Inside Out by Barry Eisler

“Great thriller with depth. It will entertain you and make you reflect on some serious issues.” Steven Shomler

“Ulrich stared at Clements, wanting to believe that he’d misheard.” Opening line in Inside Out. (I love to check out the opening line of a book.)

One thing I loved about this book was how aptly, or cleverly-named the chapter titles are. Nicely done.

My favorite quote from Inside Out – ” ‘Well, it’s not like you’ve given people a lot of choices.’ Larison glanced left, then right, then behind. ‘People always have choices. They say they don’t to enable themselves to do what they wanted do do anyway.’ ”

Inside Out features an interesting protagonist – Ben Treven. It turns out this book is a sequel of sorts to Fault Line also by Barry Eisler.

Ben Treven also appears in Fault Line.  I have not read Fault Line — somehow I missed it when it came out in hardback. It is out in paperback now. Even though I had not yet read Fault Line, I had no problem following along with the characters or story line in Inside Out.

I picked up Inside Out simply because I have read and very much enjoyed the six John Rain books that Barry had previously written. In fact, John Rain (along with Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher) is one of my 3 all-time-favorite thriller characters. Once I got over the disappointment of realizing that this was not another John Rain Book, I really enjoyed it. For more on John Rain, check out my post- John Rain created by Barry Eisler.

Ben Treven appeals to me because he has struggles, and in this book he gets a glimpse of where he might be headed if he does not grow and change and address the issues he is becoming aware of. (You know – I do like that “pursue wholerness ” thing – Enjoy The Good Life!)

As far as the subject matter, Barry tees off on a recent real life issue – Torture of prisoners held by the US – and a real life event – The CIA initially saying they had “accidently destroyed 2 tapes that documented torture,” then later, the CIA saying, “Oops, it was actually 92 tapes we had destroyed, not 2.”

In this piece of fiction, Barry proposes a pretty plausible (and enjoyable) scenario about why the CIA might have done that, as well as sharing some thought provoking perspectives on the whole issue of torture.

I found this Author’s Note by Barry in the back (page 338) of the paperback edition of Fault Line –

Inside Out the sequel to Fault Line is also predicated on a real world event. In December 2007 the CIA claimed to have destroyed several interrogation videotapes, tapes that included footage of war-on-terror prisoners being tortured. Fifteen months later, the Agency revised the number of destroyed tapes upward – to ninety-two. I asked myself, How could they have gotten the number so wrong? Why would they have made the tapes in the first place, and why did they subsequently acknowledge the tapes existence? Using an extensive collection of sources, I followed the story to where it led me: Guantanamo, the black sites, and ghost detainees; torture ordered by bureaucrats desperate to conceal their role in it; deadly  turf wars between the CIA, the Pentagon, and Blackwater contractors.”

What makes Barry’s above note most interesting to me is that he worked at the CIA in a “covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations”.

If you like thrillers or if you have interest in or concern about the torture issue – check out this great book!

Below is some of what appealed to me as I read this book.

Page 7  – First  cryptic mention of the “Caspers.” As soon as I read page 7, I knew that these “Caspers” would matter in this story.

Pages 7 – 15  – Has a fascinating discussion between officials on deceiving the public and how to best pull that off.

Pages 23 and 24  – Had this great prose – “Manila’s Burgos Street, an eternally crumbling matrix of neon and girly bars and massage parlors, had ingested them as it had ingested generations of sailors and marines and sex tourists before them. It would appropriate their money, alleviate thier lust, and expel them aferward like pale effluent into the dank Manila night.”

On Barry Eisler’s website, he has actual pictures he had taken of locales he writes about, including Burgos Street in Manila. – inside out

Page 53 –  A character, Ben Treven, asks, “Why the hell make the (torture) tapes in the first place?” and another character gives a plausible answer.

Pages 112- 114 – If you feel okay about our country engaging in torture, check out these pages. These pages will give you pause, even if they don’t change your view.

Page 142  –  Great small treat for John Rain fans!

Page 181- 182  –  Good explanation (in my opinion) about why people torture.

Pages 193- 217  –  Great action/battle sequence.

Page 263  –  My favorite quote from the book:  “‘Well, it’s not like you’ve given people a lot of choices.’ Larison glanced left, then right, then behind. ‘People always have choices. They say they don’t to enable themselves to do what they wanted do do anyway.’ ”

Pages 269 -270  –  Great dialogue on the careful positioning of facts to twist the “truth.”

If you like thrillers check out this book!

Steven Shomler

Steven’s Note on torture-

I have watched and enjoyed 24 and often Jack Bauer will “torture” the bad guys. Until this book, Inside Out -I never really gave it any thought. The bad guys were bad and if Jack needed to torture them, to save others so be it.

The bad guys were bad guys and they, to quote my “dad” from when I was a child “had nothin comin” In other words.. Since the bad guys were bad guys we could treat anyway we wanted too, humans rights or human decency be damned, those bad guys did not deserve it, they were not worthy of it.

It occurred to me while I was reading this book that one of the reasons I found the whole torture issue to be so engaging and concerning was that the torture as addressed in this story is a lot like child abuse.

Let me explain. When you are being tortured you can NOT make the pain stop. You are tied up or tied down, etc. You are at the complete whim of the person with the power. Not being able to protect yourself against pain, having to just “take it” until someone else chooses to stop hurting you, really messes you up and it can make stuff inside your heart or “soul” or psyche just break.

You also want to do whatever you can to make the agony stop. Confess truth, confess lies, promise to do better, beg for mercy, express loyalty, express love to your torturer (abuser), etc. anything to make the agony stop.

I know a little about this because, beginning when I was a young child, I suffered abuse at the hands of my mother. I suffered just about every kind of abuse you can imagine: mental, emotional, psychological, physical, you name it, she dished it out.

One of the reasons my mom justified abusing (torturing) me was that I was HER child, and therefore she had every right to do with me what she wanted to. When someone is depersonalized like that, something tragic has occurred.

The mental and emotional abuse is pretty insidious because when it is happening to you and you are a child (or even an adult), you sometimes do not even realize that you are being abused. However, when the abuse is sexual or physical, there are times when you desperately want the agony to end, and you will say whatever you need to  – not the truth mind you, just what you think the abuser (torturer) wants to hear.

For me, I think maybe that torture is too close to child abuse, and something we as a country should think long and hard about.

Besides, people who administer torture get FFFed up pretty bad. Either that, or the person administering the torture is already a psychopath, and you are simply feeding something very dark in their “souls” when you let them torture another.

That’s my two cents worth. Read chapter 13  –  The Sound Was Always the Same pages 112-114.

Also if you have been abused a child, and you had not healthfully addressed it, you need to. I had a number of years of counseling in my early 20’s that really helped me to begin to heal from what my mom had done to me.

Please know that you can heal from child abuse. Doing that is a battle, but it is worth it.

God bless,