The Reacher Experiment by Jude Hardin
If you like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, you are certain to enjoy this collection of novellas by Jude Hardin. The premise is that in a future United States that has very little difference than the current one, someone starts trying to kill a man named Rock Wahlman. The reason, it turns out, is that Rock is the result of a cloning experiment that the government is now trying to cover up. Unfortunately for the government, the man they chose to clone was Jack Reacher and Rock is every bit as hard to kill as the original man he was based upon.
This series is a very quick read, conveniently broken up into small novella-sized books that keep the action flowing. There were many endings that pleasantly surprised me and had me jumping to the next book. All in all, this collection is a worthy tribute to Lee Child and his most famous character, Jack Reacher.
1 Dead Ringer by Jude Hardin
Jack Reacher is the protagonist of a phenomenally successful series by Lee Child. He’s likeable, interesting, and very different than everyone you know. So it’s not surprising that other authors would like to play in Lee Child’s sandbox. What is surprising is that this spinoff series has such a strong first book.
Rock Whalman is a clone of Jack Reacher, created in a black book army program that they now wish to pretend never happened. So they are killing off the clones, including Rock. This gives Rock the chance to do all the fascinating things Reacher does in his books as he tries to survive a group of assassins who are tracking him down.
It’s a concept that could have fallen on its face, but it doesn’t. The book is exciting from beginning to end. It’s almost like you’re reading an adventure about Jack Reacher.
2 Moving Target by Jude Hardin
A rogue group within the army is still trying to clean up a probably illegal experiment they conducted which resulted in the cloning of Jack Reacher. In this very short novel, they hire a new hitman to kill Rock Whalman (the clone) and in so doing remove the “evidence” of their crime. Hardin takes the time to develop the idea that this is happening decades into the future (something that is not immediately obvious from any of the ongoing interactions in either of the first two books).
While the action is fast moving and enjoyable, the whole plot depends upon two very big coincidences. The first is that one of the army officers chasing Rock is the ex-husband of a woman Rock is romantically interested in. The second is that the hitman coincidentally saw Rock (who has given the army the slip) the morning he takes on this assignment. The second was necessary to the plot, but it’s not clear that the first was. Taken together these “coincidences” are more astounding then getting struck by lightning on the same afternoon.
Final analysis, this was another fun one and I’m looking forward to book three.
3 No Escape by Jude Hardin
Rock Wahlman returns for another dance with death in this tightly plotted sequel to Moving Target. The enigmatic assassin, Mr. Tyler, is hot on Rock’s trail trying to earn his hefty fee and Rock and his girlfriend Kasey are equally determined not to become his next victims. It’s a fast-paced and exciting ride, as I have come to expect from Hardin. The ending—the assassin’s backup plan, so to speak—came as a big and much appreciated surprise for me. I’m looking forward to the next volume.
4 Kill Shot by Jude Hardin
A new team of hitmen is hired to go after Rock Wahlman. I’d like to think that it is unrealistic to find so many people in such a short time willing to murder someone for hire, but unfortunately, it is probably not. In either event, the result is the best novella in the series so far as civilian casualties mount and Rock has to fight not just to keep himself and his girlfriend alive, but her family as well. The ending is the best yet—both unexpected and totally satisfying.
5 .357 Sunset by Jude Hardin
Rock just can’t stay out of trouble—much like the original Jack Reacher whom he is a clone of. Having stopped in a town to get his SUV fixed, he ends up foiling a robbery which really irritates the two thieves. But while they are trying to get vengeance on him, Kasey is being pressured by a private investigator to betray Rock, and the hacker who is supposed to help Rock find out who in the government is behind the attempts on his life is also playing games. It’s a lot of quick-paced fun all around with another ending that totally surprised me. Can’t wait for the next one.
6 Redline by Jude Hardin
Rock Wahlman’s efforts to find the men in the government who have been trying to kill him really heats up in this novel as he makes tremendous progress and finally locates the secret base from which the operation against him is being run. He also learns a lot more about why the military feels it is necessary to kill him. This one is exciting from start to finish (that’s actually typical of this series) but I must admit to some confusion at the end. The storyline has advanced so far that I can’t see how Hardin is going to fill three more books with Rock’s struggle.
7 Endgame by Jude Hardin
This is it! After six books, Rock is finally in a position to go head-to-head with the people who have been trying to murder him to cover up the cloning experiment that resulted in him. The odds against him are tremendously long, but that wouldn’t have stopped Jack Reacher and it sure won’t stop his clone, Rock Wahlman. This is the novel that wraps up the whole Reacher Experiment storyline, which begs the question, what is Jude Hardin going to write about in the last two books? I guess I’ll have to read them to find out.
8 Ricochet by Jude Hardin
After surviving a secret government conspiracy to murder him, Rock Wahlman has finally cleared his name and set up a business as a private detective. Kasey has married him and her daughter lives with them. Life is not easy, but it seems to be good, as Hardin gives Wahlman a very interesting mystery in which a woman who strongly resembles an A-list actress is murdered and Rock comes to believe that the actress herself is set to be the next victim. The earlier books in this series were all driven by the conspiracy to kill Rock and his understandable desire to survive their attempts. This one is much more like a traditional Jack Reacher story with Rock struggling to do what’s right for a stranger he has at first not even met.
9 Gone by Jude Hardin
The Reacher Experiment concludes with an attack on Rock Wahlman’s family in which his wife and stepdaughter are kidnapped. The book recaptures much of the frenzied pace of the earlier novels as Rock goes all out to get his loved ones back. The only problem with the story is that it is not really a complete novella. Instead it is setting up Hardin’s next series about Rock and for some reason that bothered me when I finished it. It felt like this should have been the first book in that series, as opposed to the last book in the Reacher Experiment. That being said, I still enjoyed the novel right up until the last chapters when I realized what the author was doing. However, this might not be fair on my part. If I read it as the first book in the next series, I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed it.