Thursday, April 13, 2006

Book Recommendation - John Rain Thrillers by Barry Eisler

One of the pleasures of reading a newspaper such as The Economist (never to be called a magazine we are informed) is the breadth of its coverage. Rather than a narrow focus on things financial, readers are treated to reviews of cultural matters as well. And it is from one of The Economist's recent book reviews that I discovered the work of Barry Eisler.

Mr. Eisler writes good old fashioned thrillers. He has created a character named John Rain, a half-Japanese, half-American killer for hire. With a combination of detailed tradecraft, martial arts, and exhaustive description of locale, one feels completely immersed in the action.

John Rain is not a simple minded psychopathic killer mind you, but the complex result of much that has gone before, as Eisler reveals throughout the books. The psychological debate Rain has with himself lifts the character out of the cartoon category and allows him to stand with his predecessors, most famously James Bond.

Quibbles? Although there is great detail about surveillance and counter-measures, there is far less detail about how all this is funded. Rain just always seems to have cash on hand, regardless of location or time. I would prefer to see the same level of detail Eisler supplies to surveillance applied to exploring the mechanics of moving and accessing funds.

The first two books have Rain involved against foes in Japan and America, and there is considerable ambiguity as to who the bad guys actually are. It is all quite believable. In the third book, Rain Storm, the foe becomes rather cartoonish Arabs, who are of course stupid, evil, and incompetent. The addition of a blue-eyed, blonde(?) Israeli femme-fatale to the mix makes the whole thing very black and white, losing the more interesting exploration of the shades of grey Eisler achieved in his first two outings. One can see this as astute marketing to an American public looking for Arab bashing books after 9/11, but it doesn't do the character any good.

I am looking forward to see if Eisler gets back on track with his fourth book, Killing Rain. It is not available off the shelf in Singapore, so I have put in an order with Acma to get a copy.

No comments: