THE YEAR OF THE LOCUST By Terry Hayes
It has been a long time coming, but we finally have a second novel by Terry Hayes, the author of the highly popular
I Am Pilgrim.
It has been ten years since the release of I Am Pilgrim, which became a global bestseller and a favourite spy thriller with many readers, and much of that time since has been filled with rumours about a second novel and repeated announcements about delays in its release. Now, however, The Year Of The Locust (Bantam, 9 November 2023) is finally here!
I am not going to ruin the many surprises contained in the plot of The Year Of The Locust and will mainly repeat the description that comes from the publishers:
“If, like Kane, you’re a Denied Access Area spy for the CIA, then boundaries have no meaning. Your function is to go in, do whatever is required, and get out again – by whatever means necessary. You know when to run, when to hide – and when to shoot.
But some places don’t play by the rules. Some places are too dangerous, even for a man of Kane’s experience. The badlands where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet are such a place – a place where violence is the only way to survive.
Kane travels there to exfiltrate a man with vital information for the safety of the West – but instead he meets an adversary who will take the world to the brink of extinction. A frightening, clever, vicious man with blood on his hands and vengeance in his heart.”
I will add, however, that the lengthy opening section set in the ‘badlands’ is superb, and keeps the reader on edge as Kane desperately makes his way through the vividly described landscape, as both hunter and prey. It also nicely sets up the rest of the book, which finds its way into other dangerous locales.
As to the story itself, it has the features that readers of I Am Pilgrim will expect. At over 660 pages The Year Of The Locust is very long, although it does move at a better pace than I Am Pilgrim. The plotting is tightly wound, and seemingly minor episodes and internal stories frequently come back many pages later to have a major impact on the story. The spycraft is very up-to-date and convincing, and Hayes’ has the same ability as Tom Clancy early in his career, to be able to render complex details of military technology in a readable manner. The violence is also detailed and graphic, and there are some well crafted action scenes that will stick in the mind.
The highlight is Hayes’ ability to create evocative visual images of places and the people that inhabit some of the most extreme locations in the world, and make you feel the dust and smell the smells. It is also filled with interesting side stories from hunting mammoth tusks in the frozen tundra to the dramatic fall of Saigon to the treachery of a German spy in Iran, all of which play an important part in the story. As well as advancing the plot, Hayes uses these stories to flesh out his characters and reveal their many sides and make them interesting. There are also some very moving moments in the book.
The Year Of The Locust also features an amazing twist towards the end of the book, which no one will see coming and which, I suspect, will divide readers.
On the negative side, it is a long book, probably unnecessarily so. There are also too many stretches of coincidence and a generous suspension of disbelief is required at times. However, this is balanced by some good moments of foreshadowing, and there is a nice touch towards the end involving a minor villain known as The Magus.
And that twist!
Is The Year Of The Locust better than I Am Pilgrim? I have to confess to not sharing the unbridled enthusiasm for earlier book that many readers have, and for me The Year Of The Locust was a more compelling novel, especially the opening 200 pages, or so. In all, it kept me highly entertained and will make for a great Christmas present and read this holiday season.
The Year Of The Locust was released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 9 November 2023. It is not due for release in the United States until 6 February 2024.
Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for my copy of the book for review.