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Deja Vu in Phoenix

Driven by James Sallis

A different name, a different city, and a different life, but nothing really changes for Driver. For him, the lull is almost just time suspended. Eventually, it will begin again, and, when it does, the past will become his present once more. Six years after he left Los Angeles, this is exactly what happens to Driver. As he unsuspectingly walks down the sidewalk with his fiancee, two men attack. Driver quickly dispatches of them - instinctively, but, when the dust settles, his girl is dead, and his fresh start is no more. He doesn't know who is gunning for him or why, but the reasons mean little to him, because their results seemed inevitable. He immediately returns to what he knows: driving and drops out of the life he created for himself. The men keep coming, and Driver continues to dispense of them. Either they'll eventually get him or they'll run out of people to send. Although Driver doesn't worry about the future, he doesn't sit back and wait for the next attack either. He starts investigating his pursuers, tracking the money used to hire his would-be assassins until he determines who wants him - and who wanted his fiancee - dead. This time, though, he doesn't fight alone. Despite leaving his once new life behind, he takes a friend with connections along with him, and he meets new acquaintances who help him along the way, too. But it's all temporary - the fight, the friends, the place, because he drives. And he leaves, too.

While Driver is essentially the same man he always was, he's changed as well. It's not necessarily growth, though. Rather, he's still the chameleon, reflecting those around him, and, in Driven, he has surrounded himself with different kinds of people. The novel isn't as dark as its predecessor either. This is portrayed by the setting. Almost all of the attacks upon Driver, this time, take place during the day. In turn, this detracts from the work's sinister quality, along with the fact that the attacks aren't personal; they're just business. For most of the novel, the man who hired the would-be assassins is a mere shadow, there but not actually physically present - a phantom. This removes much of the immediacy from the action. Driven still features Sallis' detached approach to violence. Driver doesn't mull over his actions - theorize or contemplate them beforehand or worry and try to justify them afterwards; he just does them. There's no right or wrong in this world, and that's a refreshing change of pace. It also makes the violence just that much more potent, because it's unexpected and then done, Driver quickly moving on to the next unrelated thought, meal, drive. Because of this, it's not shocking that the book lacks real resolution. Instead, it's just a fleeting moment in someone's life, yet Sallis makes it clear that all people have these moments - sometimes even the same one over and over. Perhaps the details change, but the results are always the same. And that is what's lacking in Driven as compared to its prequel: the details just aren't as compelling

Two out of Five Stars

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January 2014


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