BOUND TO PLEASE / A world of total surveillance that Orwell would recognize

The Japan News

By Naoshi Suzuki / Japan News Staff WriterThe God’s Eye View

By Barry Eisler

Thomas & Mercer, 374pp

“It would be so much easier, and better, if everyone were fitted with a microchip … it wouldn’t be long before all parents would feel criminally negligent for failing to implant their children.”

This is what Theodore Anders, the director of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), secretly desires in Barry Eisler’s novel “The God’s Eye View.” It’s a dangerous temptation for a man who is already gathering and integrating information and trying to keep a close eye on every corner of the world through tools such as “cell phone geolocation, customs, law enforcement, CCTV monitoring, satellite imagery…”

It may sound far-fetched, but Eisler, who used to work in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, asserts that “most of what I’ve described in these pages is real.” 

In the book, “God’s Eye” is an NSA system tapping into almost all devices and enabling Anders to know exactly where you are — “The system had access to so much data it was almost impossible to evade.”

The main theme of this novel is the very current issue of the immense power of intelligence organizations. At the same time, it’s a highly entertaining thriller with romance and fights.

The novel’s two main characters are as appealing as John Rain, the half-Japanese, half-American assassin featured in the series of popular thrillers that launched Eisler’s writing career. One is Evelyn, an NSA systems engineer who unwittingly invented part of God’s Eye. She is personally assigned by Anders to monitor an NSA employee in Turkey and a reporter.

Another main character is Marvin, a loyal watchdog for Anders who is assigned to kidnap the reporter in Turkey. 

Both of them owe Anders a lot and serve him faithfully. One of the highlights of this novel is how their positions toward Anders and the organization shift.

At one point, a bomb goes off near the White House and the president authorizes an attack on a terrorist training camp in Syria. Chapter by chapter, the truth behind the bombing is revealed, with God’s Eye a key part of it. The destinies of Evelyn and Marvin are buffeted by the resulting turbulence.

Their problems are sometimes high-tech and sometimes down and dirty: “Something hit her hard in the back of the head … An arm shot roughly across her throat and dragged her backward.”

The chapters in “The God’s Eye View” are relatively short and their point-of-view characters are not limited to the three already mentioned. You’ll devour every new chapter like a fine short story. This structure is reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth’s compelling political thrillers. In bringing the horrific might of intelligence organizations to light, this novel recalls Forsyth’s Cold War masterpiece “The Devil’s Alternative.”

In “The God’s Eye View,” Eisler maintains the vivid international flavor of his John Rain series while showing even greater maturity in his storytelling skills.

The warning that in modern society everybody could be monitored is a consistent theme of the author’s writings. His sophisticated skill takes this to a new level in this novel — this is an update on “1984” by George Orwell, but with an Americanized, Hollywood-style spirit of entertainment.

Where to Read

At an international airport or a big train station where many CCTV cameras are watching you.

Maruzen price: ¥2,550 plus tax (as of Nov. 9, 2016)Speech

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