myspace layouts, myspace codes, glitter graphics Totally Biased Book and Movie Review: Lee Child's The Hard Way Book Review

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lee Child's The Hard Way Book Review

The Hard Way- A Jack Reacher Novel
by Lee Child
published by Bantam Dell, May 2006
371 pages

First thing's first, I have to admit, in the case of Lee Child's books about Jack Reacher (and I think all of his books are about Jack Reacher) I am going to be more totally biased than usual. Even if Child put out a book that was a leaking pile of crap stuffed between covers, I would probably love it, if it had Jack Reacher in it.
Reacher is my hero. I think anyone who reads a billion books a year like I do, many of them suspense/murder mystery/PWPATSBC....Police Working Practically Alone to Solve A Baffling Case books, should have a hero. Someone to look forward to, after reading about say, Cornwalls' moody Scarpetta and Iris Johansen's great, but almost always-the-same-tough-cookie woman heroines. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Johansen's books and read them faithfully. It's just that she has such a perfect pattern for success in her books that she doesn't vary it much. The reason I bring up her books is because although the female is the main kick-ass character, she always learns most/all of what she knows from the male character and they/he is as close to what I want in a hero as any writer's gotten. Johansen's heroes are always calm, cool and in control, deadly and able to kill without blinking, although they almost always have to have a great moralistic reason for why they are killing, and the guy has to be a really, really Bad bad guy. That's almost what I look for in my literary heroes, but these guys of hers have too much conscience, and they fall in love with these completely unlovable women for no apparent reason. Since Johansen's writing roots are in romance and a lot of her readers are women who followed her over into suspense genre, I totally understand. That's after all, what (most) women want.
Not me though. I want a hero who is all of those things, but also smart. practical. With his OWN ethics. And someone who doesn't fall in love with women who don't deserve it. That's just not my fantasy. If a hero- perfect man that he is, falls in love with someone, she better be pretty special. She better be worth it. should at least be nice to him. Otherwise, it ruins the whole thing for me and the whole time I'm reading the book, I'm imagining their future divorce proceedings and the division of property, including who gets the guns, who gets the grenades.
So you can imagine my glee when I first read a Reacher novel. Here he was! My hero come to life on the pages of Die Trying.
Jack Reacher, for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him, is ex-military police. He was good at his job, very, very good. He is an investigator, soldier, bodyguard, badass loner. He was in the military for basically his entire life, and when they began downsizing, he finds himself spit out in the world he knows very little about, but luckily he learns fast. Now a civilian, he drifts around, enjoying America, throwing away his clothes as they get old, carrying absolutely nothing with him except a toothbrush. Sometimes he digs swimming pools for cash. Sometimes he gets hired by the Secret Service to protect the Vice President. Many varied jobs this guy has. And of course, like any good hero, he does them all with style. He's six foot four and built like a brick shit house, too, another thing I like in a hero. It's all good and fine that a guy "looks harmless and is actually deadly", but that doesn't equal the imaginary thrill I get from Reacher standing up to an abusive husband and staring down, way, way down at him while the husband's bowels turn to jelly. He can kick anyone's ass in a fair fight and almost everyone's in an unfair one too. He knows his worth, he's not arrogant but realistic. He's addicted to coffee. In every book he usually gets it on with one female character and at the end of the book, he moves on. These women are nice, you can understand why he finds them attractive and they treat him well and he treats them well...none of the passion love disguised as tension hate that you get in other books. There are no promises of love ever after in the Reacher books. Just mutual respect and admiration. Well, with one very prominent exception, but that's the girl he actually does love, and it turns out that even for her, he can't live a "normal" life, so they go their separate ways.
Reacher is like an urban legend, an American Myth man. Roaming the streets of the world, dealing out justice with a heavy hand. Reacher doesn't wait and hold the bad guys until the cops get there. His finger doesn't tighten, and then release, on the trigger as he regains control and chooses not to take a life. Oh no, Reacher shoots the bad guy in the head unhesitatingly. Usually several times. He's not adverse to breaking a neck here and there, too.
I like that in a hero. Now I'm LOL'ing at myself because I criticized Johansen above for her stick-to-what-works guidelines, and Lee Child's does exactly that. A lot of people whine about his plotlines being too "coincidental" They can all bite me. Reacher's The Man. But I said I'd be biased. And although there is a formula in Reacher novels, it's always a very different adventure he's on. As mentioned above, hired to save the Vice president, but not in the usual way... Reacher is actually told to try to get through to him, and show the Secret Service where their weaknesses lie. Or perhaps he is accidentally kidnapped along with a very prominent general's daughter who is going to be held hostage by crazy white supremacists taking over the world. Haha, you think, they have no idea the shit they just scooped up and shoved in the back of that van! Perhaps it's a covert operation that needs him to infiltrate the bad guy's house by pretending to be bad himself. Not difficult, because he is bad, in all the right ways. It's different, each time, and although I know what's going to happen, basically, I LIKE THAT.
Child's latest novel, The Hard Way, is no exception to his usual rules. Reacher is in New York City, enjoying a cup of espresso, when he sees a man cross the street and get into a car. Start of new adventure. Turns out he was seeing the man who has kidnapped a rich guy's wife (and her daughter) pick up the ransom money, which was in the trunk of the car. First asked to the scene just to tell the dude what he saw, Reacher quickly becomes embroiled. He accurately calls what's going to happen next and rich and now seemingly crazy dude ends up hiring him. After several ransom drops and no return of mother and child, it is assumed the worst has happened. Rich crazy guy is suddenly much crazier. "Find them" he says to Reacher, and readers like me have no doubt that Reacher will, indeed, find them. From the second he picked up the photograph of mama and kid staring lovingly at each other, we knew Reacher was going to find the idiots who kidnapped them, and punish them mightily. He just doesn't like bullies.
He pairs up with an ex-special agent (enter female who Reacher will become romantically involved with for the duration of the novel) and their search is a whirlwind, in the usual Child style. Bouncing along, he leaves clues for us all along the trail and once you're accustomed to his writing style, it becomes fun to try to see them, to pick them up as you go along. I was extremely proud when I picked up the pieces of this one just as they were dropped, and figured out slightly before Reacher what was really going down.
If you don't like violence, you won't like these books.
If you don't like vigilantism type justice, you won't like these books.
If you don't like strong, silent type macho heroes who punch first and ask questions later, you won't like these books.
If you're a snobby critic who expects everything to be written in a flowery, yet unconventional, yet unique, yet familiar, blah blah blah won't like these books.
If you enjoyed movies like, oh, Charles Bronson's old flicks, or when Dirty Harry shoves his gun in some punk's nose, if you liked it when Bruce Lee finally got pissed off enough, tasted his own blood, and you shivered in glee as you KNEW all hell was gonna break loose with a banshee-like scream... well, you'll like these books.
I give it a blazing red on the Reader's Rainbow.


Blogger alethegoodsoul said...

Go BRUCE LEE!!!!!!!!!!!

Dude, I love how you write. I can actually feel your exitement through the er, screen.

It sounds like the perfect book for me to read. Violence, tought awesome dude and vigilantism... gah... I waaannn itttt.

This is not good... I have to stop coming here or else I'll always want to watch or read what you watch/read and (possibly) never be able to do it (and always remember... with guilt and sorrow my failure). I should really get a job... now...

11:34 AM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

Dearest, you are young. FUCK the job! Fuck guilt and sorrow! There will be plenty of opportunities in life to experience both. If it is at all possible in your present scene, then just spend the next few years reading and relaxing and deciding where your path lies. Aimlessness and laziness rock! Responsibility gets us all eventually, its nasty old crusted teeth sinking deep into our juglar. Avoid it while you can....

8:14 AM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

Oh... and PS, the FUCKS in that comment were to make you feel un-alone in your "excessive" cursing. LOL.

8:17 AM  
Blogger alethegoodsoul said...


alright, alright. you win!

fuck it all!

Actually, I don't really cuss that much on real life... just in writing. Ah, the anger! the disillusioned, teenage anger!


I shall follow your advice, sensei.

Now, but there is still the problem of me not being able to get in my tiny, oh so innocent and virginal hands a copy of whatever book or movie you review. What shall I do in that case sensei?

5:28 PM  

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