As is a usual occurrence for me, I bought this book on a whim and mainly because an author I like had been quoted as saying that it was worth a read. Intrigued, I purchased a copy of I Am Pilgrim. The first thing that surprised me was just how big the book is. Coming in at a whopping 892 pages, this book is a mammoth undertaking should you choose to read it.
But is it worth spending so many hours on such a long book? Well, that would depend on whether stories about terrorism, espionage and good old fashioned police work are your cup of tea. This book is a mystery, shrouded in another mystery, and then another, and another…..
The synopsis on the rear of the book hardly gives much away either. I’ll admit that, when I began reading the book, I had little or no idea what I would find in the subsequent pages. All I had to go on was an extremely vague synopsis on the back cover, the only other clue being the orange circle at the bottom left of the front cover telling me the book was, ‘The only thriller you’ll need to read this year.’
But was it worth such praise or were the billboards promoting a book that was actually a dud?
Well, for once, I’ve found a book that does actually live up to its hype.
I Am Pilgrim begins in a cheap motel in New York and the discovery of a woman’s body decomposing in a bath full of acid. The book subsequently takes you on a tour of some of the most alluring and indeed some of the most terrifying places on earth. What begins as a number of seemingly unconnected events soon turns into a wildly weaving story of espionage, corruption, double agents, terrorism and one man who is single-handedly given the task of trying to avert a biological holocaust.
A word of warning: this book is not for those of a delicate disposition. As you would expect in a crime thriller, there are murders and dead bodies aplenty littered throughout the story and the manner in which their deaths are covered by the author lives little to the imagination, leaving the reader with some rather unappetising mental images. Many of the deaths are brutal and gory, yet despite the circumstances of such events, none of these scenes come across as being unrealistic.
As you would expect from a title which focuses on terrorism and espionage, there is a certain amount of the book dedicated to the unsavoury topic of torture and its use to rip vital information from helpless victims. Such scenes might make some readers uncomfortable, yet when the protagonist speaks of his own experiences of being complicit in the torture of an ‘enemy’, you never once get the feeling that he took any sense of enjoyment from it.
This brings me to another element of the book that I enjoyed: the fact that the book’s protagonist is somewhat of a reluctant hero. He’s damaged in ways that he cannot express, let alone understand, he’s a loner despite the fact that he has the admiration and affection of many of the people whose lives he touched. He takes no joy in killing anyone – even if it is necessary to save countless innocent people. The lying, cheating, deception and underhand tactics – you get the impression that he hates every aspect of his profession.
I Am Pilgrim is told from the point of view of one man yet encapsulates the stories of so many other interesting and engaging characters. We are shown why the story’s antagonist is so driven in his mission and almost feel a certain sense of sympathy and understanding for him – the most frightening aspect of his personality is that he comes across as completely normal, yet he’s playing a game of bluff and counter bluff of his own with the book’s central character.
I Am Pilgrim is a book about many things, yet one theme seems to run through its core. Above all else, this book is about the power of love and how it can be both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. No matter where we go, what we do or the people we meet, all of us (in one form or another) are driven by love, it influences every thought, every action, every choice we make.
This is a book definitely worth reading. Get your hands on a copy of it. Now.