just trying to keep score.

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child continued

"Secret Service is a civilian organization. Paramilitary at best. Nearly as bad as regular citizens."

I don’t think it’s really reading too much into this to point out that there’s a strange tension between Child’s very lone-wolf hero — who starts the book by buying new clothes to suit a change in climate, and prides himself on being so untraceable and disconnected that he carries nothing with him, brings no literal baggage — and his characters’ reverence for the military. Which is not to say that the military cannot teach independence, but instead that the contempt for any other organization, and the inability to operate within the authority of another organization, conflicts with our hero being, essentially, a nostalgic retired organization man. 

May 23, 2010, 8:04am   Comments

child continued

"At that exact moment less than a hundred and thirty miles away in a warehouse behind Baltimore’s Inner Harbor cash was finally exchanged for two weapons and matching ammunition. A lot of cash. Good weapons. Special ammunition. The planning for the second attempt had started with an objective analysis of the first attempt’s failure. As realistic professionals they were reluctant to blame the whole debacle on inadequate hardware, but they agreed that better firepower couldn’t hurt. So they had researched their needs and located a supplier. He had what they wanted. The price was right. They negotiated a guarantee. It was their usual type of arrangement. They told the guy that if there was a problem with the merchandise they would come back and shoot him through the spinal cord, low down, put him in a wheelchair."

Generally, the most important ingredient for success, at least in the mass-market serial thriller subgenre, is that the author get out of his own way. Which Child for the most part does. But this bit — one of the few passages not from the perspective of the hero — shows some moves. There are the wooden-but-effective ones, like the amplification of the first sentence (“Good weapons. Special ammunition.”). But there is also the movement between the need-to-know general, where only the basic outlines of actions and people are sketched out, and the highly specific, in the case of the threat. The effect is one of starting with focus and drifting out of it, before snapping into a sudden sharp focus on the last sentence. And that makes this a better paragraph than one might expect if one just judges the book by its cover.

May 22, 2010, 8:20am   Comments

lee child, without fail

"So maybe she’ll want to date you, too. Civilized can be an overrated virtue. And collecting the complete set is always fun for a girl."

Says the main character’s female partner, in relation to his deceased brother’s ex-girlfriend. There’s not, like, a fuck-yeah-airport-fiction tumblr, is there?

Jove 04.03

May 21, 2010, 10:19am   Comments