"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hard Rain by Barry Eisler

I like Barry Eisler's writing and I like his professional assassin protagonist, John Rain. A lot. This is the second book in the series, and while it isn't full of the freshness of the first book, Rain Fall, it has a lot to recommend it, namely, a familiarity with the characters.

The book picks up some time after the events of the first, with John making plans to leave Japan for good. Half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, Rain had his features surgically altered so he can appear more Japanese and blend in, but even with all his precautions, he knows time might be running out for him now that he's made a powerful enemy due to his actions in the previous book. But a favor requested by an old friend/nemesis from Japan's version of the US' FBI causes him to alter his plans. That "friend," Tatsu, can make life difficult for him, even impede his departure from Japan, so Rain reluctantly agrees to help and discovers a web of deceit and political corruption that traps his young computer hacker friend Harry. And what began as a professional matter becomes personal, for Rain and for Tatsu, with all the requisite twists and turns.

Eisler knows his stuff. He has a law degree, worked for the US government for three years, and lived and worked in Japan for many years. He also has a black belt in judo and is knowledgeable in most martial arts and ways of disarming, maiming, and killing an enemy by hand. His expertise enhances the writing without bogging it down. And because he has imbued Rain with a code of self-imposed ethics, Rain becomes human to the reader, almost understandable, and deserves any feelings he earns from the reader. What happens to a man trained by the military to kill once the war is over? What does killing so often he loses track of how many lives he's claimed do to a man? John Rain is an answer to those questions.

John Rain isn't an easy man to like, but that just makes these books more appealing to me, because Eisler finds a way to make me care about him, page after page after page.