Book Review: UNKNOWN

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the trailers for Unknown on tv.  Liam Neeson looking pensive, running somewhere in what appears to be Europe.  The premise: Just out of a coma, Liam — Martin Harris — comes home to find that his wife, Liz, doesn’t recognize him, his neighbors don’t know him, and there’s another man living with Liz: with Martin’s name, Martin’s lifetime of memories, and Martin’s wife.

Waking up with amnesia is one of the tropes of thriller fiction, as is a subset: waking up with with an identity that no one says exists.  I loved the computer game from the late eighties, Deja VU — all about a guy who wakes up with no memory of who he is.  (By the way, you can probably download a free, working copy of Deja Vu online if you Google it.  And make sure you get it’s supernatural equivalent, Uninvited.  Even better!  Not to mention hours upon hours of thinking…)

This movie looks fun, and that’s why I took the offer to read this book and review it.

Unknown is a good book, but not a great one.  It’s a book that feels like the first Bourne movie did: a few action sequences wrapped around a story that was mostly about being chased, talking on the phone, reading computer screens, a clue here and there — all the basic tropes of thriller movies nowadays.

Unknown, a French thriller written by Didier van Cauwelaert, is short.  Scenes seem truncated; character development is pretty nonexistent.  It was an ideal choice for adaptation into a film, and it is certainly an interesting story.  But I think it may prove to be anomaly: I have a feeling the movie, in this case, will be better than the book.  The plot is a little derivative of other memory-wipe tales, and the writing here is not convincing to me.  By the end I had a hard time buying the premise at all.  But on the screen, I think a talented writer, director and cast can mold a bare bones thriller into a fully-fleshed film, and their dramatic enhancements will bring the story alive.

At least, I hope so.

If you like thrillers, go buy it.  If you’re only mildly interested, however, hit the local library.

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