The Detachment (Eisler)

I’ve written about Barry Eisler’s books before. Executive summary: I love ’em. The plotting, pacing, and atmospherics are top-notch. His characters’ motivations are logical, meaning that their actions are plausible (however ill-considered they may be.) He writes crisply, without excessive baggage. And of late, his books have been increasingly topical.

The central plot behind The Detachment is that a shadowy cabal is apparently plotting a coup attempt against the US government. I say “apparently” because there’s conflicting evidence, and some of those involved are, shall we say, not entirely forthcoming about their motives or plans. I don’t want to say much more about the plot than that, other than that it’s well-supported by real-world events. Eisler continues his habit of including a few pages of references to descriptions of those events, too, perhaps as a guard against accusations that his imagination’s overwrought.

Most of the characters from Eisler’s previous work are here: John Rain, Dox, Ben Treven, and Daniel Larison, and Scott Horton, along with a few lesser folks. I have to say that I find it jarring to see Larison and Horton used as character names given their real-world prominence as bloggers. It wasn’t so bad in the first book where Eisler did it, but it started bugging me from about page 10 in this book.

That’s about the only fault I can find with The Detachment, though. Completely apart from the quality of the writing, I applaud Eisler for his foray into self-publishing. He’s clearly put his money where his mouth is by pricing and shipping his books on his own. The Kindle edition was $6. $6, I say! That’s half the cost of a movie ticket for something that provided several hours more entertainment than the average movie, plus it automatically showed up on my Kindle the day of its release.

Apart from making me happy, Eisler’s decision to self-publish meant that he could cut down the cycle time for publishing and get the book out sooner; the book felt fresh because in the first few pages, there’s a mention of the Tohoku earthquake (which you may know better as the Fukushima earthquake), and there are a number of other fairly recent topical references embedded in the text. I’m delighted to report that, unlike most mainstream titles, there were very few typos or grammatical errors in the text. Anyone who claims that self-publishing will inevitably lead to lower-quality books isn’t playing straight. It certainly doesn’t have to.

In closing, three grace notes: first, I love it that he threw in a Piaggio P180; I admire N7PA every single time I see it at the Palo Alto airport. Second, Eisler’s sex scenes in prior books have drawn lots of attention. There’s only one such scene here; it’s only about three lines long, and it made me laugh so hard that the passengers around me on my SJC-SEA flight looked at me as though I were crazy. Third, the book is available for Kindle users a few weeks before the paperback version ships, which (as a die-hard Kindler) I appreciate.

Verdict: very highly recommended, but you should probably read his other books first for context. (Secondary verdict: Alex Berenson, please call Eisler and figure out how to self-publish your books from now on too.)

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