"A Lonely Resurrection" follows straight on from "A Clean Kill In Tokyo", John Rain is trying to lie low and retire from the killing business but is p"A Lonely Resurrection" follows straight on from "A Clean Kill In Tokyo", John Rain is trying to lie low and retire from the killing business but is pulled back into that world by his friend and sometime protector, a police inspector on a crusade against corruption in Japan.
"A Lonely Resurrection" was good solid entertainment all the way through. It spends a lot of time on (very) physical and vividly described combat, John Rain kills more people and with more ease than Jack Reacher normally manages and he seems to have much better sex with the women in his life. The plot provided a satisfying mix of feint and attack and betrayal that kept me guessing.
Barry Eisler narrates his own book perfectly, getting the pace right and squeeting out all the drama without becoming melodramatic.
One of the things I enjoyed most was the verbal love affair Barry Eisner has with Tokyo. He makes me hungry to go there. Read the description below of Tokyo by night and you'll see what I mean.
There's something so alive about Tokyo at night; something so imbued with possibilities. Certainly the day time, with its zig-zagging schools of pedestrians and thundering trains and hustle and noise and traffic, is the more upbeat of the cities melodies, but the city also seems burdened by the quotidian clamor and almost relieved ,every evening, to be able to ease into the twilight and set aside the weight of the day. Night strips away the superfluity and the distractions. You move through Tokyo at night and you feel you're on the verge of discovering that thing you've always longed for- At night, you can hear the city breathe.
It's clear that John Rain, killer and loner that he is, reluctantly and hesitantly, on a journey to discover the possibility of redemption or, perhaps, atonement in these books. He is developing as a character but his true nature is unlikely to change. He will always kill. The questions is, how will he direct his killing? For profit? For personal vengeance? Or for something bigger and more important than himself.
I've booked myself a monthly John Rain entertainment spot until I've read the entire season.
Go to Barry Eisler^s website to hear him read an extract from chapter one and to get more background on the places his stories take place in....more
Barry Eisler recently reacquired the rights to his John Rain novels, gave them new titles and new covers and personally narrated new audiobook versionBarry Eisler recently reacquired the rights to his John Rain novels, gave them new titles and new covers and personally narrated new audiobook versions.
I was intrigued and decided to try the first book "A Clean Kill In Tokyo" which was published in 2002 as "Rain Fall".
It was a fun read all the way through, not least because Barry Eisler turns our to be an excellent narrator.
John Rain is a Tokyo-based assassin, who specialises in making it seem as if the men he kills die of natural causes. Rain had a Japanese father and a white American mother, was raised in both countries and is fully at home in neither. He lives an affluent but disconnected life, built on killing for money.
In this novel, he's the hero. That's not a role he has much experience of. He takes it on reluctantly and it doesn't entirely fit him. Even as a hero, his kill-rate is very high and causes him not a moments disquiet.
The foot-in-two-worlds aspects of the book are well executed and gave me an intersting blend of the familiar and the exotic..Tokyo becomes almost a character in the book. It's described the way someone who lives there would see it, with its peculiarities taken for granted. The tourist map of Tokyo has been overwritten by one that stresses the places that are important to John Rain: Jazz Clubs. Whiskey Bars and the intricate subway network that he uses to elude those trying to follow him.
The plot is a mixture of backstory, explaining how John came to be the killer he now is, and a protect-the-brave-independent-but-vulnerable-damsel-in-distress theme that's given a twist by the fact the Rain killed her father.
There is political intrigue, espionage, crime, corruption and lots and lots of fight scenes featuring martial arts, street fighting, knives, staves and guns.
I'm hooked now. Fortunately, there are eight John Rain books in print with a ninth coming out in July, so I expect them to become a regularly source of entertainment this year....more
"The Winter Over" is a thriller following the descent into chaos of the skeleton crew of forty or so scientsts and support staff who are covering the"The Winter Over" is a thriller following the descent into chaos of the skeleton crew of forty or so scientsts and support staff who are covering the nine month "Winter Over" shift at the Shackleton research station at the South Pole during the continuous darkness of an Antarctic winter.
The strength of the novel comes from two things: a vivid evocation of the claustrophobia of the station and the murderous menace of the outdoors and from the originality of the idea the plot pivots on.
I felt I got to know the station and completely to believe that "Antarctica wants to kill you" so badly that a short walk following a guide rope from one building to the next is a deeply hazardous enterprise.
The plot unfolded at a pace that meant that my suspicions were confirmed quickly enough for me to feel smart but not so quickly that the plot felt dumb. There were lots of twists and turns and a wealth of possible and actual bad guys upon whom the whole thing going to hell could be blamed.
The weakness of the book came from the over-extension of the central idea and the limited character development.
Things stopped going to hell and started to implode like the evil villain's base in a James Bond movie. The body count was so high and the killing so remorseless that I felt I was in a rebooted version of "Resident Evil".
The main characters had tragic backstories that they dragged behind them like broken limbs but there was no sense of progress or prospect of redemption, so I ended up feeling like a voyeur iat a freak show.
"The Winter Over" struck me as a Twenty First Century version of Alistair Maclean's "Ice Station Zebra": with violent action wrapped around a puzzle but this time with many of the characters being women and with scary FFI/OCEAN psychometrics driving the action....more
I enjoyed "Cumulus" for its energy, the strength of its ideas and its ability to extrapolate current technology, political and social trends into a plI enjoyed "Cumulus" for its energy, the strength of its ideas and its ability to extrapolate current technology, political and social trends into a plausible and engaging near-future.
As a thriller, I found the pace a little uneven and some of the plot twists, especially the later decisions of the chaos maker in the book, a little too convenient. This is one of those books that reaches for William Gibson, matches him for ideas but misses on the ability to provide an understated plot and characters you care about.
"Cumulus" is told in the form of a thriller, bringing together the mulit-billionaire founder of a huge cloud technology company who is sees herself as on a mission to shape a better future, a jobbing photographer addicted to analog photography who aspires to be an investigative journalist. and a ruthless ex-CIA agent pursuing a personal agenda of subversion.
Along the way they explore the consequences of the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest, the increasing impotence of government and law enforcement and the impact of using a tiered access model for technology services that builds in exclusion of the poor and the vulnerable.
I found myself giving "Cumulus" as sub-title: "Palo Alto Dreaming" as it comes from the mindset of the new generation of Silicon Valley hopefuls who acknowledge the social consequences of the technology that they're building and are who are trying to control a genie that they can't get back into the bottle.
I'll be keeping an eye on Eliot Peper. I like his ideas and his boldness. As he gets better at pacing the plot and in giving his characters voices that are as interesting and distinctive as their backstories, I think he'll become a writer to watch....more
I think "Conclave" is the best Robert Harris book so far. He's produced an empathic immersion into the closed world of the College of Cardinals, thatI think "Conclave" is the best Robert Harris book so far. He's produced an empathic immersion into the closed world of the College of Cardinals, that manages to be compassionate, truthful and have just enough tension in it to keep you turning the pages while still having the people, rather than the plot, at the heart of the novel.
Set in the weeks after the unexpected death of what appears to be Pope Francis, the current Pope, "Conclave" tells the story of the election of next Pope by the 118 Cardinal Electors, sequestered in the Sistine Chapel until the Holy Spirit moves at least two thirds of to select one of their number to be Pope.
The story is told through the eyes of Cardinal Lomeli, Dean of the College of Cardinals and therefore responsible for managing the Conclave as well as voting in it.
Lomeli is a wonderful creation: a man who has served the Church mainly in ambassadorial roles as a Papal Nuncio and as Secretary of State, he is troubled by doubt and has recently found it difficult to pray. In his seventies, this Prince of the Church, shows remarkable humility. His ambition is simply to run the Concave in as neutral a way as possible so that God can guide him and his brother Cardinals to make the right decision. Neutrality becomes a less and less viable goal as facts about some of the leading candidates emerge and Lomeli finds himself taking decisions about what to do with information that could directly alter who is chosen as Pope. In these circumstances, Lomeli's guide seems always to be to do his duty to God. Of course, he would be greatly helped in this if God could be a little more directive about what his will is.
Lomeli kept a story human that could otherwise have been drowned in the procedural details of the conclave or overshadowed by an exploration of the divisions in the Church about women, homosexuality, Liberation Theology, the return of the Latin Mass, political and financial corruption, the continuing dominance of Italy in a world where most Catholics live outside of Europe.
I was a Catholic by birth and education, before taking a leap of faith and becoming an atheist, so I was intrigued to see how Robert Harris would treat the Church. I was pleased that he avoided both whitewash and demonisation. Instead, he presents men of many different backgrounds, personalities and beliefs, who are passionately trying to serve, even if some of them conflate service and ambition. What I found most affecting and most realistic, was the extent to which these men, especially the much troubled Lomeli, found their way through the moral and political maze through prayer. I never mastered prayer but I've known people for whom it is a daily necessity on a par with food and water. I'd like to believe that many of those leading the Church feel the same need.
The audiobook version is narrated with great skill by Roy McMillan. Click on the Soundcloud link below for a sample.
"The Lightkeepers" is set in the Farallon Islands, about thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. Mostly made of jagged rock jutting out of the sea"The Lightkeepers" is set in the Farallon Islands, about thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. Mostly made of jagged rock jutting out of the sea, the islands and the waters that crash about them, are occupied mostly by migratory wildlife, there to breed, feed and move on.
The Farallon Islands are a Wildlife Refuge, off-limits to people except for a small team of scientists who observe and record the lives, deaths and births of creatures on the islands.
Abbi Geni uses this setting to tell the story that is as stark, unforgiving and alien as the Farallon Islands themselves.
At the heart of the story is Miranda, a nature photographer, who has convinced the powers that be to let her spend a year on the island, living amongst the wildlife obsessed biologists, capturing the spirit of the island and its animal population on film.
Yes, I did say her name was Miranda, although almost no-one on the island calls her that, and yes, of course you're supposed to be reminded of "The Tempest" and that "brave new world that has such people in it" and spend time slowly working out who is Prospero and who is Caliban. It's that kind of book for that kind of reader.
I'm not going to give details of the story here, as this is a book where the process of revelation and reconsideration is central the to the enjoyment that it brings, so I will focus on the writing and the structure and the impact that the book had on me.
The first thing to say was that, even when I was least pleased with the book, I found it mesmerising, partly because narrative contains many compelling images that filled my imagination instantly and totally in the way that a good photograph will and partly because I couldn't resist twisting these images in my mind, as if they were a Rubric's Cube that, with persistent manipulation, would yield a coherent pattern.
The struggle for pattern and meaning is central to the structure of "The Lightkeepers". Miranda is perhaps the most unreliable narrator I have ever encountered. She reveals her story in fragments, in the form of letters that she writes compulsively to her dead mother but never posts.
Over time I started to realise that Miranda sees clearly only when she is looking through the lens of her camera and even then it took me a while to realise that the sometimes brutal scenes of strut, rut, violent struggle and pointless death that she documents in the wildlife around her are, in part, attempt to tell herself her own story. Miranda cannot easily confront what has happened to her and what her actions say about her true nature, so she frames her world with with photographs and paragraphs, simultaneously displaying and obscuring the truths that only her sub-conscious mind grasps.
Miranda is as lost and in as much distress as any of the creatures whose struggles to survive and thrive the biologists record but never interfere with. The curious, detached passion of the biologists, the habit of mind that allows them to observe without ever interfering, creates an atmosphere that leaves Miranda more isolated than if she where completely alone on the island.
The unconventional narrative form of "The Lightkeepers" and its emotionally turbulent content, challenges the reader to focus and find meaning; to allow ourselves to see what is there to be seen and not to look away or to deny what has happened and what it means just because it is unpleasant. We are asked to become observers like, the biologists, noting the details and building a picture of the true natures of those we observe.We are also invited to question that passive stance and to take sides and pass judgment.The offer to observe is subtle and skilful. The offer to judge, which happens towards the end of the book, seemed clumsy and contrived by comparison. I found the attempt to divide the world into Lightkeepers, who uphold civilisation, and eggers, who a driven by greed, disappointingly simple.
The end of the book disappointed me, not by its content but by the way it was told The ending felt grafted on. The point of view shifted to another character, the Prospero of the novel, who acted as a kind of Chorus, knitting the loose threads together in a tight, neat pattern and spitting out the moral of the tale. Except, of course, Prospero is also an unreliable narrator so one is left with room to doubt.
Xe Sands does an outstanding job of narration. Click on the link below to hear a sample.
My only other experience of David Baldacci was the rather unfunny seasonal comedy "The Christmas Train". Given how successful David Baldacci is, I figMy only other experience of David Baldacci was the rather unfunny seasonal comedy "The Christmas Train". Given how successful David Baldacci is, I figured that I probably hadn't seen him at his best and decided to give one of his mysteries a try.
"Split Second" is a tense, page-turning, puzzle-solving book that delivers a plot that is original, if a little far-fetched (but hey, I read books about vampires, werewolves and aliens - how much of a stretch can the plot of a thriller be?).
The plot revolves around two Secret Service agents who, more than a decade apart are each guarding different Presidential candidates when they make career-ending mistakes.
Of course, it turns out that the two sets of events are related in complicated and fun to unravel ways that bring the older male ex-agent together with the younger female ex-agent to save the day.
The book is at its best in creating tension before the action, especially when it's inside the head of one of the ex-agents. There's lots of misdirection and unexpected plot twists, gunfights, a couple of explosions and relatively high and mostly female body-count.It's actually pretty good at hiding the bad guys and then revealing them in a way that makes you slap your forehead for not having seen it already.
It was all very entertaining as long as it was taken at breakneck speed.
I found the two ex-agents hard to like.
The man, Sean King (how do Americans end up with Irish first names and Jewish family names?) is, of course, tall, handsome, moderately athletic. He knows how to build a house, cook a meal and choose the right wines. He also seems to have been married to his job, cheating on his wife and taking no real joy in anything prior to the sudden death of his career. Then, with an unconscious sense of entitlement that only those with generations of middle-class background have, he becomes a lawyer, builds a fabulous house, makes a lot of money, buys a lot of toys and doesn't really get involved with anyone or anything except keeping his house excessively neat. Why should I care about this guy?
The woman, Michelle (call me Mick) Maxwell, is, of course, small, blonde and beautiful. She's also an over-achieving ex-Olympian (rowing), from generations of police officers (senior police officers of course) with a good degree, a natural ability with guns and a martial arts black belt. She's on the fast track in the Secret Service but seems to have no idea why she wants to be there. She's too glossy and too shallow for my tastes but she has skills that allow the plot to move along quite nicely.
The two of them blunder through the book, trying to fix the mess they're in and getting a lot of other people killed in the process.
But, if I let go of my distaste for all-American heroes with an inbuilt sense of entitlement and an unexamined patriotism, I have to admit that this book kept me entertained all the way through.
Scott Brick did a good job of the narration, keeping the pace moving and making the dialogue live. He wasn't helped in this by the curious production standards Hatchette Audio, who played background music at apparently random moments and seemed to toss a coin on how to deal with transitions, sometimes leaving a pause so long that I checked my player was working and sometimes moving from one scene to another so fast that I became confused about who was talking or where I was. The cover art is so bland, a brown-paper wrapper would have been more interesting. These guys seem to be asleep at the wheel....more