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Review: Hard Rain

    Fri, 2004-09-03 18:39 — Gumby

    John Rain is Back!

    From the Publisher' In Hard Rain, the lethal assassin John Rain is back. Rain -- half-Japanese, half-American, raised in both countries but at home in neither -- is trying to leave his life as a freelance assassin, but no one will let him just retire. With his military discipline and martial arts skills, and his talent for making death appear to have been of "natural causes," he is both a potential asset - and a threat - to everyone.

    After killing a CIA officer who had hunted him halfway around the globe,Rain plans his own disappearance, hoping to find the peace that has eluded him. But then his old nemesis from the Japanese FBI comes to him with one last "favor:" find and eliminate a killer at large, a creature without compassion or conscience.

    It's soon clear that it's not just Japan's fragile balance of political power that's threatened, but also the lives of Rain's few friends, including that of a love from his past. To protect them, Rain must pursue
    his lethal quarry into the heart of a war between the CIA and the Japanese mafia, where the distinctions between friend and foe and truth and deceit are as murky as the rain-slicked streets of Tokyo.

    The sophomore effort by Barry Eisler is a great read, continuing the adventures of John Rain, the "natural causes" assassin introduced in Eisler's first novel Rain Fall. Despite Rain's ruthless and calculating nature, Eisler has succeeded in the difficult task of portraying him as both a likable and sympathetic character. The exposition of Rain's background and personalities are given further depth and exploration in this work, however the reader is left to ponder whether a man like Rain is born or made.

    The relationships that Rain had established in the first novel are also further defined, including the continuing relationship with his trusty assistant Harry and the sort of uneasy, new found partnership in former nemesis Tatsu. Midori is also brought back in a supporting role, although her character seems only introduced to further define Rain's and it may have been preferable for her to have remained solely in the first novel.

    The new characters Hard Rain introduces are among the most colorful in the series yet. Of particular interest is the main antagonist for Rain, a hard, street fighting and thoroughly dangerous Yakuza named Murakami whose presence immediately rattles and intimidates Rain. The tension created by a foe that Rain cannot match head on and is far too careful for Rain's ordinary methods of disposal is what fuels the conflict throughout the whole novel. As careful and confident as Rain is, and as much of his situation that Rain is capable of surmising at any given moment, he experiences throughout the course of the novel many things that are simply out of his control.

    The strength of Hard Rain is still in Eisler's style and narration. Much as Rain always very carefully checks all of his surroundings on his constant SDR's (Surveillance Detection Runs), Eisler painstakingly frames each scene in the novel and provides the correct amount of details to paint a vivid image. Of particular interest to viewers of OntheMat is Eisler's (who is a black belt from the Kodokan and currently trains under Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) authenticity in describing the action sequences; several grappling moves and scenarios are used including a memorable visit to a gym where fighters prepare for true no holds barred fights.

    Hard Rain takes readers on a enjoyable ride with fully dimensional characters on a plot while fantastic is not necessarily in the realm of fantasy. Higly recommended. For those who can't get enough of the adventures of John Rain, fear not for at least two more sequels are planned and the movie rights have been purchased by Jet Li!

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