Saturday, January 19, 2013

At Fault For Not Keeping His Coloring Within The Lines

I have to start up by saying that I am a huge fun of Barry Eisler. I have greatly enjoyed all six of his Jack Rain novels (highly recommended to anyone!) so my expectations were high even though I knew this was to be a break from that story arc. Having said that, I have to confess that I found the Fault Line to be a disappointment.

Alex is in trouble. He is a lawyer and his client's software under patent seems to have triggered a murderous spree and the list includes his name. Conveniently, his older brother, Ben, is a CIA wet-works operator that has just completed a semi-successful op in Istanbul. Although estranged and barely on speaking terms (not to mention unaware of his brother's true occupation!), Ben is the one Alex calls when it hits the fan. And even if suspension-of-disbelief requirements were not high enough, here come yet another couple of things that gum up this novel from working.

First off, the brothers' back story: it seems to drag on and on forever. We are well past the middle of the book when the narration of events from that fateful night is finally completed. And the switching of perspectives from one brother to the other, not something I would try again. It only manages to add excessive emotional details to an action novel, and without really strengthening anyone's motivation. I suspect that, this being the first book of the new Ben Traven series, it had to suffer a little in the heavy background department; nevertheless, it could had been done more subtly and concisely.

Secondly, there is no such thing as an action novel/political treatise hybrid - and when attempted it simply does not work. Barry's political observations (although accurate and valid) cannot be supported in an action novel. I doubt that any young Iranian lawyer under mortal threat would vent her liberalism on the only man standing between her and her killers because ...she found his employment actions unsanctioned and unconstitutional, even if they clearly are. And any such intelligence professional would had walked away from such a thankless task long before he had to reload his Glock 27.

Whenever there is a tactical situation or an action sequence, that is where Barry Eisler's strengths shine. He is one of the few contemporary writers that can choreograph a close combat scene so beautifully and then describe it in a way that puts you in the thick of it, leaving you looking for bruises on your body and blood spays on your clothes when it is over. Unfortunately, this is not a book that brings out his talents enough.

As someone disillusioned from both the trapping of modern "democracy" and the pseudo-fight between the left and the right, Barry seems to be blossoming into an excellent anarchist. Unfortunately, such insights belong more to a political Blog than an action novel.

I love Barry Eisler's works. I just did not love this one.

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