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I Am Pilgrim

A Thriller
Narrated by: Christopher Ragland
Length: 22 hrs and 41 mins
Categories: Fiction, Contemporary
4.5 out of 5 stars (8,620 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The astonishing story of one man's breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy.

An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.

A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.

A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard.

Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.

A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.

Pilgrim.

©2014 Terry Hayes (P)2014 Simon & Schuster

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Please let this all be fiction.

Before I downloaded the book, I saw where another reviewer warned that it takes about 9 hours to get into it. That was VERY helpful info. I easily could have put it aside those first hours. I kept at it because of the warning and I'm very glad I did.

Hayes takes his time setting up the characters and the scenario. The first part of the book sounds and feels like non-fiction. It's interesting - because of the history and insight it provides - but it can be a little dry. It really lays a foundation so you can understand what makes people who they are. And then it turns into a rip-roaring page-turner.

I normally don't go for thrillers, but this one is exceptional. There's an expert pacing to everything that keeps you engaged even when there's no action. Hayes has a way of foreshadowing that also keeps the ball rolling. The characters are well formed, flawed and interesting. There's enough history thrown in that sometimes the events feel entirely plausible. Perhaps that's what makes it so engaging - and terrifying.

It all adds up to one thing: this is definitely a credit-worthy summer read.

220 of 232 people found this review helpful

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Great story, great reading

I am Pilgrim is the thriller I have been looking for. It seems to me that the last decade has not produced very many great thrillers. Hayes' story I hope opens the door to a new wave of thrillers that don't rely too heavily on the protagonist having super human abilities. This story instead relies on old fashioned Ludlum style spycraft cunning.

What I liked here was the complexity of the tale. It weaves in and out of time, characters, plots, and it all hold together. I can't tell you how many authors I have read or listened to where the act of taking on multiple characters or timelines destroys what would have been pretty decent. Hayes pulls it off.

Ragland might be my new favorite narrator. I feel that he might have been a little too boyish for this character, but I gotta applaud him. First class story telling ability.

I highly recommend this book.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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Great story,great narration

The best thriller I have ever listened to or read.
I am 82 and have been reading mysteries and thrillers for over 60 years. The story is intense and so well narrated you can't stop listening.

28 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Wow

Would you consider the audio edition of I Am Pilgrim to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print but the reader had great voices for the characters and made a palatable difference in how it was presented.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

The intricacies of the story were amazing and pulled the story together masterfully.

Any additional comments?

This is one of the best books I've every read. Such attention to detail and keeps the story going to the very end. Really great.

67 of 71 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

What a lovely discovery. I am a fan of Terry's screenwriting and this book is a fantastic and well written yarn that manages to entertain on every level. Nuanced characters, dynamic plotting and well turned language. Enjoy it!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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On par with Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn

If you could sum up I Am Pilgrim in three words, what would they be?
Entertaining. Enlightening. Compelling.

What about Christopher Ragland’s performance did you like?
Superb; Outstanding. Easy to listen to. The cadence of his reading, and his timing and intonations, dignify the story and make it even more compelling. His womens’ voices actually sound like women. I was, however, slightly off-put by Ragland's attempts to effect the voice of a dangerous, experienced operative in his mid-thirties, as he does in this book’s many first-person passages, because his voice’s timbre sounds like that of a 22-year-old. This was by no means a deal breaker, for his narration is in all other regards so much better than other narrators'.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No, but it had a "deliciousness" of its own. It deserves savoring.

Any additional comments?
One of my favorites. Get This Book!

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Just finished... Sorry... Could listen to more.

So Terry Hayes is a compelling writer. This novel is intriguingly salted with micro mysteries... almost short who-dunits themselves. And yet they fuel the overarching story of espionage, medical suspense,cultural rigidity, and sectarian zealotry. Yeah, there's some cringe-worthy violence within this narrative. This is not a story for the weak, but yet it is also tenderly moving.

Christopher Ragland brings this cast alive with a sensitivity I would not have imagined from reading it as opposed to listening to his interpretation of this cast and particularly his revelation of The Pilgrim's growth.

But, above all, this is a crackling paced thriller fueled by the disequilibria foaming from today's crashing cultures. Uh-huh, this is a scary tale, but the fears here aren't irrational. Which is even creepier as we read news about glowing paradigms poised to crash into each other's towers of Babble. Hayes captures these absolutes, jams them into a covered cook-pot and cranks the temperature to BOOM!

Question: Is the universal default position of humankind set to hate? Hmmmm.... The jury's still out.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

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As good as they get

After you read this be prepared to be let down by any book you read.
In my opinion the best spy book ever written.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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I Am Cliche

What disappointed you about I Am Pilgrim?

I ran across I Am Pilgrim in an airport bookstore and was intrigued enough by the cover blurb to give it a chance even though self-proclaimed thrillers aren’t my typical fare. By the way, the book would be better titled “I Am Cliché.” At times, I almost laughed aloud at author’s continual reliance on every stereotype and cliché of the genre. (I am going to site some specifics, but none of them are spoilers, so feel free to read on.)
First, the guy is the best and he knows it (no doubt, in part, because everyone he associates with keeps telling him how good he is) even though he swings wildly between bragging (in one argument trying to convince a doubting superior to go along with his plan, he even says, “I am the best agent of my generation …”) and phony self-deprecation (such things as this are common: “I may not be as young or fit as I once was but …” and then he leaps across 18 feet of open space between two buildings, catches a gutter with one hand, and pulls himself up. So what was he like when he was young and fit?). The fake personal putdowns followed by miraculous actions get old fast.
Second, whenever there are multiple options (x number of bullets available, four filing cabinet drawers, 20 folders of information, a list of 10 names, etc.), he is always plunging into self-doubt, despair, and or depression just before he gets to the last option, which is, of course, the life saver. Used once, a writer can get away with it; used dozens of times, it works against itself.
Third, despite his expertise, a lot of plot advancement depends on bizarre coincidence – a purse spills all over the place, and the owner, our hero, and a third party gather everything together, but the last item rolling on the table is a perfume thingy. When he goes to hand it over, the purse owner comments out of nowhere that this is a specially mixed perfume that is rather strong. Our guy squirts a little on his wrist (normal behavior?) and notes, “Aha, spoiler deleted,” the same smell he caught in a hallway earlier in the story. Really?
Fourth, lame attempts at building suspense by withholding information for no reason. For example, he will say something like, “I stopped by the hardware store and left with a bag under my arm.” Then a few pages later, “I made sure to take the bag with me when I left the car.” Then, finally, I took out the _____ that I had purchased at the hardware store.” Yawn. Again, this may work once, but Hayes works it to death.
Fifth, the cliffhanger chapter ending. Again, a device many writers use, but it gets really overworked if one opts, as Hayes does, for dividing one’s work into dozens of tiny chapters (another annoying device suggesting that one suspects that one’s readers are unable to focus for more than two minutes at a time). True cliffhangers work occasionally, but trying to make, I-hung-up-the-phone style hangers work chapter after chapter is stretching the concept too far.
Sixth, vibes and omens: multiple times, our guy points out that he is rational but then is overcome with some sort of dream vision (even in the White House while speaking to the President), which later turns out to be true. Nonsense.
Seventh, stereotypes: black guys like the blues (so does our hero, of course, so this becomes a bonding thing), bad cops are all overweight and stuffed into uniforms or suits that are too small . . . .
Finally, the most egregious problem with the book, however, is the narrative point of view on which Hayes relies. Nothing is wrong with employing a first-person narrator, a favored point-of-view for many readers; however, it should go without saying anywhere beyond a tenth-grade creative writing course, that one of the challenges of first-person narration is that the narrator can relate only what he has done, seen, thinks, been told, etc., just as we all do in real life. Some writers get around this limitation by having multiple first person narrators speaking in different chapters or alternating between first person and third person in varying sections, but Hayes does not do this; he simply plunges ahead, defying reality, common sense, and believability. Whole chapters are devoted to what other characters have done, are doing, were thinking, etc., despite the utter impossibility of our guy knowing these things. An extreme but minor example: one character is racing to escape from a situation and tears out of a parking lot, and ten seconds later his pursuers arrive from another direction. Not only could our narrator not know this, nobody could, not even the pursued or the pursuers. Having the main character describe this type of thing is insanely bad writing, and Hayes does it for entire chapters at some points.
Unfortunately for me, I am one of those people who generally finish even badly written books once I start. Why? I don’t know. Masochism, possibly, or just a fascination with seeing how far the absurdity will go. In the case of I Am Pilgrim, it goes right to the end.

Which character – as performed by Christopher Ragland – was your favorite?

He does a nice job dealing with lousy material.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom

44 of 49 people found this review helpful

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Scary real scenario!!

I am Pilgrim" is a superbly crafted first novel by Terry Hayes. It is both a murder mystery and a top notch spy/terrorism novel. The first part of the book seems to drag a little, but the ending more than makes up for that. A seemingly unconnected series of events at the outset is pulled together at the end, and I was not able to put the book down for the last few hundred pages.

A woman is found murdered, face down in a bathtub of acid in a New York city hotel. Her teeth had been removed and the acid had eaten away her fingerprints and face, making identification of the body almost impossible. The room was sprayed with industrial disinfectant and wiped clean of fingerprints, destroying any and all forensic evidence. Enter Scott Murdoch (or Peter Campbell or Brodie Wilson, we never find out what his real name was) who had written a book on investigative procedures under the pen name of Jude Garrett. The crime scene is right out of his book, seemingly the perfect crime.

We get a little back story of Scott. Adopted by a wealthy family and given the best education possible, he did not seem to fit in and was always a loner. Possessed of high intelligence and great intuition, he was recruited by a covert branch of U.S. intelligence known as the Division. He quickly rose in the ranks and became the youngest director of the organization, known as the "Rider of the Blue." When the Division was dismantled, he tried to disappear and lead a "normal" life, but fate was not kind to Scott. All to soon he was brought back to the world he wanted to forget, and eventually the stakes were raised so high that it became an all or nothing proposition.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Saudi Arabia, a young boy watches his father beheaded in a public square for criticizing the royal family.The scene would be burned into his memory forever and set him on a path of retribution. At 16, he joined the muj in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet invaders, where he distinguished himself as a brave and noble fighter. The Saracen, as he would become known, was also extremely intelligent. When the war was over, he bought a fake death certificate and a new passport, taking on a completely different identity. He made his way to Lebanon where he attended and graduated medical school. He was then ready to begin his plan of retribution and devised a plan to devastate the United States and thus leave Israel and Saudi Arabia vulnerable.

The murder investigation becomes entwined with the terrorist plot, and Scott will have to use all of his skills to find the Saracen and stop the deaths of thousands of innocent lives. Thus the two loners are destined to meet. Two of the best for their individual causes, and only one would walk away.

I love how the book made use of everything. The old memories drudged up, the places visited, the murders, etcetera. They all came into play at some point during the events leading up to the climax Time seemed to stop for me as I neared the end of the book and the pages just kept turning. I looked at my clock and it was 4 am, but I still couldn't stop. The book was that good, and plausible too, which made it really scary. I found myself rooting for Scott, code named Pilgrim, as he was a character that it was hard not to like. As was said of him, "his heart was his weight." But I also felt for the Saracen. He was brave and brilliant, and if not for the terrible events of his childhood, he too could have been a great man. But they were destined to face off at the end in an epic game of chicken, and you'll have to read to find out who blinks first. Great book!!!

Christopher Ragland did an excellent job with different voices for each character, so the listener instantly knew who was speaking. He was simply a great narrator and fit this book like a glove. If you have ever been fortunate enough to have a tale told by a great story teller, you will know what I mean. If not, buy this audio book and find out. Fantastic job!!!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful