Sunday, May 6, 2012

Contemporary Noir Done Again

Book Reviewed: Driven, by James Sallis

In January I read James Sallis's neo-noir Drive, and I loved it.  It was fun, expertly paced, violent, brutal, and surprisingly moving at times.  Since then, I have also become a big fan of the film version of the book.  The film version of Drive is really stylish, and although it differs greatly from the novel, it managed to pin down the awesome noir tone just right.  Rarely do I love a book and its film adaptation equally; this may the only time that this has happened to me.  Anyway, I was surprised to find out that Sallis just published a sequel to his now-famous book.  I saw it sitting on the New Books shelf at my library, and I grabbed it right up.  When classes ended last week, I knew Driven had to be the first book I would read for fun. 

Driven takes place seven years after Drive ends.  Driver has now taken up the name Paul West, and just as he thinks his life has gotten somewhat more normal (including an engagement to a super-understanding girl), things go bad again.  Driver looks for revenge and finds that things aren't quite what he thought they were, much like in the first book. 

I have to admit I didn't enjoy this sequel as much as I enjoyed Drive.  The writing is still excellent - with those brisk and cutting little sentences, but I just didn't get the same feeling of total immersion here.  I know I will love a book when it makes me ache inside - not necessarily with emotion, but with the ache of being so completely inside someone else's creation and knowing I no longer have control over what it does to me.  Drive made me ache.  Driven does not.  The plot wasn't quite as tight, even hard to follow in spots.  And the bittersweet tone that Drive managed so well felt a little more forced in this book.  It was fun to read, but it wasn't as satisfying.

Note:  I thought the ending of Drive was great, that it ended the book on the exact right emotional and intellectual beat.  So I wasn't exactly clamoring to know more about Driver, even though I loved him as a character.  Maybe that's why this sequel just didn't quite get to levels of greatness for me?

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