Blog Archives

All the Books Show: Episode 116 – Spotlight on Lee Child

Hey! Get that spotlight out of my face! I can’t see the author we’re going to talk about on this week’s podcast! No! Don’t turn it off, you dummy! Shine that spotlight on Mr. Lee Child, creator of the hit, Nickelodeon character, Jack Reacher!

7183e3fdd6cb27aa43a70f6b0fa95c40-middle-name-short-storiesActually, I don’t know how many people come to this blog who haven’t heard of this author or character, so I’ll correct myself and point out that Jack Reacher is NOT a Nickelodeon character; he’s a wandering crime solver sometimes played by Tom Cruise in movies.

From what I’ve read and seen, these books are not my cup of tea. Jack Reacher, in my limited experience, comes across as someone’s wish fulfillment. No responsibilities, good at every single thing and massively tall (when not Tom Cruise). For some, that might make for compelling reading, but not for this guy. I like my Batman to be actual Batmen. Child’s style also doesn’t work for me, reading like a thriller but too dense to (Tom) cruise through at a quick pace.

We talk other stuff, like how I didn’t like The Book of Joe and how Nic did, which means we can’t be friends anymore. At the time of recording, I had just started Console Wars, but I’ll be reviewing it next week.

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See you next week, podcats!

Book Review – The Book of Joe

1623232The Book of Joe, by author Jonathan Tropper, has killer premise that should make all inspiring writers jealous. Joe, an author made famous by writing a book that tears apart his hometown, must return to be with his sick father. He must now contend with the truths he wrote about head on. What a hook!

This is where the jealousy ends. The Book of Joe is letdown by Tropper’s amateurish writing, careless pacing and unlikable characters. What was a concept that might have rivaled The Silver Linings Playbook is, quiet frankly, a mess.

The idea of this story is that Joe was wrong to write about his town the way he did, exaggerating the truth and making people look bad. Except, when we meet the people in his town, they all come across as jerks and losers. That makes sense in terms of how they would act to Joe but there’s never the other side of the coin. Everyone comes across as very one dimensional and I never believed they had much cause to be offended by how they were portrayed in Joe’s novel. Maybe that’s my natural disdain for small town drama, but I couldn’t care for any of these people, and I was never given reason to otherwise.

Joe’s realization of his wrong doing, the wrong doing I wasn’t invested in, comes way to quickly for a book like this. He states how much he hates the town and never looked back for the first couple of chapters but as soon as he enters city limits, his whole character changes. Suddenly, without much prodding or reason, Joe is navel gazing about how important his time here actually was, leaving very little room for growth.

There’s quite a bit of flashbacks, showing us the one summer that changed everything for Joe. The problem with these is that they actually revolve around Joe’s friends and the main character becomes a spectator. When Joe goes on and on about how that summer effected him, it’s weakened by the events we’re presented with. In fact, very little in the book actually needs Joe around. He’s a witness to important events but not a key component to them. Yes, he has girlfriend in his teen years, but I never understood what she saw in Joe.

Joe’s whinny, navel gazing attitude is rewarded with wisdom, closure and sex by those he left behind all those years ago. Everyone, including Joe’s ex-girlfriend Carly, gives this unlikable character the attention he craves but doesn’t deserve. There’s no challenges Joe has to overcome to grow and become a better person, everyone does it for him. Joe’s brother concedes, the high school coach apologizes, Carly kisses him, all of these things fix Joe but he doesn’t have to put in any of the work.

Every character, especially Joe, has an in-depth and analytical view of their psychological well-being and can express it at the drop of a hat. Subtlety is a non-resident of this town. Joe’s emotional journeys last all of a page and he moves quickly onto the next. In the end, very little closure is given. Joe’s book isn’t forgiven, Carly is willing to give him another shot, his family might be falling apart, but it doesn’t matter because he’s writing again. And the view on writing is the most flowery kind. It’s the type where everything simply “flows” and characters are “discovered” along the way. How books are written this way is beyond me, but maybe that’s how we end up with something like The Book of Joe.

It fails at being poetic, at being deep, it’s not funny or insightful and has nothing to say about small town living or guilt from past mistakes. What a waste of a great idea.