Thursday, June 29, 2017

Killing Floor by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #1) or I think I figured out why the movies aren't as successful as the books

Title: Killing Floor
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Thriller
Pages 407
Publisher: Berkley
Year pub: 1997 (orig), 2004 (reissue)
Rating: ★★★★ - 4 Stars

And it's not because the source material is bad. I found Killing Floor, the first Jack Reacher novel, to be very enjoyable. One major take away I got while reading this is that the Jack Reacher in the two movies is not the same Jack Reacher as in the books. In the case of the former, Tom Cruise plays him as more of a typical action hero, a guy who can walk into a room and just Bruce Lee the living shit out of everyone there. Meanwhile, the latter is well, human. He has his foibles and you know, emotions. That right there is probably the biggest difference between the two Jack Reachers. Throughout Killing Floor, we see Reacher express the full range of human emotions from laughing to crying, happy to just plain pissed off.

That's not to say that book-Reacher doesn't have some badass action hero moments like his movie counterpart, but he's more tactical about it. There's one scene where he takes on a group of five guys, but rather than Walker, Texas Rangering them, he takes them down one by one. Yet, there's another scene earlier in the book where he's attacked by three very large prison inmates and he just barely wins that battle. He even admits (the book is told in first person) afterwards that they would have had him if one of the guys had been choking him differently. He also has sort of a panic attack shortly after the fight ends.

The difference between the two Jack Reachers is simply that one is more realistic and relatable, while the other is an archetype suited for the silver screen.

But that's enough about that, let's talk about the book! As I already said, Killing Floor is the first Jack Reacher novel but chronologically the fourth in the series. Reacher is a former army brat has spent his entire life in the U.S. Army, the last thirteen as an MP (military police) before being discharged six months prior to the start of the book due to post-Cold War budget cuts. He spends the next six months traveling around the country, enjoying something that he feels he's never had until now - freedom. His travels and a spur of the moment decision lands him in the tiny Georgia town of Margrave.

Bad luck lands him in jail, accused of viciously murdering a man. Reacher manages to clear his name and spends the rest of the novel unraveling a conspiracy that involves blood and money, with a murder that strikes close to home for Reacher.

I can't actually talk about it without spoiling the plot a bit, so you've been warned!

Still with me? Alright, so the criminal conspiracy involves smuggling one dollar bills out of the country and reprinting them as one hundreds. It's clever because Reacher and his cohorts, Detective Finlay and Officer Roscoe spend much of the book operating on the assumption that the counterfeited money is being smuggled into the country, not out of. Lee Child succeeds in leading you to the same direction and when the ball finally drops, it leaves you stunned.

Another thing Child does well in Killing Floor is making you feel Reacher's sense of paranoia. He has few allies beyond the aforementioned Finlay and Roscoe and even people he thought he could trust turn out to be wolves in sheep's clothing.

What Child didn't do so well is make me believe in Reacher and Roscoe's romantic relationship. It developed way too fast and felt unnatural, as if it was there so Reacher would have to contend with having a loved one in jeopardy. On the other hand, the relationship is one of the sources of emotion for Reacher, so it's not too terrible a thing.

All in all, I liked Killing Floor. It was a fun and genuine page-turner.

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