Book Review: “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes

“I have heard people say love is weak but they’re wrong — love is strong. In nearly everyone it trumps all other things — patriotism and ambition, religion and upbringing. And of every kind of love — the epic and the small, the noble and the base — the one that a parent has for their child is the greatest of them all…”


Atria/Emily Bestler, 2014, 624 pages.

I Am Pilgrim is a spy thriller which finds a former top U.S. secret agent coming out of retirement to try and foil a terrorist’s plan to commit mass American genocide. The idea that the terrorist (called The Saracen) develops is terrifyingly genius but our guy, who on this new mission decides to give himself the code name Pilgrim, is quite an expert and does everything he can to attempt to catch The Saracen before it’s too late. Along the way Pilgrim also tries to figure out who has committed some very gruesome murders in New York City and Bodrum, Turkey, because they used tips and tricks lifted from his own criminology book.

This book surprised me! The first few chapters were really intriguing, but the middle of the book had a lot of backstory and what I felt to be filler. A lot of this ended up being important and I had to go back to review it, but it was in the middle (at around 350 pages of the 600) that I put this book down for about two months. Finally last night I decided I was just going to get it done. I thought that the buildup to the end was a lot better than the middle and enjoyed the ending a lot. It makes complete sense to me that Terry Hayes was formerly a screenwriter before turning to writing this novel – parts of it, especially the end for me, sort of flew by like I was watching a spy movie.

Some critical reviews of I Am Pilgrim have focused on the fact that this book is quite pro-American, anti-Muslim, somewhat xenophobic and generally very right-wing. I cannot say that I disagree with the reviewers who have noticed this and can absolutely see all of these themes present in this book. There was a lot of emphasis placed on things like the benefits of government surveillance and government-sanctioned torture and imprisonment and I think what is really scary about this and the tone that pervades the book as a whole is that a lot of it is probably a lot closer to reality than we even know.

I felt like there was a particular target audience to this book, and I am not exactly sure if I was a part of it but now that I am FINALLY done I am still glad that I read it. Even with the presence of these attitudes which some might find questionable I thought that the book was obviously exceptionally well-researched and entertaining once I did push through that more boring middle section. I thought the character development was strong as to the main characters like Pilgrim and The Saracen but could have been better for some of the supporting characters. I am giving I Am Pilgrim 3.5 stars and will probably see the eventual movie. I feel like I say that a lot and must read a lot of books with movie adaptations :p

4 thoughts on “Book Review: “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes

  1. Pingback: WWW Wednesday #8 | The Bookish Barrister

  2. You are making a big mistake if you pass on this book. This book is fantastic. It is both entertaining and thought provoking. Its very current theme and rich characters make a great read. In fact have have read it twice and enjoyed it more the second time.


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