Review of Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp

The movie Die Hard was very loosely based on this. The novel is much darker than the movie. The novel manages to be both didactic and cynically amoral; there are no good guys in it. The Marxist terrorists are just Marxist terrorists; they’re not glamorized at all. But at the same time, the corporation whose building they take over is also portrayed as a bad guy, looting the third world and engaging in arms dealing to fascists, etc. It’s weird. There’s a hint of “capitalists are evil and corrupt and deserve everything bad that happens to them,” but it is also made plain that the Marxists are nothing but killers who enjoy killing, and that when people like them obtain power, the next thing that happens is massacres and genocide. This is stated explicitly. Therefore, Thorp really does not seem to be taking anyone’s side. Also, instead of the cop’s ex-wife in the building, it’s his daughter, and she dies at the end, plunging to her death along with the head of the terrorist gang. Gah, why? Is there a message there? Or is it just a tragedy? It’s hard to tell what Thorp intended.

I think Hollywood made the right call when they transferred this to the screen. They removed the cynicism and political aspects (is nihilism political?) and turned it into a battle against a group of common thieves. In other words, they turned it into a good action movie.

Pacing and structure: The beginning is horribly slow. Nothing interesting happens until page 40, which is when our hero first hears screams from elsewhere in the building. Before that, it’s just a bunch of largely purposeless ruminations about his professional and personal past. It tells us the hero is familiar with anti-terrorism methods, but that could have been handled in less than a page. PAAAADDING! I admit it; skipped ahead. The Los Angeles Times called the novel, “A ferocious, bloody, raging book so single-mindedly brilliant in concept and execution it should be read at a single sitting.” Well… once it gets going, sure. In fact, I did read it in one day. But the beginning suggests that the first draft wasn’t long enough and Thorp had to pad it out.

I’m not sure who the target audience for this novel would be now. Even if you like the movie, that’s not a good reason to read the novel because the movie is significantly better. I think perhaps the best candidate for this is an aspiring Tinseltown screenwriter who would like an example of how to take literary source material and turn it into a movie. Unlike many other cases that come to mind (cough, The Hobbit cough), Hollywood’s choices in conversion here were spot-on.