I’ll admit it. I’m a fan of Jack Reacher. It took me ages to pick up the first book and give it a thorough reading, but that was two weeks ago and I’m already more than halfway through the third one in the series. That’s what I do with series that I like, I’ve discovered. It’s how I plowed through 16 tomes of Stephanie Plum misadventures in less than three months. I guess I just like to play catch up.
And yes, I’ve employed a tactic of reading all the reviews for each book after I’ve read the book. I’ve never really done that before, and it’s an interesting exercise, I’ve found, because people are so wide-ranging in their feelings about the character, about the series, and about each individual book. Apparently Reacher himself, as written, is just such a polarizing figure, and attacking Lee Child’s writing believability is en vogue as well.
Having read all of the reviews for the first two books, absorbed all of the information from other readers, and compared it to my own reading, what changed about my own view of the character? Absolutely nothing. In fact, I laughed at both the people who say Jack Reacher is a fully realized character, and at the people who say he’s as flat as a pancake. I chuckled when I saw someone claim the books were formulaic and boring, as well as at the guy who hailed the books as “perfectly written.”
Because, no, the books aren’t perfectly written, but neither are they so vapid as to make them unreadable. They’re pop fiction, right? Take a lot of action, a bit of sex, and a little Sherlock Holmes, and you’ve got pretty much every Jack Reacher novel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Child is not the second coming of Faulkner, nor should he be. There’s a place in the market for his type of fiction as well as whatever else is being trotted out there as well.
If you’re not familiar with Jack Reacher, I can sum him up in six easy points…
- He’s ex-military police
- He’s smart about the obscure stuff and stupid about the obvious stuff
- Apparently girls drop their panties when he’s around
- He’s a HUGE, yeti-type dude
- He’s the classic drifter who enjoys living “off the grid”
- He falls into most of his adventures by coincidence (um yeah)
That there (#6) is one of the biggest issues those who hate the books have with the plots. Most of the time some incredible coincidence leads him into the adventure, and yet somehow it is also connected to him in some way. Apparently even though he’s spent nearly his entire life in the military, either as a brat, or as an officer, he somehow still found time to make impressions on a cadre of diverse individuals throughout the length and breadth of a country he hasn’t spent much time in.
But I’m a fan, because I like the action. I can suspend my belief enough to go along with the coincidences, to avert my gaze when he has sex with yet another bombshell, and to follow him into impossible situations that he gets out of in creative ways that may or may not actually work in real life. But, see, Reacher doesn’t live in real life. He lives in a series of books, so he can do those things, and I follow him through every single one of them without blinking an eye.
Oh, and the movie, don’t even get me started on the debate surrounding that one!