I am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
A young woman murdered in a run-down Manhattan hotel.
A father publicly beheaded in the blistering sun of Saudi Arabia.
A man’s eyes stolen from his living body as he leaves a secret Syrian research laboratory.
Smouldering human remains on a mountainside in the Hindu Kush.
A plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
One thread that binds them all.
One man to take the journey.
I was afraid to pick this one up because at just under 900 pages, Terry Hayes’ “I am Pilgrim” felt like a huge commitment sitting on the shelf. However having been given a couple of rave reviews from those who had read it, I was encouraged to give it a try.
Let’s just say, I was right. 900 pages was a huge commitment, and for someone who usually reads at least a book a week, two and a half weeks of reading the same story has sadly lead to a highly critical review.
When the story begins there has been a murder in New York City. A body has been found in a dodgy motel with all identifying features removed, no one knows who the body belongs to or who the murderer is, apart from our protagonist – a former secret agent of many names. The initial chapters are immersive as we question the details of this crime, slowly unveiling pieces of the truth. Hayes then continues to tell both the story of this murder mystery and that of a man on a mission to save the world, all entwined with anecdotes, history and memories.
I didn’t hate it. I do love a book with short chapters and there were chapters of dialogue and action which had me gripped, wanting to read more. My main problem with this book was that it’s too long, it’s wordy and it’s waffly. There are too many chapters of extensive detail which are just not necessary to the plot, too much background for characters who just don’t need it and in general, too many words.
The book takes itself too seriously, trying to be more than it is. The author himself claims at the end of the book that it’s length was necessary to get his message across but for me there was no clear message that couldn’t have been told in a book of 300 pages.
“I am Pilgrim is a long book, no doubt about it, but in a way it had to be – it combines both a murder mystery and a plot to unleash a cataclysm on America. To do justice to both of these story threads – to make them believable and intriguing – it was necessary to plunge into a series of strange events and a fair amount of detail.”
There is no amazing twist or intricate plot turns, there is nothing you need to think about, yet it gives an air of intellectualism that it just doesn’t deserve. Hayes mentions all kinds of disasters just because he can: 9/11, The Holocaust, Pearl Harbour, North Korea, Ebola…the list goes on. And the main character, while angry and bitter, is arrogant and thinks the world of himself when in fact he is a misogynist, calling women “heels”,”chick” or even “the obese nanny”. He conveniently knows everything about everything and everyone and he always knows exactly what to do. Hayes claims his story is believable, I completely disagree and even got to a point where I found myself rolling my eyes at the ridiculous things he does or says thinking “oh yeah, of course he knows how to do that!” If you have read this book or are planning to – the mirrors, surely not even a spy would know that, I mean, really?!
Unfortunately all of the other characters fell flat too. There was no one I connected with, no one I felt was real and this meant I just didn’t care about continuing this book. I don’t like to give up so I read because I had to finish it, eagerly awaiting my next read.
Overall rating: A long drawn out thriller with the potential to be a good book if only 600 pages were removed! I found this book was trying too hard to be something it’s not. I didn’t hate “I am Pilgrim” but I really didn’t love it either meaning I’ll be giving this one 2 stars.