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Were we reading the same book?!

The book “Atlas Shrugged” is a long read. It’s over one thousand pages long. One soliloquy in the book drones on for over 60 pages. I once read somewhere that Ayn Rand was able to get away with writing such a long book (far longer than it needed to be) because her earlier work “The Fountainhead” was such a success. Her past commercial success gave her power over her publisher. Her editor may have thought that Rand knew what she was doing, and so didn’t suggest/demand that Rand shorten “Atlas.”

I read “Atlas” some years ago, and although I’m not a literary critic, or any kind of expert on literature, I certainly felt that the book could have been shorter. I suspect that Rand’s editor could have, should have, required that the book be shortened by about 50% before it would be send to the printers. I don’t blame Rand for the length of the book. Writers are supposed to get their ideas down on paper. The editor’s job is to make the book presentable.

I’ve been reading a lot while on home leave. Most of the books have been fun fiction. I like mysteries and thrillers. For years, one of my favorite series has been the “Jack Reacher” novels by Lee Child. However, I think that the one that I just finished will be the last of the series that I will read.

The first one in the series, “The Killing Floor,” was a great read. A serious mystery, a compelling story, a very interesting protagonist. It wasn’t high literature, but it was a lot of fun. I continue to recommend the book to anyone who likes thrillers.

Child publishes a new Reacher novel every year. I typically read all of them as soon as they land in the bookstore. As the series has gone on, though, the stories got more farfetched, and I have been growing less enthusiastic about the latest stories. The newest entry in the series, “Make Me,” is a mess.

Raters on Amazon gives it 4 stars, based on over 6,000 raters. The book that I read is not 4-star quality. It barely deserves one. I can’t believe that we read the same book.

There is a lot wrong with the book, and I think both the writer and the publisher share blame for this waste of my time.

First, the author. Mr. Child’s job as the writer is to concoct a mystery for Reacher to solve. But apparently Child thinks that ordinary mysteries are not good enough. Reacher has to look at a deserted farm town and conclude that there is a nefarious conspiracy swirling around the wheat fields. The problem is that there are no clues in what Reacher sees in the town that would lead him to the crime that the town hides. I like reading about protagonists who are smarter than I am, but giving people super-powers is a violation of the genre. The hero is supposed to solve the mystery using his brains, help from his sidekicks, and some dumb luck. Unlike his earlier novels, Child includes none of these elements in this book.

The editor should have seen the problems with the book. I can’t believe that an editor who knows what she’s doing would let this book get to print. I have a sad suspicion that if this were an author’s first book, the editor would have been more responsible and fixed the serious problems. But because Child is a brand name, simply putting his name on the book is enough to sell the book.

Well, you can only get away with that trick once. Now that I know that Child is editor-proof, I will be much more skeptical. I won’t buy the book simply because Lee Child wrote it. I will not misjudge a book by its cover. Lee Child’s editor is afraid of him, and as a result, Child is publishing bad books.

It’s too bad that I won’t enjoy any more Jack Reacher adventures. I really enjoyed the earlier books in the series. Maybe Child will write better stories in the future, but I doubt it. As for me, it’s time to look for another good thriller writer. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.