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The God's Eye View Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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When Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove was having its run, service people left the theater muttering, “That wasn’t a satire. That’s what they’re like.” So it is with Eisler’s fine thriller. His power-mad loons, who pull the levers of supersecret government organizations, aren’t exaggerated for dramatic effect. We know that because Eisler has appended an eighteen-page guide to all the nasty stuff governments do in the name of national security. His achievement, though, is to make this cybersnoop world not just a backdrop but instead a vital—and wonderfully vile—character on its own. Evelyn Gallagher, head of the NSA’s camera network and facial-recognition program, observes a meeting between a reporter and a would-be whistle-blower. She reports it to her boss, who decides the two must be killed and Evelyn spied upon because now she knows too much. The agent sent to monitor her is not quite what the boss thinks, and the personal and cyberfink stories are blended beautifully. Tension and action spice the plot, but that’s all that can be revealed here. Someone might be watching. —Don Crinklaw, Starred Review
An Amazon.com Best Books of the Month Selection: Mystery & Thriller
“Eisler’s expert knowledge of spycraft and hand-to-hand combat combine with his ultra-deep distrust of government intelligence to propel this suspenseful yarn into the front ranks of paranoid thrillers.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“A timely thriller that will make readers wonder how much the government really knows about them...An engaging tale about a serious issue. Read it and squirm.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Award-winning author Eisler craftily incorporates his CIA background and detailed research in this electrifying thriller. Numerous hand-to-hand combat scenes and espionage galore are sure to captivate fans of Lee Child or Daniel Silva." —Library Journal
“Eisler has managed to evoke a half-hidden global conflict that is still largely misunderstood even by many of its own participants. In documenting the parts and making accessible the whole, he has done the public a profound service that goes well beyond entertainment.” —Barrett Brown, activist and journalist
“Read this book because it’s wildly entertaining. Respect it because it paints a portrait of America that is more timely, terrifying, and relevant than anything gracing the bestseller lists. This is fiction that thrills, makes you think, and makes you consider the surveillance state that is fast becoming our daily lives. What more can a novel aspire to do? The God’s Eye View is one of the most important books that will be published this year.” —Blake Crouch, author of The Wayward Pines Series
“Barry Eisler writes terrific political thrillers, but they have a deeper message. He wants us to think about the surveillance state we’re creating, a world of pervasive spying on everything we say and do. This book will entertain, as all good thrillers do, but it'll also ask you to consider the price we'll all pay if unaccountable governments know everything about us while we know little or nothing about what they do with our money and in our names.” —Dan Gillmor, teacher of digital media literacy at Arizona State University, journalist, and author
“Barry Eisler takes us into the most forbidding—and forbidden—places, programs, and conversations in the Intelligence Community. We’re in the room as the generals and bureaucrats charged with protecting us instead plot to deny Americans our constitutional liberties. It’s not pretty, and blood is going to be spilled. The only way I can sleep after reading this book is by trying to convince myself it’s fiction.” —John Kiriakou, whistleblower, former CIA
“Creepy. This story is much more plausible than I expected—or care to admit.” —Chelsea Manning, former army intelligence analyst and transparency advocate
“An absolute page-turner I couldn't put down—complete with real world details and references. If you want to learn why we should fear the NSA, while being tremendously entertained, this is the book for you.” —Mike Masnick, founder and CEO of Techdirt
“Barry Eisler has done it again. The God’s Eye View is a character-driven action tale grounded in real-life events. With the knowledge of an intelligence community insider, Eisler explores the slippery slope of authoritarian impulses that are unleashed when fear and power combine in unaccountable government agencies, and the destruction—of lives and ideals—that inevitably follows.” —Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First
“The God’s Eye View is a delicious, thrilling read about a deep state surveillance program that even Edward Snowden did not unearth…This page-turner is replete with references to real-life voices of truth and transparency, and shows how easily and quickly democracy can be subverted by government secrecy and unchecked power.” —Jesselyn Radack, lawyer for Edward Snowden
“There are few authors alive who can weave real-life headlines and state-of-the-art technology into riveting storytelling as convincingly as Eisler. The God's Eye View is a prescient and page-turning tale about just how powerful secretive government spy agencies like the NSA have become...and how quickly they can spin out of control.” —Trevor Timm, executive director, Freedom of the Press Foundation
“This is the nightmare scenario: when the director of our national surveillance machine goes out of control. But there are certainly hints in both leaked and released documents that such a scenario might be possible, as well as in the ease with which intelligence officials can contract out specific tasks. The God’s Eye View is a compelling picture of why we need to rein in our surveillance state. Plus, it's an awesome read.” —Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel
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A free kindle offering of Barry Eisler's "The Killer Collective" serendipitously dropped into my lap recently to reawaken a long dormant enjoyment of reading good fiction. I have not enjoyed an author as much since the days long past that I was an avid reader of James Clavell. As I became absorbed in "The Killer Collective" it became clear that Mr. Eisler is a gifted and talented author in a league of his own. It was good to once again savor reading a fictional book as I did "The Killer Collective". I even started telling others about this new to me author I had stumbled upon.
Linda Galella said it well in her review of "The Killer Collective": "Barry Eisler has taken on the topic of child pornography and has done so without gratuitous or graphic explanations. Kudos to him for taking the high road. The language is rough but not excessively so, there are some sexual encounters but again, no descriptive passages and that holds true for the violence as well. While this story deals with the vilest of human offenders, the pursuit of their apprehension is good, no holds barred, police work that crosses all law enforcement alphabets with 'The Killer Collective'" What a breath of fresh air!
I was looking forward to devouring more of Mr. Eisler's work. My next choice was "The God's Eye View". I generally always look at a book's negative reviews before making a purchase decision. "The God's Eye View" had several, but none of them were deal killers for me. I found suspension of disbelief easily dispatched the complaints registered in the negative reviews I had read. And, character development was satisfactory to me until chapter 21. I was once again looking forward to my allotted reading time for each day. Then I was blindsided by chapter 21.
One aw shucks cancels all attaboys Mr. Eisler! If I wanted to be entertained by pornography, I would have purchased something clearly identified as pornography. It is such a shame that a talented and gifted writer has to stoop to such levels.
I wanted to understand why someone with this kind of talent felt the need to pander to the baser instincts of humanity. So, I went looking for answers. Mr. Eisler's blog post for November 30th 2018 "The 2018 Bad Sex In Writing Nominees" shed a little light where Mr. Eisler stated: "For me, 'getting it right' has more to do with building the foundation than the scene itself. If the characters are solid, if their attraction is real and interesting, if the setup works...then there's at least an opportunity for a satisfying payoff. My rule of thumb is, if what matters is that the characters had sex, you shouldn't show the sex. If what matters is how they had sex, you have to show the sex." Really? Well, Mr. Eisler is certainly gifted in "building the foundation" which would have been more than enough for me without going into the details of the so called "satisfying payoff".
Perhaps I have been away from reading fiction for too long. So, is this how it is now? I wish I had gotten a heads-up about pornographic content in at least one of the negative reviews I read. Thus is the reason I'm taking the time to write this review. As well as to get my extreme disappointment off of my chest.
For those who are ready to denigrate me as being prudish for writing this review, help yourself. However, you should know that this review is not meant for you. It is for those who like me would appreciate not being blindsided by pornography. It is also meant as an apology to those whom I unfortunately recommended Barry Eisler as an author worth reading.
To shed further light on why such a talented author would weave hardcore pornography into his writing I found an interview he gave to the Huffingtonpost, "Graveyard of Memories : A Talk With Barry Eisler". The interviewer states: "The novel contains some graphic erotic scenes. Unlike many thriller authors, you don’t shy away from writing them." I suppose "graphic erotic scenes" is their euphemism for hardcore pornography...
Anyhow, Mr. Eisler responds, "Yes. I don’t understand why so many thriller writers are shy about depicting sex. I don’t think anyone would dispute that sex is a very important aspect of human experience. Making love with someone is one of the best ways — in various senses — to know that person. A good example is the biblical euphemism where Abraham knew Sarah. (Laughter). Making love with someone is a way to know that person profoundly. Don’t we want our readers to know our characters in various ways?"
Perhaps so many thriller writers are shy about depicting sex because they, unlike Mr. Eisler, still have a sense of decorum. And, do not care to debauch their earnings with the fruit of pornography regardless of how few "graphic erotic scenes" taints their writing.
Just because "making love with someone is one of the best ways - in various senses - to know that person" doesn't mean everyone wants or desires "carnal knowledge" of the characters they get to know in a novel. In spite of the sexual revolution and its execrable consequences wreaked upon our society, some of us may desire to restrict any carnal knowledge we gain of another to the marriage bed.
True that "making love with someone is a way to know that person profoundly" And, how much more precious it is when it is reserved for the marriage bed as only those who hold the marriage bed as sacred can know.
As a writer Mr. Eisler may want his readers to know his characters in various ways. And, I can't disagree that is one of the joys of reading. However those with proclivities to be entertained by pornography know where they can find it and it doesn't mean a good novel should be tarnished by an author going beyond the pale with graphic sexual depictions.
I admire Mr. Eisler's writing talent. He is certainly a gifted writer that is enjoyable to read sans his pornography bombs that I discovered a reader is subject to encounter if they read his works. I personally would not want to be responsible for a work of writing that has the ability to insidiously introduce a young innocent reader to the world of written pornography. Neither would I want to be responsible for providing the catalyst that potentially will cause some whose innocence has been shattered long ago to once again struggle with the evils of pornography and the harm it can foist on a life.
So, am I being a little harsh referring to Mr. Eisler's "graphic erotic scenes" as pornography? Well, lets see, the last time I looked the definition of pornography is described as "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings." Sounds like "graphic erotic scenes" to me.
But, you might say: "His books contain such a minute amount of "graphic erotic scenes". I have no idea how much or how little his books contain since I have only experienced this one encounter. But it reminds me of the joke where the millionaire asked the beautiful girl if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. She said, "Sure!" He then asked her if she would sleep with him for ten dollars. The girl indignantly replied, "What do you think I am, a whore!" He said, "Honey, we have already established that fact. Now we are just negotiating price."
It might be obvious now that I have a strong hatred for pornography. But I'm wiried right, when porn is encountered my synapses pop off as strong as anyones. No doubt, if I chose to indulge porn my flesh could enjoy it. However, the reason I hate pornography is because it steals contentment from men. A man may want to get married, however on a scale of one to ten he may be a five that finds he can't be satisfied with anything less than a nine. So, he refuses to be equally yoked thus depriving himself of the joys of marriage. And then there is the story of the man who married a beautiful woman, yet on his honeymoon night he had to pull out his porn stash and lay it beside his new wife's head where he could view it to overcome his ED. Or, like myself who has been married for thirty-five years, if I indulged a porn habit discontent could imbue me. After viewing or reading porn regardless of the source, I may look at my wife of thirty-five years and feel like the old model is kinda worn out and it's time I try to find something fresh and more exciting. Fortunately for me, my wife gets more beautiful and precious to me with each passing year. If you want to know how that's possible you should explore Stormie Omartian's "The Power of a Praying Husband".
Barry Eisler has a website that includes a page that covers "Mistakes" in his writing that have been brought to his attention. That page is a huge plus to Mr. Eisler's credit and is nicely done. Unless you want to play the semantics game, an author's choice to include graphic erotic scenes in his/her writing is an author's prerogative and not a mistake. He has expressed his motive and reasoning for including it and obviously takes pride in his ability to express it whether I agree with him or not on his reasons for including it. However, like his "Mistakes" page it would be nice for prudes like me if he started a "Prudes" page that indicated which chapters or sections a prudish reader would prefer not to read.
I love Amazon's Kindle. Maybe one day all kindles and not just the fire tablet will include a robust "parental controls" feature that can identify graphic erotic scenes and disable the ability to view it with an author's permission of course like the choice to have text to speech enabled.
Barry Eisler probably won't miss me as a reader and a fan, however I already miss him as an author I will consider reading. There is a lot of depth to Mr. Eisler and I thoroughly enjoyed "The Killer Collective". I thought he had gained a fan for life. I was on track to enjoy "The Eye of God" as much as "The Killer Collective", then I encountered chapter 21
Without an easy means to identify which of his books contain "graphic erotic scenes", I'll have to take a pass on purchasing any more of his books. I'm glad I stumbled across this author, and hugely disappointed my enthusiasm for his writing was so short lived.
Ciao Mr. Eisler...
Of course, the author has the government, in the form of NSA Director Theodore Anders, so far beyond the point of equilibrium in this balancing act, there is never any question of government vs. individual. It’s more a question of which individuals will live and which will die in Director Anders’ quest to keep his last technological marvel out of the public’s gaze. Pitted against Anders is Evelyn Gallagher, the developer and primary analyst on NSA’s camera and facial recognition network, just one small cog in the overall NSA surveillance machine. And with strict compartmentalization of information, Evie has no way to know just what she is up against.
The story is very well written, producing a fair amount of adrenaline in my bloodstream that served no purpose other than keeping me awake to the wee hours. There were a couple of ideas that were somewhat overworked, e.g., Evie is a divorced, working mother who would do almost anything to protect her son. But overall, the flow of the story was good. For those who are squeamish, the violence is somewhat graphic, although consistent with the plot. By comparison, the sex was also somewhat explicit, but I’m not sure what the grope-by-grope description did to further the story; it seemed out of place and serving no purpose beyond checking another box in a commercial success formula.
My primary concern with the book, however, was in the development of the characters. Every author uses stereotypes as a crutch. Readers immediately recognize the boring accountant or the timid librarian. But usually, that method is reserved for secondary characters when depth is unnecessary, saving the author a lot of stress on the wrists. But in The God’s Eye View, it felt as if there were few characters that were not primarily stereotypes. It ended up feeling like a world inhabited by caricatures, rather than people. But even so, that limitation did not outweigh a well-written plot and a timely theme.
Overall, The God’s Eye View is a solid read, significant because over time, technology-driven surveillance has the potential to give the government absolute power over the populace. And we all know that if power tends to corrupt, what absolute power will do.
Don't miss his list of references. His research always seems meticulous, and it is no less so in this book.
Though I still look forward to more John Rain in the future, this is a book well work the time to read.
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That's about it, relieved to have got to the end and now off to the latest Mark Dawson The Cleaner - John Milton #1 (John Milton Series) , now there's someone who can write a thriller.
I will not be buying any more Barry Eisler's novels.