The Second Son by Lee Child

A slight diversion from the norm here, for Mr. Child as well as for me: he has written a Jack Reacher short story (as opposed to his usual novel), set in Reacher’s childhood (as opposed to adulthood), and here’s the big one – gasp – available only as an e-book, and not in “real” print. I was excited about the first two and not about the third. I have been a late adopter of many forms of technology, and the e-book, while a great thing for a lot of people (even some friends and family, people I KNOW), still scares me and strikes me as a little bit blasphemous. Give me ten years to get used to the idea and maybe I’ll get one someday. But for now, I said, how will I read this Reacher story? My mother bought it for me (thank you Mom) and I went over there on a Saturday afternoon with a brown bag lunch and sat down and read it. So this was an experiment with the e-format, as well as a Reacher story.

So. First, the story. We know Reacher (in the series of novels about him, of which I’ve read 10-and-change of 16) as an adult; I believe he was 36 when we met him in Killing Floor. In The Second Son, he’s 13. As his fans already know, his father is in the military, his mother is French, he has a brother two years older (Joe), and they move constantly – like every few months. The family of four has just arrived in Okinawa, and as usual, the local military kids (who have been there just perhaps a little longer than the Reachers) want to fight Reacher and Joe. (Yes, he went by Reacher even as a kid.) Joe is accused of one crime, and their father of another. Their maternal grandfather is dying, back in France. And Reacher saves the day. I don’t think that’s too spoilery, since he always does.

This was an enjoyable little story. If you normally like Reacher, you’ll like this; it has all the right ingredients. Reacher is a badass; he meets a cute girl and impresses her; he saves the day. If anything, the requisite suspension of disbelief is slightly greater than in the novels, because he’s just a kid here, so his badassery is that much more amazing. There’s one line I found especially funny where …some sort of military authority can’t believe he’s about to ask this 13-yr-old kid for help in his investigation. But really, if you’ve bought into Reacher, you’re comfortable with the suspension of disbelief, so you should be fine. It made me sigh with satisfaction. It’s like a Reacher novel in miniature.

And the format? Well, I don’t have any strong or specific complaint. It worked fine, although I had to tilt it just right to avoid glare at one point. The pages turned. I played with changing up the font size. I’m not against it. The strongest argument I know in favor, is for travel: not having to lug a largish number of books around, but having them all in that slim little package. My mother has some 40? books open on her machine right now, just because they’re there, but I don’t see this as a selling point; I’ve been known to read 2, 3, even 4 books at once, but more than that is just silly. I see that as actually detracting from the reading experience, because I’d be so confused, so start-and-stop. I’d rather be immersed in a book. I know the point is not to have 40 books going at once, of course, and if I were traveling it would be nice to carry less. But so far in my life this is not a great need for me.

I’m not angry at the e-book. But I’m not enamored; I love real books (battered old paperbacks, preferably) too much, and don’t feel a need for what I see as the greatest reason for e-books, that carrying of less. But it was an interesting experience to get to try one out with a quick read like this. Thanks Mom. If you read The Second Son, please do share your thoughts.

And the rest of you (Mom included) – would you care to share your e-reader-vs-print thoughts?

4 Responses

  1. […] The Second Son, a recent Reacher short […]

  2. […] Joe is only treated in the past tense in the other books. (Well, there is the short story The Second Son also, in which the brothers are teenagers.) We meet Reacher’s mother and learn something […]

  3. […] stories do not best showcase Reacher’s abilities. This is the second I’ve read, and The Second Son was interesting for the light it shed on Reacher’s past, brother Joe’s personality, and […]

  4. […] read “Second Son” before, but I was glad at another chance. It’s definitely one of those that requires a suspension of […]

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