I like the fact that this book is not set in the US showing that there are good and bad people in the rest of the world. Rounded characters where I felt I wanted to know more. The only negative was the Japanese in the book which then had to be translated - I felt it disrupted the flow and was just a way for the author to show off that he knew another language.
For its genre, this is a well written and pacey thriller about a half Japanese half American assassin. For the most part it mixes well the personal stories of its main protagonists with the larger story of government corruption.
Its also clear the author knows Tokyo inside out, and one of the most enjoyable things about this book was being taken on a kind of tour of the city while the plot of a thriller unfurls around you. These sections usually take place as Rain indulges in elaborate anti-surveillance manoeuvres. These are interesting the first couple of times they happen, but start getting slightly wearing after that.
What's odd about this book (and I'm not sure if it's intentional or not) is that, while Rain is often described as an "anti-hero", he is in fact much more than that. Namely, he is a complete and utter psychopath. I don't mean that in the crazy American Psycho meaning, I mean it more in the cold and clinical sense that he is a man who is utterly unsympathetic to the feelings or emotions of other people. He kills at the slightest provocation and drags Midori (the love interest) through the most tortuous circumstances with barely a murmur from his conscience.
Despite this, you do end up rooting for him and it makes this book an interesting departure from most books of its type.
Barry Eisler's literary career in the UK has been criminally mismanaged. Any thriller aficionado worth his salt will tell you that John Rain is the best anti-hero to grace the pages of spy fiction since Fleming created Bond,Peter O'Donell gave us the Modesty Blaise franchise and Adam Hall launched us into the world of Quiller. Eisler's books are a rarity. He succeeds in being highly literate whilst delivering an abundance of thrills in a refreshing style that is both cool and truly original. Why these books don't top our best seller lists is one of the tragedies of our time but can probably be attributed to a series of marketing blunders that should have Penguin hanging their heads in shame. First off, some books in the series have different titles in the UK from those in the US. Allways a difficulty in a global market and a technique destined to confuse consumers by making it difficult for them to navigate or understand their chronological order.To get straightened out, you should visit Eisler's own web site that explains all. Secondly, the UK cover art is so trashy it would make the real target audience run for the hills. Last but by no means least, some of the books are already out of print and have to be sourced through the secondary market. With these mistakes in mind, it is little wonder that Eisler has fallen out of love with "legacy publishing" and is now looking at new ways to bring his product to market. All of that said, the first in the Rain series is still in print and is the perfect place for you to start your relationship with the Jazz loving, single malt coniseur who specialises in hits that present as death by natural causes. The books can be read out of sequence but there is a narrative that runs throughout the series which makes them best enjoyed in the order they were written. In Hard Rain, the Tokoyo settings and the noir atmosphere will grip you from the get go and the plot involving a very believable take on the corruption permeating modern Japan will both inform and thrill you in equal measure. This is a trullely brilliant book and the entrée to a great series. Savour it and tell your friends - Rain is the coolest hit man to walk our streets and Eisler belongs up there with the greats!
I found this book under the top 100 free listing and thought I would give it a try as the reviews seemed promising. Imagine my surprise when I was actually charged £3 to purchase the book which was meant to be free. Ah well I thought!
There are not many books that I fail to finish, I usually manage to get to the end even if it turns out not to be my cup of tea. Sadly, this was one of the few books that I could not endure past it's mid point! The lack of momentum and the incredibly annoying habit of using Japanese words then immediately explaining what the word means was just too much to handle. The book is based in Japan, but that is not really important to the plot as far as I could see. The author clearly wanted to show off their knowledge of Japan and its language rather than keeping the reader hooked. I can understand why the book failed first time around and needed a new name and some re-writes before it started to make some sales.
A real shame and I feel a little guilty 'bad mouthing' someone's hard work, especially when I would not be able to do better myself. Try the book for yourself, you may enjoy it....... it just didn't work for me.
The John Rain series has done pretty well for itself and I was glad to be given this to see how it all began. What you have is a competent, though somewhat uninspiring, plot - set to the exotic rhythms of Tokyo with a profoundly unpleasant central protagonist. Rain burbles on about how traumatic Vietnam was for him, as was growing up with an American mother and Japanese father(boo hoo), but he is a total low-life killer with no redeeming features at all. An holistic examination of his psychopathic absence of guilt or remorse is too much for this type of novel - okay - but rooting for this guy is tough. I kept wanting him to get killed or at least maimed, but no such luck.
The story - about Japanese corruption - was one of those where people keep getting killed when the action flags and the reason behind it all eludes any semblance of reality or meaning.
I guess my main issue with this was that it just isn't FUN! The Dexter series (with a ludicrous central character) is fun. The Lawrence Block hitman novels about 'Keller' (Keller, Killer - geddit!) were fun (though uncomfortable). In this, there's a lot of stuff about judo holds and an annoying, cliched, affected attachment to jazz and malt whiskey for our boy.
That's not fun.
Fair's fair, though. i read it cover to cover in a couple of days - that's pretty good.