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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 ›
"Terrorist" joins other works like Brazil, S., and The Coup, where Updike attempts to go outside of his comfort zone and explore something a little different. The problem with "Terrorist" is that he is obviously uncomfortable.
First, there are too many different characters and plot lines in the book, almost as though Updike had planned to write a much longer book, or a book from a different point of view than the one he ultimately chose. The menagerie of personalities forces him to develop a contrived (not very believable) set of circumstances that bring all of the characters together for an ending that is less suspenseful, as some critics have indicated, than it is abrupt and tidy.
One character, Hermione, is an assistant to the director of the Department of Homeland Security. Her character isn't explored and exists solely for the convenience of the denouement.
The character of Ahmad, the main character and the most fleshed out, is complex. Updike teases the reader with insight into the conflicted psyche of this devout Muslim who was raised by a Catholic mother in the United States. But it is only a tease. Updike's conception of Muslim devotion tastes too intellectual, too textbook. It is a sympathetic conception, but still one that seems to be lacking.
That isn't to say there aren't redeeming qualities.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Terrorist is the final novel of John Updike and could have been written today as it deals with contemporary issues such as broken families, school bullies, the gap between reality... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nancy Taras
It's a thrill to read John Updike novels. I am always amazed at his insight, and detail describing thought processes in the everyday life of his characters. Read morePublished 3 months ago by ESM
"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 5 months 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 10 months ago by GerryM.
Fascinating description of how a vulnerable and devout teenager can be influenced by extremists. Scary.Published 11 months ago by SPM
I read this book several years ago, wanting to understand the making of an American terrorist. Updike's positioning of his alienated young man in a public school interested me, as... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Polly D.
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 17 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 18 months ago by BrokenArrow