I haven't told you the premise for this book. It's not your typical next-book-in-the-series. It tells us how Rain came to be an assassin. Now, I have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of prequels. I just accept the fact that a series starts from a well-developed place and continues on from there. In this case, though, Barry has employed a literary strategy that absolutely worked for me. He has a later-in-life Rain narrating. So, 1st of all, we know that Rain is still alive. And, secondly, since we've read all of the other books in the series, we know that he's no spring chicken. Having a "mature" Rain tell the story made all the difference in the world to me.
There is really no storyline to dwell on. John Rain is 20 years old and living in Tokyo. And we find out how it all began. Having said that, it's still fascinating to learn what happened to create the Rain that we all have come to know (and love?). Barry does give us a little romance, but it's not your typical romantic setting and not your typical sweetheart (have I said too much?). We still care - a lot. And when modern-day Rain tells us, decades later, what happened to his early girlfriend, we are happy for her.
Okay, I'm just about done. Except for a couple of things. 1st, we not only learn about a young Rain, we also learn about a young Tatsu. Do you remember him? He's the police detective/friend that Rain collaborates with quite a bit through the years. It's great to meet him in the prequel. He is a great character. 2nd, and this might seem a little unusual (you all should be used to this by now!), there is an incident in the book that has a very strong resemblance to a scene from Billy Madison. Yes, that Billy Madison, with Adam Sandler going back to elementary school as an adult. I simply can't/won't say any more than that. You're just going to have to read it (but you'll know it when you see it).
If you are a John Rain fan, then this is a no-brainer. You will love it. If you aren't, then this is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a real fine series. You have a choice of starting with this one, where you learn about his beginnings, or make it #8, like all the rest of us had to do. Either way, you're going to be a happy camper.
P.S. Go to Barry's website - barryeisler.com - and take a look at his background. It's pretty darn interesting.
VHOB NOTE: We have added an event for July. On Tuesday, the 8th, Suzy Vitello, author of The Moment Before, will be at the store for a Meet and Greet. Pop in and say hello (and pick up her book). Her writing partners include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, and Cheryl Strayed - big names in the publishing industry. That, alone, would make me read her book.