>> Friday, June 25, 2010
About a week ago, I returned home and saw a flat rate priority mail envelope waiting for me. I couldn't figure out what it was, as I hadn't ordered any fabric recently which is usually what arrives in FREs. I went closer and saw that the return address was Barry Eisler's. And then it clicked. His publicist had contacted me about 6 months ago asking if I would be interested in a copy of his forthcoming book. I obviously said yes and promptly forgot about it in the midst of school and work and other obligations. But here it was -- signed, with my name, and all. I'm guessing that because he dedicated it "to the bloggers," his publicist found people who mentioned his books to send them to, and I had mentioned his books here. Whatever the reason, I never mind receiving free books (and that, friends, was the requisite announcement that I did not purchase the book I am about to review).
Due to school reading that needed to get done, I had to leave my bright and shiny copy of Inside Out sitting on the mail pile so as not to be tempted by it instead of finishing the required reading. But earlier this week, I broke down and determined that I needed a break from work and reading a mystery was the way to go. It took me an evening or so -- as I said, I read fast, I guzzle books like this barely stopping for air, water, or food.
It was a lovely evening, filled with the adventures of Ben Treven, a very undercover black ops soldier first introduced in Eisler's last book, Fault Line. Asian countries have played a big role in Eisler's work, with his first protagonost, John Rain, spending a tremendous amount of time in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Inside Out starts in Manila, with Treven in jail after a bar fight in which he killed an Australian agent. His former commander comes to offer a "get out of jail" card but this one isn't free, as Treven must pay up in the form of a covert mission to locate one Daniel Larison, another former black ops guy who has gone rogue and is blackmailing the CIA with torture videos. The slimy and cutthroat world of spies, counterterrorism, national interests, and big money come into play as more characters, with mixed motivations, enter the narrative. Treven -- who, as a black ops man himself, best understands his target -- traverses DC and Florida, before heading off to Costa Rica in pursuit of Larison. Along the way, helpful, misleading, and compromised agents and informants populate his world, aiding and interfering with his work.
In addition, midway through reading, I wondered how the turn to a new lead character (Treven) fit with the disappearance of John Rain, the aforementioned protagonist of Eisler's first 6 books. Eisler anticipated me here, as a late reference to Rain suggests that the Rain's Return might greet us in bookstores in the not-too-distant future.
Full of the twists and turns of a political thriller, Inside Out is a fast-paced page turner. Like all of Eisler's work, what makes this book stand out is its rootedness in power politics of the day. Though certainly a work of fiction, it is one grounded in recent events, power politics, and the uncertainties of contemporary warfare. Eisler handily includes a source list and bibliography for those interested in the "deep background" behind this tale. And if you're a savvy political blog reader, you'll notice some names throughout plucked from the blogosphere -- an Eisler touch. Not that the character to which the name is linked is necessarily a judgment of that person; the friend who introduced me to this series was a character quickly killed off in an earlier book, and I'm pretty sure that was meant as a friendly gesture! If you or anyone you know likes the thriller genre, add Inside Out to your summer reading list; just be prepared to ignore the rest of your life for a bit while you read it (excellent beach reading, in that regard).