Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Love List #7: Barry Eisler

The first time I saw Barry Eisler, someone pointed him out to me and said, "That man used to work for the CIA." Having recently gone through a period when I was enamored with every spy movie and television show that I could lay my eyeballs on, I whirled around in a very unsubtle manner and said, "Really?" My friend then administered the kicker: "And he writes books."

"REALLY?" I trotted over, examined the shelf of slick novels, and was appropriately impressed.

Barry Eisler is the author of seven novels about a half-Japanese, half-American assassin named John Rain, as well as two novels about a black ops soldier named Ben Treven. He has worked for the CIA, been a technology lawyer, and was an executive at a Silicon Valley technology startup. Impressive, right? He also maintains a fascinating blog. You can find his books here. To start you out, the first book in the John Rain series is Rain Fall. The first Ben Treven book is Fault Line. Barry has said that while each novel can be read as a standalone story, you'll get to see the full arc of things if you read them in order.

Oh, and you can see Kepler's making a cameo appearance in Requiem for an Assassin here.

This is Barry Eisler.


The Most Dangerous Thing
by: Laura Lippman

Mystic River meets Empire Falls
I've been hearing great things about Laura Lippman for years, and now I know why. I picked up this book on audio and was immediately engrossed. There's a great mystery at the center of the story, and as the layers get peeled back you get progressively more eager to know what really happened on the night of the hurricane. But what really drove the book for me were the characters. These people, with all their hopes and confusion and disappointments and secrets and resentments, felt completely real to me, and more than once I was struck by how wise the writer must be to know them (and present them) so well.

On the mystery level, I found it reminiscent of Mystic River -- a childhood event that warps relationships and plays itself out through the characters' lives and across generations. But on the character level, it reminded me of Empire Falls, with its collection of fascinating, totally believable people and their convoluted relationships. And yet it wasn't at all derivative of anything I've ever read -- just a great, original story.

With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
by: Glenn Greenwald

A Damning Indictment of the Betrayal of American Ideals
This superb book is a powerful indictment of America's two-tiered system of "justice" and the perversion of American ideals by the American establishment (better understood as an oligarchy). It could serve as a manifesto of the Occupy movement, which, contrary to variously naive and opportunistic mischaracterizations, has no problem with people winning, and is opposed instead to systemic, institutionalized cheating.

If you think certain classes of people should be above the law, or that the law (including the Constitution) should be treated more as a kind of guideline, suggestion, or recommendation than as a binding authority equally applicable to all, you won't agree with the book's clear argument and you'll find a way to ignore its overwhelming evidence. But if you recognize that, as Thomas Paine said, in America it is the law that is king, you'll be grateful that Greenwald has written such a cogent appeal for Americans to live up to our ideals.

I also loved, loved, loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  And The Trinity Six, a superb thriller by Charles Cummings.  And Griftopia, A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, by Matt Taibbi.

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