Will Jack Reacher be able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic?
Physically, I’m sure he could survive the virus itself (it would certainly be a disappointing end to his legacy). The real question is whether his way of life is resilient enough to withstand new tests.
This interesting thought experiment, interesting at least I hope to any equally avid readers of this series, was inspired by the always-entertaining Dave Astor. Obviously, the impact of COVID-19 has been globally transformative and will undoubtably continue to shape future generations and their perceptions.
Future books can obviously be written without reference to the pandemic. World-building and immersion are crucial to any effective novel aiming to transport readers into a different world.
But many novels are set in this world. Whilst that doesn’t necessarily guarantee they gratuitously remind us of contemporary affairs, especially since escapism is often more engaging, the general premise of this question assumes that Jack Reacher exists in our world. That’s primarily because there’s never been any evidence to the contrary, whilst events in ‘The Sentinel’ closely reflected several other developments from our past year.
To completely disregard the pandemic would also require abandoning a degree of realism I believe has made the books more effective. Our connection to Reacher’s character is partly the result of our shared universe. With the series apparently already at a cross-road, I’d be intrigued to see the direction taken.
Who is Jack Reacher?
Apologies, if you’ve thus far been asking this pertinent question. Jack Reacher is the central and fictional protagonist in an ongoing series authored by Lee Child, and most recently co-authored with Andrew Child. Spanning multiple decades, it charts the adventures of the retired military policeman whilst travelling the United States, with occasional flashbacks to his army service.
He’s everything from a superhero to an anti-hero. A genius detective and living weapon of brute force destruction, all completed by rugged grace and good-looks. Fundamentally committed to righteousness, he’ll never start a fight (theoretically) but always finishes them.
He’s also an itinerant drifter.
An absolute staple of the series is Reacher’s aimlessness. Inadvertently stumbling upon trouble, he wanders between various points of interest simply aiming to absorb a little culture.
I have previously queried exactly how boring his travels would be if ever one of the towns he visited wasn’t suffering grave misfortune. His purpose is, however, to hop from town to town, entirely reliant upon public transport or hitchhiking, both habits that will presumable also have to be concluded.
Overcoming the pandemic.
Sadly, it’s not within Reacher’s capabilities to practically contribute towards combating the pandemic. No more, at least, than we can all help by being respectful, wearing a mask, or limiting our travel.
What of our explorer, then, destined to eternally flit from province to province? It’s been made abundantly clear Reacher has no desire to settle down. Tempted by the classic American Dream of homestead and family, he deliberately forged an independent path.
Except, that path is now strewn with a number of roadblocks. I can’t say with complete certainty which US states have closed some or all of their public facilities, but I have to imagine Reacher’s regular practise of appearing at motels or diners expecting service will be impeded.
His solitary toothbrush will require a new partner: a mask.
With all the criminals confined to their homes, how will Reacher accidently cross their paths, short of forcefully inserting himself into the book’s plot? It isn’t exactly fair to assign that responsibility solely to the Child brothers – books of any genre will be faced with home-bound characters.
But what separates Jack Reacher is his quintessential vagrancy.
The death of Jack Reacher?
Perhaps I’m isolated in this opinion, but Reacher appears to have slightly lost his way in the most recent additions to the series.
Personally, ‘Past Tense’ is brilliantly illustrative of this unfortunate trend. Reacher, in search of mundane family history, scours the local library archives and enjoys the local cuisine. In what felt like an entirely different book, a young couple find themselves increasingly in danger as Reacher obliviously strolls the countryside. Only in the book’s conclusion does Reacher, by complete accident and with no prior connections fostered, walk into their plot as a superhero ex Machina and save the day.
He has become less the reluctant saviour happening to be in the right place, and more of an aggravator of late.
This I only mention to reiterate what is perhaps developing as an unfortunate necessity: the series needs closure. Canonically, he’s heading into his 60’s. Whether that be vanishing into the sunset, or moving in with Jodie Garber or any number of female companions strewn across the books, I’d be satisfied.
Not to suggest I wouldn’t purchase the next instalment. Which is part of the problem. Even at his half-best, Reacher taps into a lucrative fan base. For good reason. This is by absolutely no means an indictment of Child’s work – Jack Reacher is my favourite literary character.
Either way, it’s hard to see our hero returning unscathed, particularly through the authorial transition.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts, either on Reacher surviving the pandemic, or the fate of the series? If you’re looking for more, check our my latest travels, short stories, or the latest blog posts!
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