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This was fun, if a little silly. But then, I picked it up for easy entertainment, not literary prowess.
I had been reading The Sound and The Fury the week that my daughter was born, and quickly realized Faulkner is not a good author to read when one is going to be frequently interrupted, nor when one's capacity to think clearly is handicapped by lack of sleep. I needed something that was easy to pick up, put down, and come back to without losing track. I had been meaning to try a Jack Reacher novel for a while, even though mass-market political thrillers are rarely my taste. Turns out, it was just the right thing at the right time.
Since they made a film of One Shot (simply titled Jack Reacher, with Tom Cruise in the role—haven't seen this yet), I figured I was in for 400 pages of corny one-liners and some terrorist ass-kicking. I was right about the one-liners, and came to realize that these are hammy to a degree that I hope Lee Child is writing them tongue-in-cheek; I can't picture some of these lines being written with a straight face (even though Reacher delivers them with one). As for the terrorist ass-kicking, there wasn't a whole lot of that, actually. One Shot is more a detective story than it is a fast-paced thriller with explosions and knife fights, but a good detective story, nonetheless.
Reacher is an all-American male bro-vinist, and while he's a talented investigator, he is absurdly self-confident and smugly impressed with himself. A friend who has read all the Reacher novels pointed out that Jack Reacher is essentially invincible; he rarely gets injured, and almost always walks away from every fight without a scratch. This proved true in One Shot. Reacher also has that magical/impossible-in-real-life James Bond or Don Draper quality where gorgeous women just throw themselves at him. There were no explicit sex scenes, just eye-rolling sentences immediately beforehand to let you know, with one pun or another, that Reacher is about to get it on.
While there's not much depth to Reacher, you still can't help but kinda like the guy.
Again, I knew I wasn't picking up any great piece of literature, but for what this was, it was pretty good. Thriller fiction can be equated to action movies, at least in my mind: I know I'm not going to learn anything about life or beauty or art, but occasionally I just want to see some meatheads blowing stuff up. Most thrillers—again, like action films—can pretty much be boiled down to a basic formulaic plot, and yet One Shot still felt original, smart, tightly plotted, and had a few nice surprises that kept things interesting. By the end, all is wrapped up with a nice little bow, and Reacher rides off into the sunset to sniff out his next adventure.
Would I read another Reacher novel? Sure, maybe in a year or so. It went down like candy, and was just unabashedly fun, and I think there's a time and place for that. I can see how people really get addicted to these series' that one usually picks up on a whim at the airport before a long flight; they're quick and tight, you know what you're going to get, and if you liked it, there are probably about 87 other novels featuring the same main character.
That said, I wouldn't be caught dead with a James Patterson book in my hands.