Wednesday, August 02, 2006

'The Hard Way' (Lee Child)

A cup of tea. A hot bath. A piece of chocolate cake. You know, things that are consistently good. Not ground-breaking. Not jaw-dropping. Just comfortable, reliable and deeply satisfying.

Like Lee Child’s latest thriller: The Hard Way. Another up-to-par Jack Reacher delight, complete with secret agencies, kidnap and ransom, snipers and cheap throwbacks to the army days.

It’s all there. Even Jack’s inexplicably sexy ‘no strings’ approach to absolutely everything, including clothing, women and the ubiquitous cup of coffee.

For me, Lee Child’s finest literary quality is his constancy; his uniform skill. His second finest is his pared-down prose, which offers sufficient clarity of plot, crispness of dialogue and dimension of character for the story to tell itself.

If you’re already a Reacher-phile, forget what you’re doing, buy this book and turn off your phone for a couple of hours. You deserve it.

If you’re not, but you appreciate the escapist American thriller, start with The Hard Way – you’ll be a Reacher-phile soon enough.

‘The Waking’ (TM Jenkins)

I’m not a fan of science fiction. I’m sceptical of novels set in the not-too-distant future, and more sceptical of novels set in the distant future. When I saw that The Waking, a medical thriller, was partly set in ‘Arizona, 2070’, it nearly put me off altogether.

But I’m glad I persevered, because this book is riveting – especially for a sceptic. Not only intelligent, challenging and highly original, TM Jenkins’ debut novel is also an utter page-turner.

We’re on the brink of a real fuel crisis, with the threat of global warming beating down stronger every day, and The Waking combines our damaged world with Frankenstein’s old innovation, cryonic preservation, to take us to a place that is terrifying in its plausibility.

This novel has ‘bestseller’ scrawled all over it, because it is paced like The Da Vinci Code, with research that is just as good and controversy that is just as credible. For me, it goes one better: it is extremely well-written and disturbing down to the very last line.