East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Looking out for a Hero

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My Patreon supporters are awesome – but you already knew about that. And because they are awesome, I received as a gift a copy of Lee Child’s new ebook, The Hero, about 48 hours after I became aware of its existence, and I signalled my interest.
That’s how great they are.

I have read a few of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, and found them fun, over the top, entertaining and diverting, and more than competently written. Can’t say I’m a fan of the character, but I have read a few interviews to the author, and I like his approach to writing. Also, he started writing when he lost his “true job”, and I can relate to that.
The idea of an essay, written by Child and called The Hero really sounded like the sort of thing I wanted to read, despite a fair number of very negative reviews I saw on Amazon.
And so I read it.

For starters, The Hero is not what I thought it would be, and yet it is – I was expecting a book about thrillers, and what is Child’s approach to writing his over the top characters. What I got instead is a lengthy meditation on the evolution and the power of stories, and of thrilling stories in particular.
Lee Child’s game is imagining how stories began, what was the thing that made storytelling a survival skill for our ancestors, how Homo sapiens made it through stories while others, like our friends the Neanderthals did not.

Some reviewers have pointed out that Lee Child’s anthropology and archaeology are out of date, and it’s true – but this is not a an anthropology handbook. This is a wild tale, written by a well-read and informed fiction writer, about how we humans became addicted to stories and heroes.
I do not care if the details about our ancestors are not up to date, because I can read those in a dozen other books.
But how fiction, and adventure fiction in particular, became one of the winning tools in our toolbox? Lee Child is entertaining and convincing on this topic, and his book is a great starting point, and well worth reading.

Some other critics have complained about the price/page count ratio – this is a slim 80-pages book that goes for 4 bucks. There’s a lot of thicker and cheaper books out there, but then again, there are other factors to take into account.

And maybe it’s because my copy was a gift, I did not worry about the price at all. And I think it’s a good book, and well worth the time to read it.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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