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Driven
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2012
Others have summarized the plot well. This is hardcore noir--people either speak in extremely short, terse sentences or like university psychology or physics professors. Most of the living quarters are roach infested. Characters have, at most, one name. The bad guys are always able to track down the hero, without any explanation of how. The action begins immediately and the book is very short. The action scenes are exciting, but the characters are stick figures. There is a great deal of violence. Ryan Gosling did a wonderful drive bringing the hero to life in Drive--a better job than the author does on the page.

This is a treat for noir lovers and not bad for noir haters.

It is a terrible shame that The Driver never teamed up with Richard Stark's Parker.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I have always regarded James Sallis as one of the most skilled writers in the US of any genre. Despite the darkness and the sometimes excessive violence of his latest noir thrillers, Sallis's ability to say much in few words and to convey tension without being melodramatic is awe-inspiring. His dialogue, usually terse, says all that needs to be said, and his ability to create perfect images in few words is unparalleled. "Minimalism" takes on new meaning in his hands.

His novel Drive, recently made into a hit film starring Ryan Gosling, precedes Driven, and both are short novels which lack the fully developed characters one finds in Sallis's other novels. Drive, the story of a man who works as a stunt driver by day and as the driver of getaway cars by night, is full of violence, and the body count in the book and film is extremely high, some of the deaths coming at the hands of Driver himself as payback for egregious betrayals. At the end of the novel and film, Driver gets into his car and drives, seriously wounded.

Driven begins six years later. Driver has been keeping a low profile under the pseudonym of Paul West in Phoenix, and he has been successful in avoiding trouble - and in falling in love with Elsa. The novel starts with a bang, however. On page one, Driver and Elsa are attacked on a Saturday morning, and though Driver manages to disable one attacker, the second one fatally stabs Elsa before Driver can take care of him. He has no idea who the attackers are or why he was selected for attack, and even more attacks follow, but as a friend tells him, "Those you seek are wolves. Wolves do not wish to be found, they are themselves the hunters...They survive, they thrive, on their cunning." Ultimately, the book's body count equals that of Drive.

Driven is a peculiar book, one that feels unfinished to me. The back cover (and the book description here on Amazon) sports a sentence which I regarded initially as an almost fatal spoiler: "Driven tells how [Driver], done with killing, becomes the one who goes down `at 3 a.m. on a clear, cool morning in a Tijuana bar.' " Yet no such thing occurs within the action of this novel. That misleading quotation refers to a screenplay that Driver's friend Manny wrote years ago, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with this plot! The novel, less than one hundred fifty pages long, with large type and wide margins, also feels a bit like an outline, rather than the compressed but fully developed novel which Sallis is known for. The ending of this novel suggests that there might yet be another episode in the life of Driver, the third novel in a possible trilogy. Those who have not read Drive or seen the film will want to do so before reading this continuation of Driver's story. And those who have never had the pleasure of reading Sallis at all may want to start with The Killer is Dying, one of Sallis's best books. Mary Whipple

The Killer Is Dying: A Novel
What You Have Left: The Turner Trilogy
Drive (Movie tie-in)
Drive (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
After Driver killed Bernie Rose, he felt remorse for the first time (see Drive) since he began his obsessed revenge vendetta. He decided the time was right to move on and end his vengeance killing spree.

Seven years later, thirtyish Paul West enjoys his middle class life in Phoenix. His dream shatters on a Saturday morning while walking with his fiancée Elsa. Two men attack them; killing Elsa before he can kill them. Driver is back as Paul dies when he sees Elsa die. His friend former Ranger Felix helps him temporarily hide, but his enemies keep on coming. This time two vehicles with hit men wait for Driver who is more Driven now then he was seven years ago.

The return of Driver will elate fans especially with the movie of the first thriller coming. The antihero fights back against his adversaries with renewed feral vigor fueled by his watching Elsa take her last breath. He knows one thing: those who arranged the hit will die. Action-packed from the opening assault on a Phoenix street, the accelerator never breaks even at the finish line as Driver is Driven by his new mission.

Harriet Klausner
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 1, 2012
If you made it to the Cineplex to see Ryan Gossling in Nichols Nefn's neo-noir masterpiece, "Drive," don't wait to see if there's going to be a sequel - you can read in now. "Driven" is James Sallis' brilliant follow-up to his dark tale of Driver, a 26 year-old reclusive Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a robbery wheelman. Driver is now 32, living as Paul West in Phoenix, having gone-to-ground to escape the mobsters he dispatched in the first episode. Or so he thought. Sallis wastes no time getting to the action and violence; the first page hasn't turned before Driver leaves two would-be killers broken and dying on the pavement. From here out the formula is straightforward - Driver, with some assistance from the shadowy Gulf War vet Felix - brutally retires a seemingly endless parade of thugs send to kill him, while he soups up an inconspicuous Ford Fairlane and hunts down those behind the repeated attempted hits.

This is a simple story, a fast read that could be mediocre were it not delivered by James Sallis. Despite its brevity, the talented Sallis packs more imagery and power into 140 pages than the average crime writer could muster in 1,000; that rare brand of prose that is atmospheric without being bloated. This is lean, stripped down fiction, reminiscent of Jim Thompson or Raymond Chandler, but more elegantly told in sentences that, despite the grisly fare, read more like poetry than pulp fiction.

Like its predecessor "Drive," "Driven" is American crime writing at its best, and James Sallis is the unsung master of the genre. If you haven't discovered him yet - with or without Ryan Gossling - this quick pair of novels is a great place to make the acquaintance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The multifaceted author James Sallis shames aspiring writers everywhere by managing to combine being a poet, musician and scholar, each to exceptional acclaim. Not content with these achievements, his Lew Griffin series of crime tales have been shortlisted for the Anthony, Nebula, Edgar, Shamus, and Gold Dagger awards. Action-packed, atmospheric, and tautly-written, his latest work will not disappoint his many fans.

Driven is the second in Sallis's trilogy (Drive being the first) focusing on an enigmatic but resourceful loner who frequently finds himself in the eye of the storm, but who answers only to his own conscience. This time the loner has a name: Paul West. Seven years on and trying to escape his troubled past, West has reinvented himself, morphing from his earlier career as a stunt man and getaway driver to become the owner of a small car-repair business in Phoenix and carving out for himself a new life.

But West soon learns that you can only shake your past if others are willing to let you do so. Walking down the street one day he and his fiancée Elsa Jorgenson are suddenly attacked by a pair of armed thugs. He manages to kill both men, but not before Elsa is murdered. West goes to ground with the aid of his friend Felix, an ex-Desert Storm vet and gang-banger, vowing to find out who is behind the apparently meaningless attack. But he can't shake the nagging thought that the assassins killed Elsa before taking him on. As the more formidable of the pair, it doesn't make sense. The only thing West knows for certain is that running will not help; he must turn and confront the person who is targeting him.

No white knight, West is a loner and antihero, not out to right the wrongs of the world, or even come to the aid of the vulnerable; he's just trying to stay alive and learn who's behind the attacks on him, and why. And of course, being the centerpiece of a trilogy, Sallis toys with his readers in an ending that is not at all the end.

One of the most assured writers around, James Sallis has given readers a compelling and stylish action-thriller in the gritty neo-noir mold. If you crave fast-paced action and a strong voice but find the literary merits of Lee Child wanting, Driven might be just the ticket.

Jim Napier, Professional crime fiction reviewer and creator of the award-winning website [...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Driver kills a lot of people in "Driven," the sequel to "Drive." Both are short, taut, nicely rendered noir thrillers by James Sallis. Killers, professionals who tend to work in pairs, come at Driver relentlessly in this sequel. He doesn't know why he's being pursued with such ferocious vigor, but it's a kill-or-be-killed world and he does what's necessary to stay alive.

The 2011 movie version of "Drive," starring Ryan Gosling, received a lot of positive critical attention. That story of a risk taker who does stunt driving by day and driving for criminals at night picks up seven years later in "Driven." A lot has changed in Driver's life, though the danger quotient is upped considerably. Driver is being hunted. He barely has time to eat or sleep.

In Sallis' sequel, Driver has built himself a new life in Arizona refurbishing classic old cars and renting them to Hollywood studios. He and his fiancée Elsa are happy until the day two men attack and kill Elsa. Before they have a chance to come at him, Driver kills them both. He may specialize in driving but he's got the quick murderous punch down.

There's a lot packed into the spare, poetic prose. The characters are fabulously well fleshed out, especially considering the author's brevity. Sentences are carefully wrought and revelatory. Sallis isn't Shakespeare, but there's something reminiscent, given the irony, the pathos, the very human characters, the humor and the pitch of the drama. Readers need to pay attention. It's a page-turner but every word counts.

In an amusing scene, Driver checks into a seriously seedy motel. While in the lobby awaiting service from a preoccupied clerk, he eyes a chair with at least 16 cigarette holes in it. When he gets to his disgusting room, he's not surprised. "The room was everything the chair promised."

Plots run from all dizzying directions, like tributaries feeding a larger body of water. This body is Driver, the intended receptor of all manner of violence. One of those helping him out is Felix, a former Ranger who served in Desert Storm. He has connections and know-how. When he tells Driver that the onslaught of killers must be "something from the past," Driver responds, "It usually is." By the end of the book, you realize it's all about karma. You can't outrun it, no matter how good a driver you are. But what you can do is learn to maneuver.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 21, 2012
I read Sallis' excellent "Drive" and enjoyed NW Refn's film version-- both were stripped-down character studies with moments of vicious violence. The minimalism worked. The novel established just enough of Driver's past and his amoral (though not immoral) worldview to draw us in. An extraordinary and fully successful short novel.

This sequel seems to me to teeter on the edge of self-parody. Sallis denies us the rudiments of a plot; rather, there are incidents of violence and a search for answers that, when they come, underwhelm. Additionally, opaque and frequently obscurantist philosophizing by Driver's friends Felix and Manny feel pretentious and become ridiculous after awhile.

He pushed it too far this time-- the form sabotages the content.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
Loved "Drive" and so couldn't resist this one. But, as Driver tries to track down the people who are after him, the plot is repetitious and I thought fairly pointless. I stopped carrying about 2/3 of the way through the book. Admittedly, the final answer to this little mystery was unexpected but just not that interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
It's nice to see James Sallis getting his commercial due after all these years. My first exposure to his work occurred in the early 1970s when he was writing critically acclaimed science fiction short stories ("Tissue," published in AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS, comes quickly to mind). Sallis has written experimental novels and critical essays on a number of topics, but has achieved what is arguably his greatest success in the field of crime fiction. The Lew Griffin books have been highly revered by aficionados, and of late, his southern noir novels such as CRIPPLE CREEK have brought him additional critical acclaim.
But the film adaptation of his novel DRIVE brought him the notice that has been so long overdue. Driver, the (obvious) protagonist of DRIVE, is the ultimate archetype of the 20th-century American figure, wedded to the automobile, independent, without ties, and best left to his own peace, but infused with an unbreakable loyalty. The book is complete in itself, but one is compelled to know more about Driver at the end; with DRIVEN, the reader's prayers are answered.

This sequel to DRIVE demands to be read slowly. There are so many subtle character developments and wonderful turns of phrase that one does not want to miss anything. It is, in fact, no sacrifice at all to read DRIVEN and immediately do so again, both to re-experience the joy of encountering certain metaphors and to hunt for details one might have overlooked. The plot itself is simple enough: someone is pursuing Driver and is relentless. He or she is sending this or that team or person after Driver, defying his every effort to hide, to go off the radar, to disappear into the vacant and downtrodden sections of a seemingly post-apocalyptic Phoenix. What is presented is the very dark and dangerous side of the famous line from the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "Who are those guys?"

Driver obviously has upset somebody very deeply. It's one of the book's ironies that the more Driver skillfully extricates himself from any particular situation, the deeper he falls into trouble. Fortunately, he has a remarkable, varied set of friends and allies who dip and swirl into and out of the narrative, always leaving the reader wanting more. The good news is that each of them brings a different and unusual skill set into the mix. The bad news is that, by the end of the day, it may not be enough.

One can only hope that each and every person who viewed the film Drive will read both the print version and its riveting sequel. The movie was terrific, almost as good as its literary source material, and DRIVEN is every bit its predecessor's equal. Every word counts in Sallis' fine, spare prose, and each turn of phrase sticks in the reader's mind. This one is a keeper, a book for the ages.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 1, 2012
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 3, 2012
He is called, simply, Driver, because that's what he is, that's what he does and, he feels, that's what he will always do. Once one of the best stunt drivers in film, his life has taken different turns, most of them illegal. But he gave up that life over six years ago, became a successful businessman named Paul West, a man with a `normal' life and a fiancée he dearly loved. Until one day when his old life catches up to him, and he has to kill the two men who have suddenly appeared and attacked him, but not before his fiancée has been killed. So back he must go, to his old life in Phoenix. But soon two other men find and attempt to kill him, and he has no choice but to kill again.

As his friend Manny succinctly puts it, "you have to decide what you want, else you just keep spinning around, circling the drain. You want to get away from the guys? Or you want to put them down? Well, there it is, then. We ponder and weigh and debate. While in silence, somewhere back in the darkness behind words, our decisions are made." Now 32 years old, he goes where life, and his attempts to track down whoever is behind the continuing attempts on his life, take him, theorizing that "you moved faster with the current than against."

The author's descriptions, in his typical [and typically wonderful] spare prose, conjure up immediate mental images: Of a tattooist, he says "His Rasta hair looked like something pulled down from attic storage, first thing you'd want to do is thwack out the dusts." Of a young crowd in a mall food court "wagging their iPods and cellphones behind them, fatally connected." The book is filled with the author's - - and his protagonists - - philosophizing: "We all struggle to leave markers behind, signs that we were here, that we passed through . . . urban equivalents of cave paintings."

The sequel to the excellent "Drive," published in 2005, I devoured the book in a single day. This was a short but memorable visit into the world created by Mr. Sallis, and it is highly recommended.
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