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Terrorist: A Novel Paperback – May 29, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
For one thing, I like the fact that Updike chose this very difficult topic to write about and also made obvious efforts to understand aspects of Islamic-American culture that are doubtless utterly foreign to him. An author of his standing could just coast for the rest of his career, but this writer chose to stretch himself and try to get inside the mind of a character that represents a far more complex America than that of Rabbit, for example. This is an America that we had all better take a shot at understanding, since this is the one we are living in today, and will have to go on living in for some time to come. Believers in Islam are here and they are becoming an ever more important force in the polyglot US -- AND it is pretty clear that many of these folks are severely disaffected from the mainstream culture.Read more ›
On the surface the story is about a teenager, Ahmed, who embraces an austere form of Islam. His mother, perhaps feeling guilty about his father's departure, leaves him to his own devices. An intervention is clearly necessary to save Ahmed from his Imam and Updike chooses Mr. Levy, a sixtyish guidance counselor at Ahmed's high school. The story's trajectory predictably puts Ahmed and Mr. Levy together in the truck carrying the bomb.
Scratch the surface though and you find...well, read on.
Ahmed is largely unforgiving, except, illogically, to the father who abandoned him. He is unapologetic, never needing to justify his beliefs to others or even to himself. His isolation and social awkwardness are not the product of his own attitudes, but of everyone else's. In almost every way, Ahmed acts like any teenager, if a bit more radical. And that is the problem. Remove the radical Islamic element from the novel and you have a story of a generic teenager. If Updike is saying that suicide-bombers are just like "ordinary" people, with the same problems and fears, I think he missed the boat. There clearly is a difference. If there weren't, then suicide-bombers would be far more prevalent.Read more ›
I know this sounds incredibly presumptuous, but it seemed to me like Updike made a mistake a lot of first time novelists make by not trusting his reader enough. I think anyone who picks up a book like this can be expected to remember which character is obese, which is Jewish, which wears black jeans and white shirts, and which has gorgeous green eyes without it having to be hammered home throughout the book. Quite a few writers out there do seem rather enamored with the color of their protagonists' skin and eyes and so forth, but I for one would prefer more time to be devoted to developing their thoughts, feelings, personalities and motives. Especially motives. If a basically non-violent young man who is not a complete sheep is going to decide to carry out a suicide mission, it needs to be clearer what's going on inside his head. Updike gives us various motives, but none seems strong enough for him to decide to take such a militant course of action.
As reviewers have mentioned the titular "terrorist" winds up being the most likeable character in the book, but he gets this by default. The other characters are inoffensive at best and repugnant at worst. True a character can be deeply flawed and likeable at the same time, but that did not really apply to any of the ones in this book. In fact, I consistently got the feeling that it wasn't really the protagonist who looked down on the Americans around him, it was Updike.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
"Terrorist leaves the reader ripping through the book to its finale, desperate to find out what happens....Updike's most adventurous and accessible novel in decades. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Somhat Lanod
I loved the book. It is the first time I have read Updike since he passed away in 2009. Once again, his unwavering yet precise eye digs beyond the surface of any facade. Read morePublished 5 months ago by GerryM.
Fascinating description of how a vulnerable and devout teenager can be influenced by extremists. Scary.Published 5 months ago by SPM
John Updike’s “Terrorist” is a masterful depiction of the life of a young man caught in a circle full of intrigues he never really gets to understand. Read morePublished 12 months ago by John T C
First, I must say that I am a huge fan of John Updike. I enjoyed this book but it was certainly not Updike at his best. Read morePublished 13 months ago by BrokenArrow
A very thought provoking novel that addresses one of the most traumatizing events in U.S. history, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Not sure why there are so many positive reviews for this book.
I guess everyone else likes listening to some little punk lecture his elders with Islamic surras and some... Read more
I usually read the writings of the late John Updike because of the beautiful writing and the insights I get about human thought and experience. Read morePublished 20 months ago by StanEvolve