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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Boy who Was Born a Man (Reacher's Early Years)


You might think that hearing about the continued exploits of a world-weary, tough-as-old-boots hero who’s seen and done just about everything there is to see and do during his five decades of tramping around the earth (and is thus, very rarely surprised by anything or anyone) would start getting a little old, some fifteen books in.
You’d be wrong to think that, though--at least, when the heroic fellow in question is none other than Lee Child’s veritable force-of-nature and one-man distributor of revenge and retribution, ex-military policeman Jack Reacher--because, like fine wine, Reacher just gets better with age.
Of course, there’s also the fact that age is such a relative concept with someone like Reacher... a point brought home rather persuasively in the newly-released (and first ever!) short story about him, Second Son, which provides a very different look at the stalwart fellow than we’ve ever seen before.
This mini-Reacher feature (hehe, couldn’t resist) covers only a couple of days’ time, yet it manages to paint the perfect picture of a younger Reacher--who, as we soon see, is really just a (somewhat-)smaller version of his present self.
Set in 1974, when Reacher is a boy of thirteen, Second Son offers a glimpse of what life is like for him and his family when they’re newly re-stationed on Okinawa. It’s an interesting time; President Ford has just taken over for President Nixon, and the U.S. military is, at long last, focussed more on peacekeeping than on active combat duties. For a military family such as the Reachers, it all means a whole new way of thinking about friends and enemies.
Or... maybe not so much, when Reacher and his older brother Joe immediately find themselves in the middle of a mess of trouble, both the usual hazing-of-the-newcomers variety, as well as something with far-more serious and wide-reaching (sorry, no pun intended this time) implications. 
At the same time, Reacher’s father finds himself caught up in a worrisome, politically-charged situation (snafu, anyone?), and Reacher’s mother has personal issues of her own to deal with... leaving Reacher to sort out everyone’s problems as best he can. (See, it really is the same old, same old for our trusty man of steel.)
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Second Son may be but a tiny piece plucked out of the Reacher time capsule--I read it in its entirety during one powerwalk on the treadmill--but as informative blasts-from-the-past go, it’s a good one. I loved seeing Reacher (yes, always just Reacher) as a barely-teenaged boy/man, with his practical-thinking skills already honed to a fine edge, and that lethal combination of unemotional common sense and impressive brawn ready and able to solve any problem, even then.

It’s nice getting to spy on their family dynamic, too... and to walk away with a better feel for where the pragmatism and integrity which guide the Reacher we know and love actually originated. Having this little bit of “firsthand” knowledge kind of fills in those small gaps and rounds out his character--making this both an effective and entertaining piece... and a must-read, for Reacher fans. 
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 4.5 out of 5 mousies
[Note: This short story is currently only available as an e-book.]

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