Seldom has the thriller genre featured such a flawed (morally compromised) and yet attractive figure as Barry Eisler’s John Rain. On one hand, he seems amoral; on the other, his sensitivity, especially toward women, is remarkable. Rain also revels in describing the meals he eats and his lovemaking.
Eisler may be Tom Clancy’s only serious rival in the creation of techno-thrillers. Like Clancy, Eisler loves to dwell on his hero’s use of the latest technology, but unlike Clancy’s protagonists, Rain is a more believable human being—conflicted about killing but also aware that governments employ agents just like him, especially when the bureaucracy cannot act quickly. Rain becomes indispensable because the governments who give him assignments cannot go through regular channels.
Unlike the traditional thriller where the hero often does not age (James Bond, for example) or who manages to continue his work without serious internal disturbance, Rain grows increasingly tense about the toll his assassinations have taken on his psyche. Thus the Rain series has a kind of tragic trajectory, and its hero is fast approaching the point where he must leave “the life” and begin a new existence as a law-abiding citizen. Eisler’s contribution to the thriller genre is located in the nexus he explores between the individual’s state of mind and the geopolitical concerns of global terrorism and government-sponsored violence.