killing floor. jack reacher. conflicted book.
THE GOOD: I didn’t want to like this book, but I did anyway. Mr. Child is a terrific storyteller, and the plot unfolds at a perfect pace, with the tension ratcheting up each step of the way. I was drawn in from the first chapter (see Ugly below) and then I felt like I had to see the story through to the end.
THE BAD: Jack Reacher himself isn’t a particularly memorable character. He’s a slight variation on your typical hardboiled cop with little past, little outward emotion, and little communication skills. But like any wooden hero, Jack Reacher is good at everything. Like Napoleon Dynamite (“bowhunting skills… computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!”)
THE UGLY: the prose. Oh God, it’s just awful. For every bit that Lee Child is a good storyteller, he is equally a clunky writer. I first tried to read this book on my Kindle, but I gave up before the end of the first chapter, because I couldn’t take the “sing-song” cadence of the prose… So many sentences are the same length and start the same way (He walked to the door. He opened the door. He walked through the door. He closed the door behind him.) that it feels like an endless loop. I later picked up the audiobook and found it much easier because the narrator added some distinctiveness to the rhythm. I would def recommend the audio version, because, if you’re like me and tend to drift off to other thoughts while listening, this is perfect because you don’t have to pay attention all that well to follow the story.
I think Lee Child is trying to emulate Hemingway with his simple declarative sentences and focus on dialogue and action to tell the story. I could count on one hand the number of adverbs and adjectives in this book. This isn’t normally such a bad thing, but Child’s insistence on simple prose leads him to use some phrases over and over and over and over again until I want to scratch my friggin eyes out. Like “shrug” – at least once per page (not kidding), Jack Reacher shrugs, usually because someone has asked him a question. It drove me batty. Here’s a made up example:
“Hey Jack, do you want sprinkles on your ice cream?”
I shrugged. “I don’t care.”
In that example, you could remove the shrug because it’s not necessary. The dialogue would get the point across.
FINAL ANALYSIS: The Jack Reacher series is sorta the guy’s version of Fifty Shades of Grey. You know it’s going to be bad going in, but you want the guilty pleasure. But instead of ball gags and whips, you get Jack Reacher punching a bunch of guys and then acting like it’s all in a day’s work.