Friday, March 13, 2009

Barry Eisler

Is well-known for his John Rain novels, but he has come up with a new novel and a new take on the thriller/spy game novel in his most recent book, Fault Line. It is a quick and still fairly deep read into the minds of those who play the patriot game in our country. And as the title implies, it an enjoyable walk along the fault line between good and evil, moral and immoral, and brother and brother. Alex Treven is a lawyer working his way up the corporate chain, his brother Ben is a mercenary working for a shadowy government agency fighting in the current war on terror. An encryption program working it's way through the patent process provides the tremor that reveals the cracks in both sides of these brother's lives. Sarah Hosseini, an Iranian-American lawyer working with Alex and Ben's boss, Hort, add the complexity to the plot that brings us quickly into the story.

If you are used to John Rain's inner search for meaning even as he plots his next assassination then Ben will be no puzzle to you. Alex, however, is a bird with different feathers. His voice is the one we all need to hear. The one that speaks to our puzzlement at how the war against terrorists has turned into a war against the very freedoms we hold so dear.

For example, the decision of the Supreme Court, split 5-4, to allow private citizens to abide by the constitution’s authorization to own guns for self-defense via the 2nd Amendment is echoing through the corridors of power like a tommy-gun gone berserk. Gun nuts are delirious even though they had probably already broken existing laws and owned guns. Anti-abortionists, many of them gun owners and ready to shoot first and wonder what about god’s plan later, were ecstatic because Roe vs Wade could only be next. I guess it’s lucky for Pro-Choicers that there isn’t an Amendment that directly applies. Meanwhile, Charlton Heston doesn’t have to turn over in his grave, and of course, school children are now much safer in Utah where their parents can now pack quick draw sidearms openly.

Still, with all the amusement that this decision provides me, I am personally ambivalent towards this issue. I don’t live in a neighborhood where armed thugs drive the streets. I don’t spend time in the post office or at local colleges or at the Mall where people apparently most like to go berserk. Will I feel safer knowing that most likely my neighbors now have guns to go along with their security cameras and purses filled with mace? I don’t think so. Will I buy a gun myself? Not yet.

To me this is just another sign that in America we are less safe than ever. As individuals in the country that is famous for allowing us to be independent, we are subject to search and seizure at any moment in the name of security. The newest and hottest job (see the ads on your own TV) is joining a security company. Security is an industry in a country that apparently feels so insecure it goes crazy with happiness over being allowed to bear arms. Ah yes, happiness is a warm gun.

Meanwhile back in the novel world of Barry Eisler these issues are brought into focus as betrayal follows betrayal and both brothers find themselves up against silent agencies that somehow have become the way our country is being run.

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