Reading dates: 30 June – 09 August 2022
#1 Killing Floor ***
#2 Die Trying ***
#3 Tripwire **
#4 The Visitor ***
#5 Echo Burning ***
#6 Without Fail ****
#7 Persuader ****
#8 The Enemy ***
#9 One Shot ***
#10 The Hard Way ***
#11 Bad Luck and Trouble ***
#15 61 hours ****
Nothing to Lose is the strangest thriller. Absolutely nothing happens until the very end so I am not sure how to review it. Reacher is in a town called Hope in Colorado. He finds out a town called Despair is very nearby and cannot resist walking to it. Despair, however, is anything but friendly. It is a very odd premise and for most of the book, Reacher walks from Hope to Despair, back to Hope. The book is not completely boring, because Reacher is curious about what is going on in the town, but there is no action, just little clues revealed which in the end form a whole that is adequate.
The book, however, is full of Reacher wisdom, perhaps to counteract not that there is nothing to lose as the title indicated, but that nothing happens.
We learn about Reacher:
Reacher hated turning back. He liked to press on, dead ahead, whatever. Everyone’s life needed an organizing principle, and relentless forward motion was Reacher’s. He was angry at himself later, for being so inflexible.
I’m a man with a rule. People leave me alone, I leave them alone. If they don’t, I don’t.
… he had the kind of natural stamina that came from being exactly what he was born to be.
Especially his views on religion:
We’re all atheists. You don’t believe in Zeus or Thor or Neptune or Augustus Caesar or Mars or Venus or Sun Ra. You reject a thousand gods. Why should it bother you if someone else rejects a thousand and one?
… they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. Hosea, chapter eight, verse seven. I’m sick of people who claim to live by the scriptures cherry-picking the parts they find convenient, and ignoring all the rest.
This is a lovely thought for a breath enthusiast:
He realized he was holding his breath. He exhaled, long and slow. Because:Dum spero speri. Where there’s breath, there’s hope. Not an aphorism Zeno of Cittium would have understood or approved of. Zeno spoke Greek, not Latin, and preferred passive resignation to reckless optimism. But the saying worked well enough for Reacher, when all else failed.
Knives are more dangerous than bullets:
He hated knives. He would have preferred it if the guy had pulled a pair of six-shooters. Guns can miss. In fact, they usually did, given stress and pressure and trembling and confusion. After-action reports proved it. The papers were always full of DOAs gunned down with seven bullets to the body, which sounded lethal until you read down into the third paragraph and learned that a hundred and fifty shots had been fired in the first place.
Knives didn’t miss. If they touched you, they cut you. The only opponents Reacher truly feared were small whippy guys with fast hands and sharp blades.
And a photograph is more than an images, it is an object too:
Back when it had mattered for forensic purposes he had gotten pretty good at recognizing film stock by its color biases. This print had strong greens, which was a Fuji characteristic. Kodak products favored the reds and the warmer tones.
We learn about crowds:
Reacher didn’t like crowds. He enjoyed solitude and was a mild agoraphobic, which didn’t mean he was afraid of wide-open spaces. That was a common misconception. He liked wide-open spaces. Instead he was mildly unsettled by the agora, which was an ancient Greek word for a crowded public marketplace. Random crowds were bad enough. He had seen footage of stampedes and stadium disasters. Organized crowds were worse. He had seen footage of riots and revolutions. A crowd two hundred strong was the largest animal on the face of the earth. The heaviest, the hardest to control, the hardest to stop. The hardest to kill. Big targets, but after-action reports always showed that crowds took much less than one casualty per round fired.
Crowds had nine lives.
The plants were all sharp-leaved things that looked silver under the night sky. Native, adapted to the desert. Xeric plants, or xerophilous, drought tolerant, from the Greek prefixxero-, meaning dry. HenceXerox, for copying without wet chemicals. Zeno of Cittium would have been puzzled by Xeroxing, but he would have approved of xeriscaping. He believed in going with the flow. The unquestioning acceptance of destiny. He believed in basking in the sun and eating green figs, instead of spending time and effort trying to change nature with irrigation.
It was a sheer eight-foot-high vertical plane, topped with a continuous horizontal cylinder six feet in diameter. Like a toilet roll balanced on a thick hardcover book. It was a design derived from prison research. Reacher knew the theory. He had been professionally interested in prisons, back in the day. Stone walls or brick walls or wire fences could be climbed, however high they were. Broken glass set in the tops could be padded or cushioned. Rolls of barbed wire could be crushed or cut. But six-foot cylinders were unbeatable. Compared to the length of an arm or the span of a hand, their surfaces were slick and flat and offered no grip at all. Getting over one was like trying to crawl across a ceiling.
And mobile phone technology:
He knew a little about cell phone technology. He had read a long article, in a trade publication abandoned on an airplane. Press the green button, and the phone in your hand sends a request by radio to the nearest cell tower, called a base transceiver station by the people who put it there. The phone says: Hey, I want to make a call. The base transceiver station forwards the plea to the nearest base station controller, by microwave if the bean counters got their way during the planning phase, or by fiber optic cable if the engineers got theirs. The base station controller bundles all the near-simultaneous requests it can find and moves them on to the closest mobile switching center, where the serious action starts.
Maybe at this point a ring tone starts up in your earpiece. But it means nothing. It’s a placebo. It’s there to reassure you. So far you’re not even close to connected.
The mobile switching center identifies the destination phone. Checks if it’s switched on, that it’s not busy, that it’s not set to call divert. Speech channels are limited in number, and therefore expensive to operate. You don’t get near one unless there’s a viable chance of an answer.
If all is well, a speech channel clicks in. It extends first from your local mobile switching center to its distant opposite number. Maybe by fiber optics, maybe by microwave, maybe by satellite if the distance is great. Then the distant mobile switching center hits up its closest base station controller, which hits up its closest base transceiver station, which emits a radio blast to the phone you’re looking for, an 850 megahertz or a 1.9 gigahertz pulse surfing on a perfect spherical wavefront close to the speed of light. A nanosecond later, the circuit is complete. The tone in your ear morphs from phony to real and the target phone starts its urgent ringing.
Total time lag, an average of seven whole seconds.