THE CYCLIST

Viken Berberian, Author
Viken Berberian, Author . Simon & Schuster $21 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2283-9
Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-7432-2767-4
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-7432-4939-3
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A terrorist prepares to attack a Beirut hotel in Berberian's first novel, a thinly plotted but stylistically alluring character study that begins with the anonymous narrator laid up in a hospital after being clocked by a Mercedes while riding his bike. As his girlfriend, Ghaemi Basmati, helps nurse him back to health, he ponders the ultimate ride he will soon take to a seaside hotel with a backpack full of plastic explosives. He also recalls his terrorist training at "the Academy," where the attack was referred to as a "baby," terminology that becomes more ironic when the cyclist learns that Basmati is pregnant with his child. Throughout his musings, though, the narrator seems as obsessed with food as he is with the success of his mission, meals and delicacies functioning as both metaphor and sustenance as he flashes back through his life. The final attack takes place during a bicycle race, and while the plan is for the narrator to survive, he imperils both himself and the mission by getting caught up in the race. Berberian is a thoughtful writer, delivering a compelling psychological portrait, one that will probably earn him an audience based on the public's increased interest in terrorism. But the story peters out as Berberian tries to stretch the plot: in many respects the book might have worked better had it been kept to novella length. That quibble aside, there's enough meat on the bones here to leave readers curious about Berberian's future efforts. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Mar. 6)

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