Tuesday, February 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The God's Eye View by Barry Eisler

     Edward Snowden damaged the National Security Administration. Now, years later, current NSA Director General Ted Anders was not going to let that happen again. To do so, after all, would prevent him from keeping America safe; the good of the many v. the good of the few thing, right? 
     Evelyn Gallagher was a dedicated NSA analyst and computer genius. She had developed software that could track nearly all security camera systems in the world and, even more remarkably, identify people using biometric data. When she identified a senior NSA staffer meeting with a journalist known for his work exposing government excesses, it raised a red flag. But when one of those men was dead and the second kidnapped by jihadists and left for dead within hours after reporting her findings to General Anders, Evie started piecing things together, not only about this incident, but others that preceded it. She is immediately torn between her suspicions and the need for her job, not only because of its importance, but because she is the sole provider for her little boy. 
     The God's Eye View is incredibly entertaining, a thriller that travels the world and encounters some of the most dangerous, distasteful people in its darkest corners. Nothing about author Barry Eisler's writing or story telling will keep readers wanting. The book is well balanced between a compelling plot, character development, sex, love, and violence. 
     Unique to many books in the genre, Mr. Eisler does a great job with character development. Our hero, Evelyn Gallagher and her son; the power hungry and increasingly delusional General Anders; the NSA muscle, Thomas Delgado and Marvin Manus; even General Ander's assistant, General Mike Remar. None are treated as secondary in their role in the book, and they're developed enough that I had felt a connection with each of them, although some more pleasant than others! 
     But the book is more than just a thriller. It is a statement about the degradation of privacy and liberty in America and the world and about the dangers that have resulted and will continue to. About the paranoia that often comes with power. And about how complacently most Americans have allowed it to happen, even want it to happen, as long as it doesn't interfere with their day to day lives. 
"I implement what the people want, even if they don't have the integrity and self-awareness to admit they want it. And I have no patience for anyone who enjoys meat but moans about slaughterhouses, who wears cheap clothes but deplores sweatshops, who weeps about climate change from behind the wheel of an SUV or from the window seat of an airplane."
     Of course, General Ander's quote above is in defense of the drastic measures he takes to protect America and to keep America's secrets. But that argument isn't foreign to many Americans or our politicians. Ironically, as The God's Eye View points out, the threat to America sometimes needs protected from comes from the people making that very argument. And when finally confronted, General Remar's response: 
"He sighed. 'Let's not be naive. We're not subverting democracy; democracy was subverted a long time ago...It's NSA management or corporate management. And believe me, you don't want the corporations running the show all by themselves. We're not exactly Thomas Jefferson, okay, that ship has sailed, but we're not complete slaves of mammon, either.'"
     While the story told in The God's Eye View is fiction, there are referenences to current events, news stories, conspiracy theories, and the methods used to control the media over the last decade and a half. Mr. Eisler goes one step further, provided readers with a list of sources at the end of the book that include news articles, scholarly works, and other links.  

     Whether you read The God's Eye View for the great story, dynamic characters, thrills, or the deeper statement it makes, I'm confident you'll enjoy it. But don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to remove mobile phone batteries, cover web cameras when not in use, and debate whether it's better to send files unencrypted hoping they won't be noticed versus encrypting but drawing attention to them! 

Eisler, Barry. The God's Eye View, Thomas & Mercer, February 2, 2016. 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1503951518

A copy of The God's Eye View was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley.com. No compensation was provided for this review.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Where All the Light Tends to Go by David Joy

     Jacob knew his life in the mountains of Appalachia was going nowhere. He was the son of a crystal meth addicted mother and a brutal meth dealer father; a high school dropout; and, at least according to his dad, too soft for the family business, despite being entrenched in it since childhood and constantly being pulled deeper into it. Jacob's only hope is Maggie, his childhood friend and first and only love. Maggie is smart, beautiful, and has been accepted to college. She is can make it out, and Jacob wants to see to it that she does. In the process, he is torn between the life he was born into and a life he can choose. But his life, like Appalachia, is neither forgiving nor understanding of his hopes, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, loves, or hates. 
     "Hope and faith are loaded guns...It was a silly thought to think that I could get out of these hills. It was a silly thought to think that the life I was born into was something that could be so easily left behind."
Author David Joy
     Author David Joy has written a wonderful and complicated story of the harsh realities of life. Growing up in the poverty of Appalachia is hard enough without the complications Jacob has to deal with, few of them his own doing. Readers will quickly come to sympathize with him, despite his flaws, and root for his success and happiness despite his bad deeds. 
     Jacob's relationship with his father is painful to read and likely familiar to many, if not to the extremes of drugs, beatings, and murder. Even as a young adult, there is a yearning for approval underneath the hate that festers. 
     Where All the Light Tends to Go exposes a part of the country few know much about, where the problems of drugs, corruption, and poverty are unfamiliar to too many of us, a forgotten part of America. 

     The paperback of Where All the Light Tends to Go is scheduled for release on February 2, 2016. 

Joy, David. Where All The Light Tends to Go. GP Putnam's Sons, March 2015. 
ISBN-13: 978-0425279793

Where All The Light Tends to Go was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley.com.  No compensation was provided for this review. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

     In 1974, it was tough to be a police officer in Atlanta, Georgia. They city was changing. Civil rights had taken hold, and for the men of the Atlanta Police Department, the world was changing. And not for the better. A black man had been elected Mayor, and appointed black men to key positions within the City. The Department was mandated to hire minorities, including women and Jews. A man suspected of killing a police officer a year before was acquitted after it was suspected that evidence was planted. And a new cop killer, dubbed The Shooter, was on the loose in Atlanta.
     Cop Town by Karin Slaughter revolves around a family of police officers: Jimmy Lawson, his sister Maggie Lawson, and their Uncle, Sgt. Terry Lawson, and new recruit Kate Murphy, whose first day on the job follows the most recent cop killing. It is chock full of violence, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, alcoholism; and that’s just among the Lawson family.
     Cop Town wonderfully highlighted the attitudes I presume were very common among police officers in the 1970s, dealing with what was the beginning of a war on the –isms listed above. A war that, while moved largely underground, is still being waged today. The plot moved quickly, although not unpredictably, keeping me interested from beginning to end. The characters were caricatures of what each of them were to represent; static exaggerations of the stereotypes of their times. The alcoholic, racist, sexist cops; the streetwise, foul mouthed, smoking, drinking, woman assigned as a street walker; the local hero, former football star, who has a dark secret that would destroy his reputation among his peers; the wise old grandmother, who survived the holocaust to give sound, liberating advice; the rookie officer, na├»ve to the other side of Atlanta; the womanizing doctor, who proudly proclaimed, “My wife is for making babies. You’re for fucking.”
Author Karin Slaughter
          But there is more to Cop Town than a statement on the state of law enforcement in Atlanta in the 1970’s wrapped in a police procedural. It demonstrated the different worlds that exist in close proximity: the rich and poor, black and white, men and women.  Kate, the rookie officer, attempted to talk about some of her experiences with her father, who gave this advice:

“My point is that you see these people in a way that I will never see them. Your experiences are no longer my experiences. I can’t guide you any longer because I don’t know where you’re going.”

     It also demonstrated that people can be flawed in many ways, but in other ways do many good things.

“So I listened to this one particular violent asshole today, and he was disparaging President Kennedy, saying Bobby’s assassination was a godsend. Disparaging the mayor, blacks, women, me…And yet he was in the war, too…He helped liberate the camps. He freed people from enslavement, from death…And I have to assume that in his capacity as a policeman, at some point, perhaps many points during his day, he helps people then, too…How can they be so awful, yet they do these good things?”

     And finally, in many ways, Ms. Slaughter hit the nail on the head when it came to the nature and personalities of police officers, even if they were taken to extremes. Sometimes it was awful; the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism. But sometimes it was humorous.

She thought that the girls were bad at her high school…there was no society more viciously controlled by rumor than your local police force.

     Whether you are looking for good, fast paced crime fiction, want to read about policing in the 1970’s, or just want to be submersed in an extreme example of police culture, Cop Town is for you. 

Slaughter, Karin. Cop Town, Delecorte Press, July 2014. 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345547491

Cop Town was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley.com
No compensation was received for this review.