Audiobook Review: The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

5 09 2012

The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

Read by Scott Brick

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hors 4 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Hurwitz has brought us many solid enjoyable thrillers, but The Survivor is far and away his best. He has created one of the most complex characters in Nate Overbay, a tragic everyman whose heartbreaking humanity is obvious on every page. Full of crisp action, authentic characters and plenty of surprises, The Survivor is a thriller fan’s delight.

Grade: A

There are all sots of heroes that fill the pages of our best selling thrillers. Many of them are highly trained, skilled operators who can kick some ass, hack a computer, assemble or disassemble a bomb, all while flying a helicopter with one hand. These types of heroes make for great escapism, because in essence, they are not us, they are Superheroes. Very few of us will ever be able to kick ass like Jack Reacher, or even get second looks from the types of women that James Bond uses than discards. Yet, my favorite thriller heroes have always been the Everyman. The Everyman is just like you or me, sure he may have spent some time in the military, but that time was spent mostly as a grunt. He can probably change the oil on his car, and figure out how to download Firefox so he’s not stuck with the crappy Internet Explorer, but, beyond that, he needs to call in experts to take on the complex job. His skills are the most basic of basic. Sure, he may be a writer, or teacher, or have specific knowledge that helps along the way, but he will never be looked at as an expert in his field. He may be a broken man, with a failed marriage, estranged children and a limited number of friends, but his brokenness comes from everyday life, not some secret government experiment that now places him on the edge of society. For all intents and purposes, his choices are what placed his on the edges of his society. The Everyman as hero is us, just that somehow, our hero, through bad timing or just being in the wrong place, get put in a situation where he needs to act. These are the types of heroes you can find in novels by Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay and Gregg Hurwitz. For some reasons, these thrillers featuring real people in extreme situations are the types that resonate most with me as a reader.

Nate Overbay seemed to have it all going right. He had a beautiful wife, a healthy daughter, and a low key job buying men’s suits. Then came September 11th, and the wars in the Middle East, and Nate found his reserve unit, that never would see any real action, called into service. Nate returns home broken, hunted by the ghosts of his fallen comrades. His marriage falls apart and he neglects his daughter. Then, to make matter worse, he is diagnosed with ALS. This is how Nate finds himself on the ledge of a bank building, about to jump, when the bank is taken over by a hostile, bloodthirsty crew. With nothing left to lose, he takes matters into his hands, and becomes a hero. Yet, his heroics gets in the way of a ruthless criminal, who will now uses whatever he can, including Nate’s family, to make sure his mission is complete. I want to start off with a fair warning for those who read this novel. At points, it is depressing as hell. Hurwitz creates one of the most devastatingly heartbreaking characters in Nate Overbay. Nate is a good man who has gotten a raw deal in life, and compounded it with many poor decisions. He is not blameless for the choices he made, but there is reasonableness to his decisions that anyone with humanity can relate too. As a reader, you want good things to happen for Nate. You want him to find redemption and love, but you also know that it will be nearly impossible, with his baggage, and the ever-present looming of his diagnosis. It’s a rough road for the reader. Hurwitz does what truly gifted writers do, he makes you feel. Hurwitz also creates a fascinating, if a bit over the top scenario to place Nate in. At first I struggled with his traditional Ukrainian bad guys, but as he builds more depth into his antagonist, he reaches a certain balance between Nate and his nemesis Pavlo that really serves the plot. It all builds up to a terrific ending that seems like a slow motion car crash, you can see it coming, yet still hope for a last minute reprieve. The one thing you can’t do it look away.  Hurwitz has brought us many solid enjoyable thrillers, but The Survivor is far and away his best. He has created one of the most complex characters in Nate Overbay, a tragic everyman whose heartbreaking humanity is obvious on every page. Full of crisp action, authentic characters and plenty of surprises, The Survivor is a thriller fan’s delight.

Something happened to me in The Survivor that really hasn’t happened to me for a long time in a Scott Brick narration. I forgot it was Scott Brick reading the novel. Brick has such a signature style, that I am usually on some level aware that I am listening to Scott Brick reading a book. That his narration works more often than not says a lot for the narrator. Yet, in The Survivor, I was so engrossed in the story, I literally forgot it was Brick. I think that Brick’s penchant for pulling the poetry out of the prose, was so matched with the deep humanity of Nate Overbay’s character, that they managed to merge in a way I hadn’t experienced for a while. I not sure who to praise more for this, Hurwitz or Brick, but together, this was one of those rare audiobook experiences where everything just came together perfectly. The Survivor will definitely be looked at as one of the top thrillers of the year by many, and I will not hesitate to be among that group.

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One response

9 09 2012
Carl V.

I too like the Everyman hero, for the simple fact that it is so much more easy to identify with the character, even if the situations the character are in are far outside the realm of our normal lives. I’ll have to add this author, series, to my list.

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