May 29, 2009
Review: Fault Line
By Barry Eisler
I hate generic thriller titles. Luckily this one gives a good idea of what you'll find inside with the blurb - a mix of military and techno thriller. Alex Treven is moving quickly up his law firm's ranks, and knows his new client is what he needs to make it rich. All they need to do is secure the patent on his program - until both the client and Alex's insider at the patent office turn up dead. Unsure of what to do, Alex calls his estranged brother Ben, who turns out to be a government spook rather than the simple Army guy Alex expected.
Complicating things is the other person who needs to be protect - Alex's Iranian assistant Sarah, who isn't happy with Ben's scrutiny. She pays attention to politics and doesn't like people judging her based on her race. (Who would?) It doesn't help that Ben doesn't respect the lawyers' profession and they don't respect his.
Barry Eisler does a great job of presenting each of the character's beliefs on good and evil, worthy pursuits, and the necessity of the means without necessarily condoning any of their points of view. But while Alex is against killing, his reactions do seem out of place sometimes. Sometimes Ben does go overboard but Alex sometimes gets pissed when Ben clearly was helping him stay alive.
The secret ability of the software did sound far-fetched, especially when FAULT LINE aims for a realistic feel. (Eisler includes a list of websites about real world incidents mentioned in the book.) Luckily, no one really uses the software so it doesn't matter that much. I did enjoy how things played out - who the bad guy was, how one of the brothers finally got them to stand down. Brains and brawn learned to work together, a little.
I really liked Alex, when he wasn't yelling at Ben needlessly, because he was rather capable for the damsel-in-distress figure. I'm used to the hyper-competent military man in thrillers, but I liked that the intellectual wasn't a total dweeb. Sarah, while likeable enough, was a little flat. She was mostly there for love interest and catalyzing the hero's maturation. I did like Ben, though he fit a more standard mold, and though his and Alex's misunderstandings about each other played well. Eisler also uses the setting to good effect.
Despite it's title, FAULT LINE wasn't an overly generic, cookie cutter thriller. Yes, it obeyed the genre's tropes, but it had interesting ideas, a tight story, and characters worth reading about. I might wait for the paperback, but this one is good for an afternoon of distraction.
FAULT LINE is a stand-alone novel and available now. Eisler's previous six novels center around assassin John Rain, starting with RAIN FALL. He can be found at his website, MySpace, and blog. I particularly recommend the entry titled "Gay Cooties vs Terrorist Mojo."
Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.