the book Tony and I have to say I agree with your review so far. On the spot. In fact I am quite surprised at all the rave reviews this book is getting!

message 7: by Mike (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike C Fantastic review and oh so true

Maggie I'm a liberal and loved the book, but love your review. I think for me - I enjoyed the character the Saracen more than our Pilgrim. I thought it showed how one becomes a terrorist, the perspective of the other person, however skewed or misplaced it may be. But you bring up lots of great points and I enjoyed your review.

message 9: by Meg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Meg The last line of your review is priceless - an apt and very funny metaphor!

message 10: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Johnson I got this thriller because it was supposed to be the thriller of the year. It was also recommended by a friend that liked it. Am 230 pages in and starting to tire of the plot shifts. The perspective is neocon and it find it biased and dated - a perverted rationality at play. The arab terrorist comes over as the more sympathetic character. The book could been far better if the main character had some moral fibre, not so aloof and a but more liberal. Anyway liked your review very much.

message 11: by Paris (new) - rated it 1 star

Paris Jordan Absolutely spot on review. This book angered me to the corr and you have kindly articulated why (when I could not!) Thank you!

message 12: by Tero (new) - rated it 1 star

Tero Pajunen Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For a moment I thought it was just me. This is absolutely ridiculous book.

message 13: by June (new) - added it

June thank you for putting down in words the reasons for my visceral response to this book- couldn't even finish it..

Steve A third way in, and yes, although I wouldn'e be as harsh, it is a bit Ken Follett-ish and certainly leans to the neocon far right in its pandering. Shame, considering the author is an Aussie.

❁ Gabi ❁ Im on Chapter 10, and I'm already struggling to pick jt back up. I literally do not understand what he is trying to get at in the book??? And the fact that this guy is basically a mute and speaks ABOUT himself infuriates me. "I did this. I did that." The struggle is real.

Robert Guidi Tony, I couldn't have said it better. But although I agree with everything you say (and my brain screamed "leave it on the train" the whole way through) I couldn't not finish it. Even at the lacklustre ending, I actually wanted to see the protagonist survive. So, two stars, because one star would be a lie.

message 17: by Rose (new)

Rose I could not agree with you more. reading the comments has made me decide to stop reading it right now. I really need something good to read

message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim Smith What tosh. The Saracen's Achilles heel is clearly explained and is very plausible, being powerfully bound up in family, promises to the dying and religion too.

message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Brandel Wow, alot of lefties here! I loved this book.Great thriler,and I liked the writer's characterization of the Sarecene.

Maggie Well Paul lefties ARE the readers, let's be honest lol.. (kidding, kidding...) I loved it and lean left.

back to top