I just read the finale of “Make Me” by Lee Child (494 pages) underneath a warm blanket and a bowl of cheesy popcorn. The best way to read the ending of a book.
Because boy did this finale deserve the popcorn.
For those of you who didn’t read my first impressions of this book in my previous post, right here, this is a Jack Reacher novel, an action guy much like James Bond or Jason Bourne (if you don’t know one out of these two men, we can never be friends). He takes the train to a town smack dab in the middle of nowhere called Mother’s Rest, and decides to stay when he finds out that something is amiss, because:
Either way Reacher figured he might as well find out. He had no place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, so detours cost him nothing.
For an action novel, a Jack Reacher novel even, it wasn’t shoot-’em-up all day, every day. It kept the action to a few tasteful encounters coupled with the tension that comes from being chased down by hit-men that lasted throughout the book. The sentences were short– abrupt, even–with the exception of some longer, fluid sentences when the action was too intense to pause for something so trivial as punctuation. This seemed to fit Reacher’s train of thought pretty well, however, even though the story is written in the third person.
Let me digress a moment to discuss the point of view. I am a die-hard supporter of first person for action novels, because it puts you right there, in the action. It helps you connect with the narrator and, more importantly, be more inclined to side with them when they make some decisions in a moral grey area. However, third person was the only choice for this novel. No other point of view could’ve done the job. In order to adequately tell this story, you needed a knowledge of what was going on outside of Reacher’s head, and although multiple first person point of views is technically an option, trust me, you wouldn’t have wanted to spend any time in the bad guys’ heads. Nasty places.
Moreover, the knowledge the audience gained from third person point of view did something unique to certain situations that I greatly admire. This type of situation happened at least once, probably twice if not more, in the novel where the audience is told that a hit is going to be attempted on our heroes. So, when you return to Reacher’s world, you begin to anticipate the hit. But because of Reacher’s military background and thus superb awareness of his surroundings coupled with the fact that he’s always conjuring up possible dangerous scenarios, you become paranoid. Suddenly you realize that your heroes have just passed through at least three or four different situations that could have easily been the hit the bad guys had called in. You begin to question yourself, thinking that either you’re too paranoid and the hit hasn’t been attempted yet or multiple hits were attempted. This is the brilliance of Lee Child. He has successfully fitted Jack-Reacher-vision glasses onto you, showing you what it is like to see the world with expectation that anything and everything could be a threat. That was fantastic Lee Child. Utterly fantastic.
A quick note to add about his writing style: he hardly ever gives characters a name. Moreover, when we first meet a character, they get a few sentences of description. The next time we meet them, they are identified by a key feature of their identity and then given only a single sentence of cut-down description. The third time, we only get a few choice words. This usually becomes the phrase they are identified by for the rest of the story: “the spare-parts guy”, “the one-eyed motel clerk”, “the hog farmer”, etc. This is something I haven’t encountered before, and I find it interesting. Names are used sparingly for characters in this novel, and which is intriguing.
As one final though on the writing itself, I found Jack Reacher’s humor amusing. I shared some of my favorite quotes back in my post where I gave you my initial impression of the book here (and here is a book review from the Huffington Post in case you want a second opinion about all of this). But I’d like to share one of the lines I found most amusing, which came not from Reacher, but from his partner, Chang, where they’re speaking to this guy about how they promise to keep him in the loop and give him the book rights at the end of this:
“We won’t,” Chang said. “We’ll keep you in the loop.”
“Why would you?”
“We don’t want the book rights.”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“I’m too busy and he can barely write his own name with a crayon.”
Reacher said nothing.
I think the fact that Reacher doesn’t deny it makes it even funnier.
Onto the plot itself, I’m amazed by his style of writing. There are places in the novel that should be described as slow, or boring, but I feel as though that is inaccurate. They were quiet, lulls in the action, yes. Were they necessary to the plot but essentially uneventful, yes. Were there too many details? Probably. But I wasn’t bored. And this is coming from the person who, as you know, despises stories where characters simply bumble on through their lives with no real goal and no idea where they are going. There was a certain level of tension present, both in the anticipation of finding the next clue for solving this mystery and in the knowledge that our heroes were always watched, and they were never safe.
This story builds on a certain degree of tension, suspense, and minute details being revealed as relevant later in the story. About three-quarters into the story, I thought, “you know, this is okay, it’s picking up for sure but if the ending isn’t brilliant, and I took in all those hundreds of little details throughout the story for no reason, then I’m going to slap a 3/5 on this and shelve it”. But I’m not going to slap a 3/5 on it and shelve it. Because the ending really was brilliant. The action in the finale wasn’t much more intense than previous sequences, but it was longer, and the real thrill was in the culmination of all of our heroes’ hard work, those long nights and long pages full of investigating. The ending to the mystery.
All I can say is that the sleepy little Midwestern town of Mother’s Rest does indeed have some dark secrets.
Despite being such an action buff, I haven’t read many straight-up action novels such as this one (movies are a different story, of course). I’m happy with the outcome. A great first impression for all straight-up action novels. True, this book may not be life-changing, but it was certainly satisfying, and definitely worth the read. I’d like to thank my grandmother for this superb recommendation, who wanted me to read it if only for his writing techniques, and I indeed found his writing techniques both intriguing and enlightening.
If you ever pass by this title on the shelves, and like this type of genre, I’d suggest picking it up.
till next time,