Runner by Patrick Lee

Read August 2022
Recommended for fans of xfiles thrillers
★   ★ 

I needed a palate cleanser between the dark chocolate intensity of Novik’s The Golden Enclaves, and the crunchy deliciousness of Vo’s Into the Riverlands, which I wanted to re-read before reviewing. Enter Runner. And, almost as quickly, exit Runner. It’s a semi-supernatural take on a militaristic manhunt thriller that was for me, pretty silly. I mean, totally not judging you if you enjoyed it. We all need books that give us that escape, right? Personally, I lean towards escapist worlds–it’s not enough for me to dive into someone else’s head; I want to be on another planet if at all possible. Give me a spaceship, throw me into the apocalypse, introduce some fungi rapidly taking over the world and I am there. But a telepathic kid? No so much. But, you know, variety spice of life and all that, friend recommended, aforementioned palate-cleanser, blah-blah, why not?

Runner is extremely fast paced, so it has that going for it, for better or worse. Don’t like what’s going on? Don’t sweat it. Lee isn’t going to navel-gaze the scene and it’ll move on to the next mini-conflict in a couple pages. That can be fun. although because of the supernatural angle, it also can feel a little contrived, so it’s one aspect of the story that may not work for everyone.

Speaking of scenes, writing is generally competent, although honestly, if I was at Minotaur Books, I’d be considering a new editor. I almost quit after stumbling on the opening line:

“Just after three in the morning, Sam Dryden surrendered the night to insomnia and went running on the boardwalk.”

‘Surrendered.’ Damnit, lost my contact in the back of my head again. Thankfully, line two mostly regained my attention:

“Cool humidity clung to him and filtered the lights of El Sedero to his left, the town sliding past like a tanker in the fog.”

But there are lines like that every now and then, where it seems like Lee is reaching for something a little more literary and picked the wrong word out of the thesaurus.

One of the ways Runner stands out is that there’s an important emotional connection that develops. Not really well, but I liked the effort, saving it from being an airport-thriller level knockoff. I could have skipped the viewpoints of the anti-protagonists, but I suppose Lee was trying to show us how no one was really quite ‘evil’ in most of this scenario. There was a lot of this, where we learn one thing, and then learn another thing that is supposed to temper or change our opinion of what happened earlier. Except someone kind of was evil at some point to get to this one, so… fail? But that could have been on me, because I didn’t feel like giving it that much of my time. In chocolate terms, not worth the calories.

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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