September/October 2002
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  - All of this month's books have extracts available to read online -

The stars are twinkling on the Volga tonite. It's September, close enough to October to celebrate - not my birthday, but the Russian revolution. Dobry vecher.

Simon's Reader Archive:

September, 2009
January, 2009
April, 2008
December, 2007
July & August, 2007
December, 2006
March, 2006
September, 2005
July, 2005
April, 2005
December, 2004
October, 2004
June, 2004
December, 2003
October, 2003
April & May, 2003
December, 2002 & January, 2003
September & October, 2002
July & August, 2002
May & June, 2002

Simon's Library >>


by Robert Harris

Anyone who has read books by Robert Harris (I really had to think twice there; Iíve been confusing him with Thomas Harris who wrote the Hannibal Lecter novels for years now) will be familiar with his particular style of speculative fiction based on real people in history e.g. - what if the Nazis had won WW2 (that's not a tag wrestling competition by the way) in the case of "Fatherland". In" Archangel" Russian studies expert Christopher Kelso is the protagonist on tour in Russia who stumbles upon a political conspiracy of such devastating proportions that his and almost everyone he has contact with is in danger of their lives; not to mention the potential world fallout. True to form the depth and range of Harris's research provides us with a gritty credible picture of Josef Stalin and his reign of terror. As for his elegant prose, he keeps us glued until the last with revelation after shocking revelation.

by Frederick Forsyth

Much less far fetched than "Archangel" some might say, is this political thriller set in a Moscow paralysed by the new the Russian economy. It is said that Forsyth spent many weeks in the crumbling capital researching his story and characters such as a neo-fascist would be leader and the head of the Chechen Maffya. He really does convey the sense of hopeless lawlessness that essentially is the backdrop to his story. "Icon" is a somewhat distressing novel as it tells of the real plight that the country is in and the potential for chaos that exists therein. And something about it leaves me cold; maybe it's the over dramatic and slightly camp climax or maybe it is that despite it's good intentions, what I am left with is the ever so slight but noticeably bitter taste of despair.

"The Master and Margarita"
by Mikhail Bulgakov

A testament to the axiom "always judge a book by it's cover", It's during the recording of "So Red The Rose", I'm browsing through the English section in a left bank bookstore when I happen across this little minx, drawn to it by a pretty painting of a magic black cat on the jacket. So I slip it under me coat sharpish-like, when no-one's looking and make for the exit- the evening rush of Boulevard St Germain. (Can you tell I've been reading Pynchon? - No, neither can I) Months later I opened the book and I was captivated and surprised by what turned out to be a surreal literary classic. Bulgakov's hilarious black comedy takes place in early 20th Century Moscow, beginning late one afternoon when the devil decides to come in for a couple of wild nights on the town. He is accompanied by a retinue which includes "Behemoth" a talking 6' black cat and various other assorted benign but mischievous demons in earthly form. Bulgakov uses the havoc that ensues as a vehicle to satirise his contemporary poetry and art scene. It's as entertaining now as it must 've been when it was written. Of all the books looked at here this one is a real gem; please read it...

"Red Square"
by Martin Cruz Smithumber

Investigator Renko in the follow up to "Gorky Park" returns to a post communist Moscow to find a choking town that is being eviscerated and bled dry by the feudal powers which reign. He is compromised by his love of a beautiful girl and threatened by old adversaries. A dark moral tale of murder, crime, selfishness and the stubborn policeman's refusal to have his belief in justice broken by the greed and corruption which surrounds him. Martin Cruz Smith is a fine, fine, writer - able to grip the reader's attention page after page, well into the early hours and the breaking dawn. This will not be the last book of his that I recommend. 








"Gravity's Rainbow"
by Thomas Pynchon

GR has been compared to "Moby Dick" it certainly makes the same kind of heavy weather; at the rate I'm going I'll be able to review it in January 2004. I may give up on it soon. Any thoughts?