Drive (2005) by James Sallis

I saw the film adaptation of this novel some years ago, and enjoyed it very, very much. I’ve watched the film many times, both the original version and the BBC ‘Rescore’ version that changed the score and soundtrack. I’m a great fan of the film and its director. The film is very firmly imprinted in my head. So reading the novel years after the fact was an odd experience.

The novel is a well-written modern noir, but upon finishing it, I was struck by how basically everything I loved about the film was something unique to the film, that had little to do with what the film adapted from the book (the basic characters, narrative, plot, and so on). I love the aesthetics of the film; the 1980s esque synthesisers and the contrasting neon lights. I love the odd restrained earnest tone, and odd performance by Ryan Gosling as the very reserved ‘Driver’ protagonist. The novel expands greatly on his character. What’s under the hood, so to speak, is less compelling than the more mysterious figure he was in the film.


The movie’s such a strong, vivid experience in my mind that I’m incapable of reviewing this book as a singular work, but while it’s clearly a very competent, well-written modern noir, it holds very little of what I love about the film. I’m not a great fan of well-written crime noirs. They hold no inherent interest to me. This book doesn’t promise anything beyond that, but that means there’s not much I, in my personal taste, enjoyed greatly. It’s a fine read that zips by quickly, but it’s not something that would stick with me, if I’d never seen the film. The prose is very enjoyable, but there’s comparatively little to enjoy here – nearly all that made the film great is absent, and instead the reader is left with what I found to be a fairly uninteresting plot, chronology, and set of characters. Certainly a fine read for some, but not for me. I give it two pizza boxes, and a drawing stuck to a fridge.


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