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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Terrorist: A Novel Paperback – May 29, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Updike's latest offers up a probing post-9/11 history lesson on America—its mythology and street realities, religious attitudes, and the myriad nationalities that have borne this country fruit. Lane has his work cut out, and for the most part delivers. He contends with multiple foreign accents and American dialects, not to mention gospel singing and Arabic recitations of the Koran. The tale follows a righteous Muslim teenager named Ahmad, an (Irish-Arab) American born and bred in northern New Jersey, and his seemingly inevitable journey toward a domestic suicide attack. Ahmad's Irish mother, Jewish guidance counselor and Lebanese employer/handler are all rendered with distinction by Lane. But Ahmad's accent is odd and hard to trace, almost seeming to contain a Dixie influence. Lane voices an African-American schoolmate in similar style, creating the potential for confusion when the two interact. Phone calls, snippets of TV shows, speeches and sermons are treated with a through-a-speaker effect that is sometimes disconcerting. But it doesn't detract from a generally rich audio experience, one built on diverse narration and ethnically sprawling storytelling.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Not only does John Updike write tales of suburban angst; he also has a long history of ruminating on faith. Critics compare his latest novel to In the Beauty of the Lilies and The Coup except that Terrorist has an intensely contemporary flare. It's almost scandalous to see one of America's literary lions toying with such an inflammatory topic—and in the guise of a thriller, no less. The litmus test of his success with Terrorist is whether he answers the central question: What drives someone to become a terrorist? Terrorist is exceedingly well researched, and Updike writes beautifully. Still, many reviewers criticize Updike for creating Ahmad as a puppet rather than a character. That a puppet is exactly what his Imam wishes him to be begs the question whether Ahmad is a successful creation or just a thin caricature.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345493915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345493910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on July 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a tough call, but on the whole I am giving this novel 4 stars because it successfully held my attention, got me engaged in trying to understand the characters' motives and is beautifully written. Having said that, I want to acknowledge that many of the criticisms leveled here by other Amazon reviewers do have merit, primarily the charge that Updike's characters are often stereotypical. Of interest to me is that, while many reviewers complained about the stereotypes of fat wives, Arab-Americans and single mothers, I didn't notice any comments on the characters of African-American school girl Joryleen and her boyfriend, who is named "Tylenol," of all things. But in any case, since the stereotype issues have been well covered by other reviewers, I'm going to let that go and focus on what I see as the positives of this novel, and there really are quite a few.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Updike's, "Terrorist" is a timely novel. Newspapers and magazines are still full of the ebb and flow of terrorist and counter-terrorist operations. It is difficult for me, and by extension I think of American society in general, to understand why anyone would choose to become a suicide-bomber. Though they are only a fraction of the terrorists they are the most puzzling. So, I bought Updike's latest book on the strength of his reputation as a novelist and the reviews claiming his understanding of the radical mindset.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
A long time ago, I read a criticism of John Updike that said something to the effect that he observes life by stepping out his front door and looking around for a while and then going back in and writing. This is why, when Updike ventures farther afield than his usual subject -- white, middle class, protestant, New Englanders and their relationships -- his voice often falters.

"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.
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