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4.4 out of 5 stars78
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Having read all of Barry Eisler's previous novels (including the less that stellar Treven series) and most of his short stories I would consider myself a fan. As with most authors some of his books are better than others, with the earlier Rain novels generally being stronger than the more recent efforts in my opinion. Graveyard of Memories continues that pattern by not being a bad effort but also not being amongst Eisler's better works.

It has some obvious strengths, with its portrayal of 70's Tokyo being one of them. The book gives the reader a genuine feel for the city during that period of rapid economic growth just prior to the 80's boom. The action is also up to the usual high standards we expect of Eisler. It was also intriguing to meet the young, callow, ill-disciplined John Rain in his pre-uber-cool-assassin days and to get a better understanding of where he came from.

Where the books falls down however, is in the plot, which I found both overly convoluted and not particularly involving. I have no problem with twisting, complex plots, full of betrayals and intrigue. I just prefer the convolutions to feel less forced than they do here. As for the lack of emotional involvement, whilst the danger Rain finds himself in feels genuine the fact that this is prequel to the earlier books he features in leave no doubt that he will survive and we never really learn enough about any of the other characters, good or bad, to care much about their eventual fates. Without an emotional involvement in the story as it unfolds I remained curiously detached throughout and found it easy to put the book down during even the most exciting passages.

Even the token love interest sub-plot that Eisler throws in failed to generate any additional sense of genuine jeopardy. Whilst making the woman disabled was an interesting approach, and Eisler managed to do so without leaving the character defined purely by her disability, he didn't give her enough depth to make me really care what happened to her. Her relationship with Rain also felt forced and unrealistic, with the characters lacking genuine chemistry. This is fault I have found with other Eisler novels, in particular Fault Line, where characters end up in romantic or sexual relationships almost by default rather than because it feels like a natural progression. It often feels like Eisler includes a romantic subplot even if the story doesn't demand one, like he's working to a formula and needs to tick a box.

As usual he then compounds the problem by including some truly cringe worthy sex scenes. I'm no prude but Eisler's descriptions of sex definitely veer towards the unnecessarily gratuitous, and include all the tenderness and emotion of his action sequences. Like the love-interest it also feels like he includes them to meet some sort of quota rather than because they're integral to the story.

So overall I would rate this as one of the lesser Rain entries in the Rain series. Interesting, entertaining in places and atmospheric yes, but also unfocused and included too many unnecessary elements.
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on 11 February 2014
First things first: do you need to buy this book? If you have read and enjoyed some of the previous John Rain adventures
then you can simply hit purchase, sit back and enjoy a John Rain as you have never seen before. If you are new to the
books or still in doubt, please, keep reading.

John Rain is a killer, an assassin. He is precise, methodical, highly trained and lethal in hand to hand combat, and experienced in all things related to surveillance. But John Rain is also a man, emotional at times and not strange to love and suffering. In the previous books we had a clear glimpse of Rain's capabilities and flows, but the question of how he became the man he is now still remained.

Graveyard of memories is the link between Rain's past and present. It portrays a young, impulsive an inexperienced John when he was only 20, immediately after his experience in Vietnam. At this time he is working as a bagman for the CIA in Tokyo. During one of the exchanges he gets attacked by a group of Yakuza and he kills one of the thugs. This, unknowingly to John, is the first step of a long path full of death that will make him the hitman we know and love (somehow).

The plot is typical Eisler style: full of twists and turns, violence and love that keep the reader riveted to the book until it is all over.
Eisler delves inside the past of John Rain, his relationship with parents, his traumas for the atrocities of the war that make him more at ease with violence than with talking to women.

At the same time, as in all Eisler's books, the city of Tokyo and Japanese culture are equally protagonist of the story. John Rain's appreciation for some of the idiosyncrasies of Japan are clearly the result of Eisler's love for this culture. And in this way the metaphor is developed: as the city changes to embrace modernity and efficiency so John Rain changes to become more detached, rational and ultimately efficient at what he knows how to do best, killing.

The book is structured in such a way that it is still perfectly enjoyable for someone who has not read the previous books. Although I personally think that reading at least one of the previous books provides the juxtaposition between the modern and the young Rain, and improves the pleasure of the book. Well, I suppose you can get the same effect starting with this book and then buying the rest of the series...

Ultimately this is a very well written thriller, with complex, never boring and evolving characters, set in a beautifully described Tokyo.
A fast read that will leave you wanting for more.
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on 21 February 2015
What a read! "Graveyard of Memories" was just my second Barry Eisler Book after " A Clean Kill in Tokyo" But it certainly won't be my last! Again Eisler shows his ability to create suspision by combining a great story with some well placed action scenes and a formidable protagonist. John Rain is really someone, you can quite easily identify with, wich is somewhat remarkable considering he is an outlaw sssassin! This origin story only adds to that by showing us how Rain became the man, we first met 30 years later. To the usual amount of conspiracy, treason and intrigue, Eisler adds a truely unique love story. That said means something because it comes from me, a guy who is often annoyed by that kind of romance in this particular genre. It often feels forced to me, like some authors are struggling to put a love story in their peace because they think it would belong in such a novel. However this one feels different. I can not really explain it but it just feels real and so becomes one of two things, which are really setting the book above many other outings of this genre. The second thing is watching Rain learning his tradecraft step by step. Eisler does a great job by delivering Rain frome someone with unique but raw skills in someone, one can easily imagine will one day become the world's most gifted contract killer!

So again, well done Mr. Eisler! I am really looking forward to any future Rain novels! But first, I will catch up with your other six.
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on 3 April 2014
Later books in the John Rain series have not really been to my tastes. This is an easy book to recommend. Well written with a believable fallible "hero" who wouldn't need a zimmer frame.
Best book by Barry Eisler in some time - just buy it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 February 2014
This book is set in Tokyo in the 1970s just after the Vietnam War. It features John Rain, an ex-soldier who has become involved in the secret world of passing messages and money between the CIA and Japanese politicians and businessmen. Rain makes a mistake because of his temper and slowly his life begins to unravel until he is forced into a whole new life and has to sacrifice what might have been.

This book is narrated by the older Rain and one of its strengths is the older character pointing out what the younger man does wrong and how he gets forced into a place where he has no other options other than to become an assassin. I came to this book new to this author (title kindly provided free via NetGalley in exchange for a review) and hadn't realised that there are more books featuring John Rain all set later in time than this one - this is a prequel. If I had read the other books I might have made links between them and this story but I don't think that I lost out coming to this book with no previous knowledge of the character.

I found this book compelling reading. It is full of twists and turns and also a sense of inevitability. Even though I didn't know that Rain became an assassin from the beginning, the author signposts the end as he slowly takes away all Rain's options. I was gripped by the storyline and engaged by Rain as he has to face up to the sort of person he can become. I was especially hooked on the author's descriptions of Tokyo and the Japanese culture for which he obviously has great affection - this book reads like it was written by someone who knows the country well.

Another excellent characteristic of the book is the development of a character with a disability where the character is the point of the story and not their impairment. It takes a confident and accomplished writer to include this theme in a book which is essentially a thriller.

I rather wished that I had learned more about John Rain's childhood and what had happened to him in the army but this is only a minor point. I found this a gripping read which managed to make John Rain a sympathetic character despite his life choices - an excellent novel for those who like thrillers.
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on 23 February 2014
I've loved each of Barry Eisler's books since finding Hard Rain by chance. Each book has drawn me in with their well developed and morally grey characters as well as their gripping plots.

But this time, as well as delivering a thriller of his usual calibre Barry Eisler has achieved something far rarer: a genuine prequel. This book features an earlier, unrefined version of the Rain we have come to know and love as opposed to the same character transported to an earlier time period. This Rain is less skilled and more naive but just as believable and captivating.

It's no spoiler to say Rain becomes closer to the character of the later books as the story progresses but again his evolution is so well written that it doesn't feel like a series of events shoehorned into the plot to teach required lessons and most crucially it happens without cliche.

I'm now genuinely torn as to what I hope for in the next John Rain book, a return to the present with the full compliment of the supporting characters of the other books or the next stage of development of this Proto-Rain.
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on 15 April 2014
Great fiction, well researched, couldn't put tablet down, had to read to end, can't wait to read rest of series.
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on 8 August 2014
A prequel to John Rain the assassin. I had to buy this because I have read all the other Barry Eisler's books.

Unfortunately, there is something not quite right about this one. It is almost as though Barry didn't write this or at least not entirely. The fight sequences are great as usual, the plot is OK but way below what I consider 'usual'.

There are quite a bit of going round in circles - i.e. the writing could have been a little tighter like all his other books.

Yeah, I am a little disappointed considering I had been waiting for such a long time for this. Would this deter me from buying Barry's future instalments? Absolutely not! I am a huge fan of his and I will continue to buy his book in the foreseeable future.
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on 14 May 2014
Didn't know how it would conclude , although it couldn't have ended any other way. Thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, especially the unusual relationship with the girl
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on 7 April 2014
Have read them all, and this one is set way back when Rain was only 21, and just out of the jungles of Vietnam . While set in tokyo, Rain is not yet the expert , careful, poised, assasin of the later books. In a way, this makes him more interesting! As Eisler has taken this step to fill in the back story - I think there is still more room to continue this "early" Rain, and give us some more stories that bridge the time between Rain at 21, and Rain as in the first book written by Eisler. Let's hope he does this.
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