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child continued

“No point in being the bait in a trap and then hiding your light under a bushel. Not that I had ever been sure what a bushel was. Some kind of a small barrel, I assumed. In which case the light would go out anyway, for want of oxygen.”

You get this every so often in these novels: Reacher as The Man Who Fell To Earth. Some kind of a small barrel?

July 22, 2012, 10:55am   Comments

lee child, the affair

“This was 1997, remember. Four and a half years before the new rules. A long time ago. A much less suspicious world.”

So I spent some time on the beach. Anyway.

This is apparently the one they’re making into a Tom Cruise vehicle, which is an impressive example of miscasting. You can make Jennifer Lawrence a brunette; you can’t make Tom Cruise a great huge physically imposing guy.

But anyway — this is one of the refrains of the book, as it’s something of an origin story (hence, one assumes, the movie; do we get mass-market movies that are anything but origin stories anymore?) and thus retrospective, but it puts the reader in a weird place in relation to the action, always aware of the history that occurs after the events of the story, with those events always colored by an unrelated crisis.

Dell 03.27.12 (paper)

July 21, 2012, 10:49am   Comments

lee child, nothing to lose

“Reacher’s mother had said such things gave a room personality. Reacher himself had been unsure how anything except a person could have personality. He had been a painfully literal child.”

As much as I like Lee Child, generally as a palate-cleansing sprig of parsley, this is clearly the three-sentence high point of this book. Normally so well-aware of his abilities and limits, this installment is rickety and preposterous, and redeemed largely by the speed with which one can get through it.

Delacorte 06.03.08

March 09, 2012, 11:00am   Comments

ruff continued

“From the White House they took a driving tour of some of the Zone’s other sights, eventually circling back to the center of the Mall, where they proceeded on foot to the base of the Washington Monument. Colonel Yunus drew Mustafa’s attention to a series of pockmarks in the obelisk’s north face. These were, he explained, the result of insurgent mortar strikes, the Monument having become a target after rumors spread that Bolous al Darir was planning to use it as the gnomon for a giant Islamic prayer clock.”

The trouble is that I wanted a lot more from this, after falling in love with Matt Ruff’s last book, Bad Monkeys, rather a lot. But The Mirage is just diverting, serviceable; it’s got a couple of good jokes, but it plays them out for too long, and its suspense plot is totally adequate until you remember that Monkeys made you scratch your head, not just slog through the kind of extended cinematic action sequence that someone like Lee Child — a novelist of modest gifts, who nonetheless knows precisely what those gifts are and what they can do for him — is able to pull off much better.

February 13, 2012, 6:24am   Comments

lee child, gone tomorrow

“When I was done with watching for people I started watching for rats instead. I like rats. There are a lot of myths about them. Sightings are rarer than people think. Rats are shy. Visible rats are either young or sick or starving. They don’t bite sleeping babies’ faces for the fun of it. They’re tempted by traces of food, that’s all. Wash your kid’s mouth before you put it to bed and it’ll be OK. And there are no giant rats as big as cats. All rats are the same size.”
Presented almost without comment, because it’s a Lee Child book that comes after a string of stuff in translation, except to express wonder at the things one can learn from fiction.

Delacorte Press 05.19.09

October 23, 2011, 5:56am   Comments

lee child, the hard way

“‘It’s an American,’ Lane said. ‘I think.’ He closed his eyes again and concentrated. His lips moved like he was replaying conversations in his head. ‘Yes, American. Certainly a native speaker. No stumbles. Never any weird or unusual words. Just normal, like you would hear all the time.’”
Please take this the right way; this is after all highly competent and completely unpretentious airport reading. But? The very American main character has already described someone as ‘safe as houses.’

Delacorte 05.16.06

May 17, 2011, 4:49pm   Comments

child continued

“‘What’s a Persuader?’
‘A shotgun,’ I said. ‘The Mossberg M500 Persuader. It’s a paramilitary weapon.’”

And here we were, all this time, thinking it was the hero that was the persuader. Ooh — but! Maybe they both are. (I do see what he did there, I do.)

February 15, 2011, 10:19am   Comments

lee child, persuader

“I slapped its side like van people do and it boomed faintly in response.”
Now, one of the hallmarks and glories of the Lee Child style is its self-evident simplicity. SVO sentences. When things get exciting, he drops the subject. But when the guy slaps the side of the van “like van people do” you see the self-evident hardening into something dangerously close to self-parody.

Dell (Delacorte) 05.13.03

February 14, 2011, 8:07am   Comments

lee child, one shot

"Not an auto-parts store. The auto-parts store. Maybe the only one, or at least the main one. Which in any city is always right there on the same strip as the tire stores and the auto dealers and the lube shops. Which in any city is always a wide new strip near a highway cloverleaf. Cities are all different, but they’re also all the same.”

Late-summer head cold. Means pulp. 

"A place like that, stock was unloaded directly onto the shelves. No hidden inventory. Reacher knew how modern retail worked. He read the papers people left behind on buses and in diner booths."

Delacorte 06.05

August 27, 2010, 7:16pm   Comments

lee child, the enemy

"The rest area was the same as on most American interstates I had seen. The northbound highway and the southbound highway eased apart to put a long fat bulge into the median. The buildings were shared by both sets of travelers. Therefore they had two fronts and no backs. They were built of brick and had dormant flower beds and leafless trees all around them. There were gas pumps. There were angled parking slots. Right then the place seemed to be halfway between quiet and busy. It was the end of the holidays. Families were struggling home, ready for school, ready for work. The parking slots were maybe one-third filled with cars. Their distribution was interesting. People had grabbed the first parking slot they saw rather than chancing something farther on, even though that might have put them ultimately a little closer to the food and the bathrooms. Maybe it was human nature. Some kind of insecurity."

Two things. First, there’s the style, which is impeccable and consistent throughout the book — the observer, who I suppose is tacitly identified with the third-person main character here (and who narrates his observations in a similar clinical deadpan), provides a clear physical description, delivered in short factual sentences, generally without even so much as the interruption or complexity of a subordinate clause or a comma. It’s a very effective stylistic choice, given the genre and subject. Second, though — this description is of a bit of I-95 in North Carolina, not precisely a stretch of road I know intimately, but have driven, along with much of the Eastern Seaboard; the service plaza described is far more common on toll roads, down to the gas station provided, which would be (is?) anomalous on non-toll 95. But beyond that quibble — I’ve never seen a rest stop where people cluster near the entrance. Rather, as Americans, we get as close as possible with our cars before trusting our legs. All of this is minor, of course — but sets up a weird dissonance where the voice is entirely trustworthy but the information delivered is just a bit off. 

Dell 04.26.05

July 15, 2010, 3:49pm   Comments