Friday, May 4, 2012

Rain Fall by Barry Eisler: A review

John Rain is a political assassin in Japan. He is half Japanese (his father) and half American (his mother). He sees himself as a perpetual soldier, a samurai, a warrior loyal to his overlord and carrying out his commands, fighting his battles. Personally, I think John Rain is full of s... er, self-delusion. But then maybe we all are to some degree.

I have a few problems with this book. First of these is, what is the time frame? If we were ever explicitly told, it must have been in a part that I rapidly skimmed over. (There were several such parts.) It is written, though, as if it were a contemporary story and since the book was published in 2002, that would mean 21st century. Now, John Rain is described as a veteran of the Vietnam War trained by the U.S. Special Forces. He was in Vietnam, we are told, for three years. He had lied about his age to join the military when he was 17, but any way you add it up, by 2002, John Rain would be getting a bit long in the tooth for some of the activities described here. 

Secondly, Rain is a killer who has spent twenty-five years killing people on assignment for his employer who he thinks is the ruling political party in Japan. He's presented as almost preternaturally intuitive and smart, but he never suspects who is actually behind his orders? Plus, his specialty is killing people in a manner that will make the deaths appear like "natural causes." Judging by the death toll in this one book, over twenty-five years, he must have killed hundreds if not thousands of people, usually with his bare hands, and he never left a trace or a clue? A major suspension of disbelief is required here.

As we meet Rain, he is about to kill again. His target is a man on a crowded subway car. He accomplishes his assigned task, making it look like a heart attack, but soon things begin to get complicated for him. He inadvertently meets the beautiful jazz musician daughter of the man he killed and he finds himself drawn to her. Then he finds that his victim may have been trying to expose corruption in the Japanese government, that he may, in fact, have been one of the "good guys." To complicate things further, he discovers that someone is after the daughter, apparently believing that she may be in possession of the material that the now dead maybe good guy was going to use to prove corruption. Rain is drawn into the daughter's world and seeks to protect her from the bad guys - who are probably his employers! And then it looks like people are trying to kill him, too. Oh, it does get complicated.

Did I mention that the action takes place in Tokyo? There is rather mind-boggling detail of the streets and the mass transit systems in that city. As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, "For people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like." I'm sure there are people who thrive on intricate details about the subway system and that it adds a lot to the story for them. Those people will probably love this book.

I didn't love it. I didn't hate it either. It was just okay. It was the first in a series and Eisler has published several more in the series since then, but I doubt that I'll be picking them up.

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