Archive for September, 2017

Review of No Middle Name – Lee Child

Posted: September 6, 2017 in action, Review
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Jaack ‘No Middle Name’ Reacher, lone wolf, knight errant, ex military cop, lover of women, scourge of the wicked and righter of wrongs, is the most iconic hero for our age. This is the first time all Lee Child’s shorter fiction featuring Jack Reacher has been collected into one volume.

A brand-new novella, Too Much Time, is included, as are those previously only published in ebook form: Second Son, James Penney’s New Identity, Guy Walks Into a Bar, Deep Down, High Heat, Not a Drill and Small Wars. Added to these is every other Reacher short story that Child has written: Everyone Talks, Maybe They Have a Tradition, No Room at the Motel and The Picture of the Lonely Diner. Read together, these twelve stories shed new light on Reacher’s past, illuminating how he grew up and developed into the wandering avenger who has captured the imagination of millions around the world.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Review by Lee Murray

The bio at the back of No Middle Name says one of Lee Child’s “novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every 20 seconds’ and that they’re ‘published in over 100 territories’. So it stands to reason that a fair number of us are familiar with Child’s vagrant hero, the hard-living keen-eyed Marine Corps kid turned military cop. And true to form, this complete collection of short stories featuring Child’s iconic character comprises all the things we’ve come to love about the Child/Reacher franchise:

A bar. Pretty much every Reacher story has one, where the military ex-cop observes every misplaced floorboard, evaluating each shifty-eyed character leaning up against the mahogany before ordering a beer and maybe a cheeseburger. More than once he’ll have a chat with the downtrodden waitress, who typically talks too much, or perhaps says too little which, to an ex-cop, is a tell in itself.

A bus stop, train station, trail, or a road trip in a beat-up van. Child’s hero comes from nowhere, stops a few days, and then moves on to somewhere, which could be anywhere ‒ a fact which makes these stories both fleeting and fierce.

USA. Child’s writing reeks of America, its small towns, sprawling cities, and broken down street corners, and he does it better than most with dusty, weather-beaten worn-out observations which are so familiar they sparkle:

“The city was pitch black, still dead, like a creature on its back.”

“The vacation cabins were laid out haphazardly, like a handful of dice thrown down.”

 “They drove a long, long time in the dark, and then they hit neighbourhoods with power, with traffic lights and street lights and the occasional lit room. Billboards were bright, and the familiar night-time background of orange diamonds on black velvet lay all around.”

And this is Jack Reacher so we cannot go past the obligatory ‘what are you looking at?’ scene, where 6 foot 5 Reacher doesn’t provoke the fight but after weighing up the options and reminding us he doesn’t like running, takes down every two-bit thug in the vicinity. It’s part of his charm.

No story would be complete without the disenfranchised citizen who somehow needs saving, and naturally, Reacher, with no place to go and nothing to lose, is the only one to do it.

And finally, for every story there is the roundhouse kick of a finish that you simply didn’t see coming.

No Middle Name includes five Jack Reacher novellas and several shorter stories. Like Reacher himself, they’re good company for an hour, like taking a rest stop at a small town café to sip coffee and watch the bustle, before stepping back onto the Greyhound of our lives. Recommended.

A multi-award winning writer and editor, Lee Murray’s latest titles include the military thriller Into the Mist (Cohesion Press), and Hounds of the Underworld (RDSP) co-written with Dan Rabarts.

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The legendary biologist and bestselling author mounts a timely and passionate defense of science and clear thinking with this career-spanning collection of essays, including twenty pieces published in the United States for the first time.

For decades, Richard Dawkins has been a brilliant scientific communicator, consistently illuminating the wonders of nature and attacking faulty logic. Science in the Soul brings together forty-two essays, polemics, and paeans—all written with Dawkins’s characteristic erudition, remorseless wit, and unjaded awe of the natural world.

Though it spans three decades, this book couldn’t be more timely or more urgent. Elected officials have opened the floodgates to prejudices that have for half a century been unacceptable or at least undercover. In a passionate introduction, Dawkins calls on us to insist that reason take center stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. And in the essays themselves, newly annotated by the author, he investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers.

Dawkins has equal ardor for “the sacred truth of nature” and renders here with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. Woven into an exploration of the vastness of geological time, for instance, is the peculiar history of the giant tortoises and the sea turtles—whose journeys between water and land tell us a deeper story about evolution. At this moment, when so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy—“a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation”—and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues—“explanation, consolation, and uplift”—without its detriments of superstition and prejudice.

In a world grown irrational and hostile to facts, Science in the Soul is an essential collection by an indispensable author.

Bantam

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Richard Dawkins latest offering is a collection of essays subtitled Selected Writings by a Passionate Rationalist. The approximately 50 essays are divided into eight themed sections and cover subjects dear to Dawkins heart. Most had been published before, many in the press, and Dawkins and his editor Gillian Somerscales have added explanatory footnotes where time has erased topicality. Somerscales introduces each section and Dawkins each essay. Occasionally he also provides an epilogue.

Dawkins is a vocal rationalist, and nothing provokes his ire more than public displays of stupidity. While religion is often the perceived target of his barbs, he considers Brexit to have the cake. But more often he is defending the theory of evolution. Few challenge Newton’s theory of gravitation or Einstein’s theory of relativity, but for some reason the doubters pounce on the “theory” part of evolution as though it were still a hypothesis under test. There goes one section, and another is devoted to misunderstanding concerning the mechanics of evolution.

The politics of faith is explored, while perhaps the most thoughtful section is titled “Living in the Real World”. Here Dawkins explores ethical questions, courtroom procedure and the scientific method, film dubbing, and several other issues. While brief, these are perhaps the best essays of the book and show a side of Dawkins few would glean from the popular press image. Lower down there are a couple of PG Wodehouse homages that are both amusing and thought provoking. Well done, Dawkins.

Finally there are the memorials, where Dawkins pays tribute to four of the people who shaped his life. Again, these are beautiful pieces and Dawkins’ humanity shines through. Oddly, I’ll finish with the introduction, where Dawkins discusses why he chose the word soul to go in the title. A smart reader never ignores the intro.

This is an excellent collection of very good essays, or vice versa. I’m glad to have this in my collection and I thank Penguin Random House New Zealand for the opportunity to review it.