Well, this one was a surprise, I have to admit.
Reacher hikes into a wilderness area to rescue two lost hikers - under suspicious circumstances of course and accompanied by an attractive young woman...
It's a very low voltage puzzle, interesting (just) and with typical Lee Child dialogue and writing, but not particularly compelling. Reacher, as usual, solves the puzzle even as everyone else involved does not.
Ah, maybe Reacher is just getting older. Or Lee Child has decided to quiet down the action and violence that is present in most of the Reacher novels (see the bottom of this review for a full listing).
I'm really not sure - is it too difficult for Lee Child to compose an effective short story with typical Reacher action, simply due to the limitations of the short story form? This one is, in fact, a story that can be read in one sitting easily - half to three-quarters of an hour, if you're a reasonably fast reader.
Still, not a single punch thrown? No heads butted? Reacher is certainly becoming more cerebral in his old age!
We don't even pick up any new insights into Reacher's back-story or history in this one. That would have been nice, but missed opportunity there.
Our expectations with the Reacher novels and stories are high because Lee Child has set a high bar for himself. This one gives us a taste of Reacher, barely, in preparation for the next Reacher novel Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel which is due in just one month.
If this was not a Jack Reacher story, it would probably be viewed much differently. But it is a Jack Reacher story, so like it or not Lee Child has developed a huge fan base of folks like me who are anxious to read about Reacher in a more action packed and dynamic story form.
And if it just doesn't work in the short story format, then maybe Lee Child should forgo these efforts?
OR - better yet - maybe he should give his short stories more room to breath, and instead of limiting himself to 40 pages equivalent, which is what three of his four kindle shorts have timed in at, let the story run for a hundred pages or so? That would probably give him enough time to really do justice to a Reacher story, and it would still be enough shorter compared to a regular novel that it would qualify as a 'kindle short' in Amazon-speak. ** edit: please see added comment below.
How about giving that a try, Lee?
Ah, well. Given these disappointments with the story itself, I was thinking that the best thing about 'Not a Drill' might be the preview it provides to 'Personal', the upcoming 'real' (i.e. full length) Reacher novel, because oftentimes previews released in advance of the complete book will be long enough to really give a good intro to what the book is like.
Then I see that other reviewers are complaining that the preview is too short, and one reviewer points out that Lee Child's own website has a preview that is twice the length of the one included here.
Well, they are right, to a point. The preview provided with this e-book takes about 15 seconds to read and is not even the complete full chapter. But the preview given on Lee Child's own website is not twice as long, it is almost four times as long! (I did a word count) and it includes the entire first two chapters of 'Personal'. Go figure.
So, let's see... We pay for the e-book, and they can't even include the same content that is posted for free on the web? That is hard to understand.
I decided to give this e-book 3-stars because I do enjoy Lee Childs writing, I love the Reacher character, and for a Reacher fan there are probably worse things to spend your two bucks on.
I do encourage Lee to consider a longer form short story next time around. I think it would suit the Reacher character much better, and it would certainly give his fans something to enjoy rather than complain about.
** comment added 8/17/14: I just finished reading a kindle short story by another excellent author - Karin Slaughter's 'Snatched' - and after finishing it, I couldn't help but compare it to this Reacher story. Snatched is one of the Will Trent series of stories, for those not familiar with them (and they are excellent, by the way), and it is a very effective and suspenseful short story. It's 79 pages equivalent, compared to this Reacher story which clocks in at 44 pages, so that may be part of it. It convinced me that a good author can put together an excellent short story without disappointing readers used to their longer works. And there is another thing about 'Snatched' - you don't have to buy it separately and pay $1.99 to get it. They've also packaged it together with the following full-length novel (see Criminal: A Novel (with bonus novella Snatched): A Novel (Will Trent Book 6)), which is altogether a better and more generous deal for their loyal readers. In fact, Karin Slaughter has written two short story's as part of the Will Trent series, and you can get both of them along with the full length novels, if you buy the kindle versions. My conclusion is this - Lee, please give this a try next time but in a longer format, and think about rewarding your loyal readers by packaging these short stories together with your full length novels. I think that your fans will appreciate it!
For those who may either be new to Jack Reacher, or who may benefit from a guide to the full series, here is a complete list of the Reacher novels written to date, in the order that they appeared. (Unfortunately Amazon doesn't allow links for more than ten listings to be included in a review, so I'll put the remaining links in the comment section below):
Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, No. 1)
Die Trying (Jack Reacher, No. 2)
Tripwire (Jack Reacher, No. 3)
Running Blind (Jack Reacher, No. 4)
Echo Burning (Jack Reacher, No. 5)
Without Fail (Jack Reacher, No. 6)
Persuader (Jack Reacher, No. 7)
The Enemy (Jack Reacher, No. 8) (the prequel, this takes place before the events of Killing Floor)
One Shot (Jack Reacher, No. 9)
The Hard Way (Jack Reacher, No. 10)
Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher, No. 11)
Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher, No. 12)
Gone Tomorrow (Jack Reacher, No. 13)
61 Hours (Jack Reacher, No. 14)
Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher, No. 15)
The Affair (Jack Reacher, No. 16) (also prequel to Killing Floor)
A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher, No. 17)
Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, No. 18)
Personal (Jack Reacher, No. 19)
Also featuring Reacher are Lee Childs stand-alone short stories available on Kindle (I'm not including short stories included elsewhere in anthologies or magazines - see the Lee Child website for that full listing):
- Second Son (features Reacher at age 13)
- Deep Down (takes place during Reachers Army days)
- High Heat (Reacher as a 17 year old, visiting New York City) (longer than the other three stories here and labeled as a 'novella' here on Amazon)
- Not a Drill (the short story I'm reviewing here)
If you want to read the books in "chronological-order", then this is the sequence: The Enemy (prequel); The Affair (prequel); Killing Floor; Die Trying; Tripwire; Running Blind (US title)/The Visitor (UK title); Echo Burning; Without Fail; Persuader; One Shot; The Hard Way; Bad Luck and Trouble; Nothing to Lose; Gone Tomorrow; 61 Hours; Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man, Never Go Back, Personal.
Start with either Killing Floor (the first Reacher novel published) or The Enemy (the first chronologically) if you want to be in at the beginning, but little is lost from reading them out of order. I have enjoyed them all, recognizing that some of the books have a great deal more action and suspense than others. For me they are all great entertainment.
Also, the four novels beginning with 61 Hours (Reacher 14) through Never Go Back (Reacher 18), leaving out The Affair which is a prequel novel, comprise a four-story arc.