Review: Drive – James Sallis

james sallis drive cover

An unnamed Driver recounts a job he undertook while sitting in a motel room. His life and the month’s preceding this botched job cross his mind. Driver lives in Los Angeles and is a stunt driver for the movies, and in his spare time he is a getaway driver. He will give you five minutes of his time, no more, no less, does not carry a gun or participate in the jobs or anything. His only job is to drive, and he does it incredibly well. Moving into a new apartment building, he meets Irena, his neighbour, and he falls for her and adores her son, Benicio. Her husband, Standard, is in prison, though he is soon to be released. The two have an odd relationship. When he is released, Irena swears he will not come to stay with her and Benicio, but relents when he turns up anyway. They are certainly not together anymore. Driver is close with Irena and Benicio, and Standard is not getting in the way of it. He respects that Driver and Irena have something on, and tells him to look after his wife and son.

Driver and Standard work some jobs together, where Standard hits a place down for cash, and Driver does what he does back. He works a few movie jobs, too, supplementing his income nicely. However, one day a job goes wrong, and Standard is killed in the heist. Blanche, their accomplice, makes it out with the money, though she is murdered at the motel they were hiding out at. Driver knows that they were set up, and manages to kill the two men that came after them. Taking the money, Driver gets out, gets to his personal doctor and gets sorted out. Driver is in the business of stunt driving due to his friend and mentor Shannon, who has been in the business for ages. However, an accident shattered his pelvis, and he is no longer the top of his game. Driver ultimately finds out that he has Isaiah Paolozzi’s money after he kills Cook, the man responsible for having set them up. Contacting Isaiah, he makes a deal to return the money provided that that is where everything ends. It is all over between them then. The agreement is made, and Driver honours his side.

Finally in a relationship with Irena and getting their lives sorted and together, Driver is crushed when Irena is gunned down one night, and the police call it a gang slaying. Driver knows better, and dedicates his time to taking a lot of getaway jobs and neglecting the movie business, losing a lot of contacts on the way. Making money is easy, and he is making new and relevant contacts for his cause: revenge. Driver cannot let go of the loss of Irena, or that Isaiah broke his word, and is intent on getting to him, killing all those that surround Isaiah and pose a threat. Driver starts to move in on Isaiah and his men, both annoying the other man and scaring him a little. Isaiah’s partner, Bernie Rose, eventually gets pulled in, and so the games begin.

Will Driver make his point to Isaiah and walk away a free man? Will Isaiah eventually catch the Driver, or will Rose turn out to be a problem? Driver doesn’t even have the money anymore, just memories of his past, where he is from, a slew of dead friends and loved ones, and there is no apparent end in sight. What is going to happen?

GRADE 5I honestly didn’t expect the book to be as brilliant as the movie, but I also didn’t expect it to be so… bland and meh, either. The writing was all over the show, the plot did not progress in a normal way, there were no characters that were even semi-decent, the love story was completely taken out and desecrated, Driver’s character was also just a fail. He was not impressive, he was not mysterious. It surprised me that someone read this and thought “hey, let’s turn this into a movie”. It is not the worst book that you could ever read, but I really feel like I wasted my time with this. I was really disappointed. It was a really fast book to read, but it just meandered and went everywhere and nowhere all at once. It was not a particularly gripping story, either. Also, Driver speaks way too much, completely contradicting earlier statements made about him in the book, which is inconsistent, and I didn’t appreciate that at all. Also, none of the events were really that entertaining, and the whole story lacked a certain finesse, something to make it memorable and amazing. It had all the potential, too, it just never actually reached for the possibilities it could have achieved. It didn’t even try. It also felt a bit rushed and not well rounded off for the most part. Ultimately, do yourself a favour, skip this and just watch the movie.