BookBrowse Reviews I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

I Am Pilgrim

A Thriller

by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2014, 624 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2014, 624 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Terry Hayes' debut novel I Am Pilgrim is a fast-paced thriller set in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In many ways I Am Pilgrim is a standard race-against-time story: The protagonist (code-named "Pilgrim") – a remarkably skillful former head of a super-secret U.S. agency few know exists – is brought out of retirement to find a terrorist ("The Saracen") before he's able to release a particularly virulent strain of the smallpox virus on an unsuspecting American public. Along the way he tracks his prey using his finely honed skills (coupled with the occasional bit of good luck), has setbacks and successes, and plays cat and mouse with international bad guys that want him out of the way - permanently. In other words, pretty formulaic stuff that could be the synopsis of any one of a number of novels.There are aspects to this particular book, though, that set it above most of the others in this genre.

First and foremost, Hayes creates richly detailed characters whom one really comes to understand. It would have been easy enough, for example, for the author to simply use a stereotypical Taliban extremist as his villain, but he goes the extra mile in showing readers this individual's childhood and how, exactly, his loathing of Western culture evolved over time. The end result is an exceptionally cold-blooded and remorseless killer readers will have no trouble seeing as a mass-murderer; the effect is absolutely chilling. The hero, too, is multi-faceted; we learn how Pilgrim's character was formed and come to admire his cleverness and daring. I particularly enjoyed the fact that he was drawn somewhat ambiguously; he's not necessarily a 100% "good guy," and from time to time his actions are morally questionable. He remains likeable throughout, however, exhibiting a combination of light-hearted bravado and steely-eyed resolve reminiscent of James Bond – a difficult balance for any author to achieve and done extraordinarily well here.

The quality of the author's writing also stands out. He goes beyond simply conveying action, taking great pains to paint detailed scenes that come to life for the reader:

For mile after mile we crisscrossed the sprawling city – four and a half million souls marooned in the middle of the desert – seemingly half of them employed by Aramco, the world's largest oil company – and interviewed people about a family which had long since vanished. We sat in the majlis – the formal sitting rooms – of poor houses way out in the suburbs and questioned men whose hands were trembling, we saw dark-eyed kids watching from shadowy doorways and glimpsed veiled women in floor-length burkas hurrying away at our approach.

Hayes' background as a screenwriter is evident; at over 600 pages I Am Pilgrim could appear intimidating, and yet the plot is so well paced that it never drags; at times the action sequences had me almost reading faster than I could turn the pages.

There are a few problems with the novel that could keep some from finding it an enjoyable romp, the most prominent of which is the plausibility of many of the book's action scenes. There were several times when I had to suspend disbelief; if you want a book in which every piece fits neatly together and makes logical sense, this isn't the one for you. Also problematic may be the long set-up as readers are introduced to the main characters; the beginning is definitely more character than action-driven. Personally, I found these sections interesting and was completely drawn in by Hayes' prose. And finally, included are some pretty brutal scenes (including passages depicting torture) that could be off-putting for some readers.

Those quibbles aside, I Am Pilgrim makes for a great (if somewhat weighty) beach read; it's fast, suspenseful and involving, while at the same time not requiring a great deal of thought or analysis to enjoy. I highly recommend the novel to those looking for a well-written and entertaining thriller with which to while away the summer hours.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review is from the June 4, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Smallpox

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Gypsy Moth Summer
    by Julia Fierro

    One of the most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.