Review: Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

Title: Gone Tomorrow

Author: Lee Child

Publisher: Bantam [2009]

ISBN: 978-0-593-05704-9

Length: 441 pages

It is late night/early morning. Jack Reacher is on a New York subway train. He spots a woman he thinks is a suicide bomber. He decides to talk to her. This action sets off a trail of unexpected events.

The short sentences in that synopsis are similar to the writing style in this book. The mostly short sentences are full of details about some things (e.g. gun models and fight sequences) but no details about other things (e.g. the people). The story unfolds via a series of events which happen so quickly that, apparently, there’s no time for anyone to display an emotion or reveal much in the way of motivation. Even the sex is rapid and seemingly as uninteresting to the participants as it was to me.

I know thrillers generally focus more on plot than character development but this one takes that to an extreme. Reacher is a character about whom we know virtually nothing: he’s ex-army, has big feet, has no home and possesses only 9 things all of which he can carry with him. I haven’t read any of the previous 12 novels in the series but I’m prepared to bet no one who has knows much more about Reacher than this as it would be appear to be a feature of the series. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that approach but it just didn’t appeal to me. I like to read not only about what people are doing but why they are doing it and Gone Tomorrow had almost none of that second element. The result was a book I simply didn’t connect with at all.

For me reading this book is like the meal you eat when you’ve got 20 minutes to spare at work and you bolt down a sandwich while checking your emails: it quells the hunger pangs but you barely taste it and wouldn’t be able to describe it to someone the next day if your life depended on it. I read this book on a leisurely interstate train trip in what was basically a single sitting but if you ask me in a week what happened I doubt I’ll be able to recall 3 distinct things about the book.

My rating 2/5

Other stuff

Although the book isn’t for me many others enjoyed the tale including Mack from Mack Captures Crime

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5 Responses to Review: Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

  1. Beth F says:

    I haven’t read any from this series, but it might be the case that they just don’ t work well as stand-alones.

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  2. Maxine says:

    All fair points, with which I don’t disagree. There are quite a few books like this, including huge sellers like Child. (I hope you don’t regret this now, and wish you’d read the Liza Gardner – apologies for my recommendation if so). I only continue to read Child when I get offered a review copy – as you surmise, they are all on the same theme – new girl each book, etc. The first one was pretty good I thought – I read it before he went “huge” – it concerned Jack’s brother and was a real detective story as well as a thriller. But these days, this series is as you say.

    There are worse, I think. James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell are examples of authors who started out quite well but have degenerated to a far greater extent than Child’s rather bland forumula. And Eliz George’s trajectory is different but strange – her books are not improving with time, in any event.

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  3. Dorte H says:

    Bernadette, I have an award for you.

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  4. Barbara says:

    Oh hurray, another member of the not-a-Jack-Reacher-fan club. I find him irritating because he’s so smugly competent at everything (mainly because he was trained by the military, which confers super-powers) and because he is totally sure than when he kills a bad guy he can dispense with any emotional response because they are, after all, bad guys. He’s better than James Patterson, but then so is a moldy cheese sandwich.

    I also find his sentences. Punctuated excessively. Odd habit.

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  5. bernadetteinoz says:

    Beth it may be that the books don’t work on their own but if that is true then it’s arrogance on the part of an author to expect someone to read every word they’ve ever written. I don’t think that’s the case with these books though because I’ve heard Child interviewed and didn’t think he was at all arrogant. I just think they’re not for me.

    Maxine no need to worry that I’ll blame you for me choosing the Child – I am glad to have read one to form my own opinion. I now won’t wonder when people mention him (nor will I be looking to read any more).

    Barbara thank you for the laugh – I just choked on my cheese sandwich (not a moldy one thank heavens). You sum up how I feel about Reacher very well – almost every rotten trait you can give a person. I think if he existed in the real world he would be a crushing bore with a superiority complex. I was surprised I took against him so actually because I have some libertarian leanings myself but he’s just insufferable.

    Dorte – thanks – sorry I didn’t respond earlier – I was away from home and had some access to the Net but not the email account that notifies me when comments are left here.

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