John Updike
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Buy *Terrorist* by John Updike online

John Updike
320 pages
June 2006
rated 3 of 5 possible stars
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In Law & Order fashion, legendary writer John Updike’s latest novel is a ripped-from-the-headlines story that has its moments (bouts of wonderfully written prose) but is ultimately unfulfilling. In typical Updike fashion, Terrorist is a slow-moving story about eighteen-year-old Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy of New Prospect, New Jersey, a town once predominantly occupied by white Europeans but now inhabited by the many races whose skin comes in all shades of brown. Ahmad is fed up with his red-headed Irish mother (his father is Egyptian) and under the influence of a radical cleric Shaikh Rashid, who from his storefront mosque preaches retribution for the “devils.”

A taste of Updike’s writing flavor from the first chapter:

“Infidels, they think their safety lies in the accumulation of the things of this world, and in the corrupting diversions of the television set. They are slaves to images, false ones of happiness and affluence. But even true images are sinful imitations of God, who can alone create.”
The novel is filled ad nauseam with diatribes on everything from pop culture to foreign policy, single mothers, even national security. Updike’s tremendous writing talents appear throughout the story, but those strong, well-written passages cannot stave off the fact that most the characters are, in a word, unlikable. They vary in degrees from cruel to dispassionate, to ineffective and even repugnant; worst of all, they don’t come off as realistic. I really wanted to like this book. I thought John Updike’s take on this subject would be fascinating, but the almost merciless bashing of one character’s weight, the clichéd stereotypes of the others combined with a contrived ending makes reading Terrorist an uphill battle. A noble effort by Updike to stretch, but ultimately it’s a swing and a miss for all but the most loyal Updike fan.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Bobby Blades, 2006

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