There’s something massively appealing about an ‘epic’ novel. A book designed to tell a tale stretching across time and around the globe. However there’s always a danger of these type of books. Too often large epic novels whilst grand in ambition can fall foul of being overly complicated, losing the reader in an overly complex plot.
With the book I’m reviewing today there’s no denying the story is an epic one. However it manages to avoid being dull by ensuring the novel is action packed, full of mystery and with a new cliffhanger every few pages.
It spans decades and jumps from New York to Bodrum in Turkey. From Berlin to Mecca. Back and forth between the stories of our two protagonists…
The Saracen and Pilgrim.
Welcome to the world of…
by Terry Hayes
“I Am Pilgrim” is an epic book.
It’s also deceivingly simple.
You see whilst the story jumps seamlessly from one place to another with a bunch of characters who come along for the ride at it’s core the story is about two people.
One is on a mission to spread terror and pain to an America he ultimately blames for the death of his dad…The Saracen.
One is on a mission to stop him…The Pilgrim.
Both believe what they are doing is right. Both do things which cross moral boundaries. However Terry Hayes does a decent job of painting two characters where understanding their backstory you can start to understand why they’ve chosen to live the life they do.
Sometimes nuance is lost in books of these type of books. Good characters are portrayed as almost entirely heroic and the bad characters are portrayed as completely nefarious.
Whilst this book still keeps a solid line between the ‘good’ (Pilgrim) and the ‘bad’ (Saracen) the waters are often muddied. For example Saracen works as a doctor for a decent chunk of the story and Pilgrim has a tendency to perform unnecessary acts of violence. The fact that the two main protaganists aren’t one dimensional ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ makes the book even more readable.
I also wasn’t surprised to learn that the author of ‘I Am Pilgrim’ has a day job as the writer of movie screenplays.
The book reads like a script of a large Hollywood blockbuster and I wouldn’t be surprised if it pops up in your local multiplex soon (I think the rights to make the movie have already been purchased).
Reading I am Pilgrim made me think of other recently adapted spy thrillers particularly John Le Carres ‘the night manager’ which worked both as a book and on the screen (as the recent brilliant BBC adaptation showed)
On the negative side whilst much of the book makes an effort to deliver nuanced characters some of the book veers into jingoism. Freedom and democracy are fantastic values (and ones I’m grateful that the UK share) but let’s not pretend, either in fiction or factual literature, that we are always right in the approach we take to protect those values.
On the whole ‘I am Pilgrim’ is a rip roaring read full of action, adventure and is well worth a read.
You can find you copy of ‘I am Pilgrim’ on Amazon here