Apr 13, 2010

Lincoln Child

I'll never catch up. A friend poked me lightly to say I hadn't posted in a while, and I thought I was due for the current month. Turns out that was last month. It's been two months since I sat down to write, yikes!

I've been busy, yeah, yeah, so what? We're all busy yadda yadda so there's no excuse.

Anyway I spotted something by Lincoln Child and decided to give him a try. Terminal Freeze turned out to be, well, a page-turner. Not for me to eschew the well-worn cliché, especially when it fits so well.

Lincoln Child writes thrillers with a science background. He may write lots of other stuff but I'm in too big a hurry to do the research. Very busy, you know. At any rate, Terminal Freeze retreads ground covered by Michael Crichton in Next, at least to some small extent. I mean that in a good way, because he does it so well. Besides, if you ask me, in Next, Crichton was echoing his own Jurassic Park. You're not asking me, I know, but if you don't agree - hey, start your own blog.

Again, Child writes well. That's really all I ask. Somebody said there are only seven plots anyhow, so you're always going to be using something somebody used before. Just do it well, OK? Thanks.

Speaking of next, after the Arctic Circle adventure, the library coughed up Child's Utopia. Now we're really talking. A slightly off-kilter computer scientist whose belief in machine learning earned him disrespect from his peers but a blank check from a fabulously wealthy illusionist, who with his help builds the ultimate theme park. Then he dies (the illusionist, not the scientist) and the scientist is dismayed as the bean counters betray the founder's vision in favor of gift shops and casinos. Boo, hiss!

I love stories with a fabulously wealthy character conveniently inserted, don't you? Look at what Jack Nicholson's hospital mogul capitalist did for The Bucket List. Insert endless additional examples here...

Getting back to Utopia (which come to think of it, is an odd locution - anyone lucky enough to find utopia would hardly leave, a necessary precursor to "getting back"), the scientist conveniently has a fourteen-year old daughter who accompanies him on a business meeting to the theme park, and who naturally falls into the path of (evil music here) bad guys.

Add not one but two brainy and very attractive women, one a business type and the other a fellow off-kilter computer scientist (guess which one our protagonist ends with, go on, guess), and then a highly trained James Bondish type "bodyguard" who happens to be vacationing with his dorky in-laws when the excrement hits the ventilation device, and decides to join forces with the first scientist.

Might sound cartoonish, and hey, if you can't go for this sort of thing then you already stopped reading long ago, so the heck with you. For the rest of us, Lincoln Child is a real winner. Sometimes you want to know why networks behave non-intuitively, or learn about the inner workings of human language, or watch a documentary on the history of metallurgy. Sometimes you just want to escape into a land where the good guys stop the bad guys from blowing stuff up and getting away with computer secrets worth a hundred million dollars, preferably hurting them badly in the process, and oh yes, saving a sweet teenager and a couple of beautiful women from harm. Add some decent science as a backdrop, and you've got a winner, at least in my book.

P.S. Not to be confused with Lee Child. The other L. Child writes action thrillers around a recurring character named Jack Reacher. Lean, tall, a hard case capable of killing with his bare hands but only in the pursuit of worthy causes. A complete independent, travels with only a toothbrush, wiring "home" for money earned while in some branch of special forces, from which he was pressured to resign after learning all these advanced combat skills. He only gets enough money for bus fare and cheap motels, and to buy a T-shirt and jeans he will wear until they get too dirty. Throw away, repeat...

I like Lee Child, too. But not to be confused with Lincoln Child.

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