Unknown: A Novel Paperback – Jan 12 2011
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"A convincing little nightmare. A Twilight Zone-ish yarn that tests the very notion of how human identity is shaped."
"Simply thrilling. Its surprising denoument works a retrospective magic."
-The New York Times Book Review
"Compelling ... The terse prose is unpretentious and the plot is full of captivating twists."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"An engaging intellectual page-turner."
"Had Camus trained at the CIA, this is the book he would have written. A hauntingly literary espionage thriller."
-Brad Thor, author of State of the Union
"Van Cauwelaert starts with a premise that could serve a Hitchcock thriller, a Twilight Zone episode, or a heavy-going exercise in existentialism. But [he] nimbly sidesteps clichT and pretense.... The swift final scene-a breathtaking jetT-should surprise even the most jaded fan of thrillers. A little gem."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is a short read, a novella of 164 pages that you just won't want to put down. The ending comes and wraps up quickly in just a few pages, which is my only criticism of what up to then I would have labelled one of the best books I've read in a long time. It also sort of feels rushed in coming up as a how to end this brilliant up to then story solution. I'm interested now in checking out the movie just to see if it ends a bit better and clearer than the book.
Ok, so this came out in the movie theaters recently with Liam Neeson starring as Martin Harris, January Jones as the wife, and Helen Kruger as the taxi driver. Also the movie takes place in Berlin instead of Paris. But nevertheless, I'm always interested in what makes one book into a movie, while other books remain books. And reading the story, I can understand why Hollywood came calling.
First of all, the core of the book is a deep psychological mystery. What's it like to have another person living your life? Having the exact same childhood, spouse, and profession? At first glance, this may seem like a science fiction type set-up. But the good thing about this story is there's no fantasy involved. Everything is very real. The story pulls you in, and you walk alongside Harris--feeling the same emotions of confusion and anger as he does. The author makes it clear that something sinister is going on, but keeps you clueless until the end.
Another good aspect of this book were the characters. As the main character, Martin Harris is sympathetic. As he runs to the police and tries to speak to his wife, no one believes him, except for the taxi driver--another sympathetic character who is a single mother and in danger of losing her taxi license after the crash. In balance to the sympathetic characters, we have the shadowy characters--like Harris' wife, and Martin Harris #2.
Overall, this was a decent European thriller. It's super short and quick to read. There's no superfluous information, it's all about the main plot. For me, it was an enjoyable read. Looking forward to seeing the movie.
Martin Harris believes he is the victim of identity theft. He awakes after being in a car accident that left him in a coma for a few days. Things are a bit fuzzy for Martin. He remembers who he is; the problem is that someone else thinks they are him also. But who is the actual Martin Harris? How do you prove you are you who you think you are when someone else has all the documentation proving they are you? Since Martin's accident happened on the day he and his wife had moved to France, there are no neighbors who can vouch for him. Since he is married, the easiest way would be to ask his wife. When his wife says he is not the real Martin Harris he is left dumbfounded.
Convinced his wife is having an affair and this is just her way of getting back at him for being a lousy husband, Martin continues to try and convince people he is the real Martin Harris. As everything starts rolling in against him, he starts to doubt himself. But if he isn't Martin Harris, then who is he and how did he get all of Martin's memories?
I really enjoyed this story. I wasn't sure if Martin was really Martin or there was some really weird scientific experimentation going on with this man's brain. If he was really Martin then why would his wife deny it? If he wasn't, then how did he get all the memories and what not? I wasn't sure if the author was going to dip into the paranormal side to solve the mystery or not! This is one of these stories that even after the `big reveal' I wanted to go back and listen to it again.
This audiobook was narrated by Bronson Pinchot and it was the first time that I have listened to his narration. Since the story took place in France, most of the characters had a French accent or spoke in French. Bronson did an excellent job with all of his character voices giving them the much renown French swagger that you hear in the voices of the French speaking English for your convenience. During the dialog, he switched from the French speaking accent to the English speaking accent effortlessly. His narration is one that makes you forget that you are listening to only one person doing the narration. He is his own full cast!
The first 100 pages (about 3/4 of the book) WERE great. The author uses a stream of consciousness style of writing that sucks the reader in. It's a true suspense story - the reader meets a man just out of a coma who learns someone has taken over his identity. The who, what, when, where and why are begging to be answered... but when they are, the reader is left with a "that's it, really?" feeling. Which is a shame.