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Archangel

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Stalin Reborn? There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of Stalin Reborn? There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of reading a novel by this British master. Unbelievably, Enigma topped his debut, Fatherland. Can he do it again with Archangel? Harris took us on a criminal investigation in postwar Berlin after the Nazis won World War II in Fatherland, and showed us the high-tension world of English code-breakers in Enigma. Harris has a way of bringing us to frightening, mysterious places, and as demonstrated by Archangel, no place is more frightening than Russia after the fall of communism. With vivid language and sharp research, he makes us feel the fear and the hopelessness of a nation without a soul and of the people desperate to regain what once was. Each of Harris's thrillers is superior, suspenseful, and wild, but the new world order makes Archangel stand out. With current headlines screaming about the instability within the former Soviet Union, no book has been more topical -- or so alarmingly possible. Fluke Kelso was once a scholar of promise, but like so many in the highly competitive world of academia, he's never delivered. But one night, at a symposium in Moscow concerning the release of secret Soviet archives, he is approached by Papu Rapava, a former Kremlin bodyguard with a story to tell. No one but the desperate Kelso would believe the tale, for what Rapava describes is a sort of Holy Grail among researchers: an actual diary left by Joseph Stalin himself. Such an artifact, if it's genuine -- and if Kelso can survive the fascist Vladimir Mamantov, who wants it for his own agenda -- would be the coup of a lifetime for the discredited researcher. Before Kelso can learn the location of the diary, Rapava disappears, and Kelso's search for the former bodyguard leads him to the man's daughter, a whore selling herself in the new Moscow of drugs, corruption, and the Russian mafia. With an unscrupulous American journalist hot on their heels, a major of the new KGB close behind, and the shadowy Mamantov following them all, the two follow a trail that leads from Moscow's seedy underbelly to the industrial city of Archangel, where Russia once built her fleets of submarines, to a remote camp on the edge of the Siberian nothingness, and finally to a shocking conclusion that bites like the wind blowing off the tundra. What Kelso sees as the coup of his career might turn out to be the catalyst for an actual coup in Russia. There is a legacy behind the diary, a legacy of evil and death, and Fluke Kelso is unwittingly about to unleash it on the world. The writing is taut and explosive, and whether Harris is describing the macabre site of a brutal execution or the curdled expressions of the babushkas tirelessly sweeping the refuse of a decaying society, he makes you see, hear, and smell it all. And the plot? The plot is so twisted and clever that you can't put the book down until the end. (That's not a promise, it's a warning. If you start reading on a weeknight, plan to be late for work the following day.) —Jack B. Du Brul


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Stalin Reborn? There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of Stalin Reborn? There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of reading a novel by this British master. Unbelievably, Enigma topped his debut, Fatherland. Can he do it again with Archangel? Harris took us on a criminal investigation in postwar Berlin after the Nazis won World War II in Fatherland, and showed us the high-tension world of English code-breakers in Enigma. Harris has a way of bringing us to frightening, mysterious places, and as demonstrated by Archangel, no place is more frightening than Russia after the fall of communism. With vivid language and sharp research, he makes us feel the fear and the hopelessness of a nation without a soul and of the people desperate to regain what once was. Each of Harris's thrillers is superior, suspenseful, and wild, but the new world order makes Archangel stand out. With current headlines screaming about the instability within the former Soviet Union, no book has been more topical -- or so alarmingly possible. Fluke Kelso was once a scholar of promise, but like so many in the highly competitive world of academia, he's never delivered. But one night, at a symposium in Moscow concerning the release of secret Soviet archives, he is approached by Papu Rapava, a former Kremlin bodyguard with a story to tell. No one but the desperate Kelso would believe the tale, for what Rapava describes is a sort of Holy Grail among researchers: an actual diary left by Joseph Stalin himself. Such an artifact, if it's genuine -- and if Kelso can survive the fascist Vladimir Mamantov, who wants it for his own agenda -- would be the coup of a lifetime for the discredited researcher. Before Kelso can learn the location of the diary, Rapava disappears, and Kelso's search for the former bodyguard leads him to the man's daughter, a whore selling herself in the new Moscow of drugs, corruption, and the Russian mafia. With an unscrupulous American journalist hot on their heels, a major of the new KGB close behind, and the shadowy Mamantov following them all, the two follow a trail that leads from Moscow's seedy underbelly to the industrial city of Archangel, where Russia once built her fleets of submarines, to a remote camp on the edge of the Siberian nothingness, and finally to a shocking conclusion that bites like the wind blowing off the tundra. What Kelso sees as the coup of his career might turn out to be the catalyst for an actual coup in Russia. There is a legacy behind the diary, a legacy of evil and death, and Fluke Kelso is unwittingly about to unleash it on the world. The writing is taut and explosive, and whether Harris is describing the macabre site of a brutal execution or the curdled expressions of the babushkas tirelessly sweeping the refuse of a decaying society, he makes you see, hear, and smell it all. And the plot? The plot is so twisted and clever that you can't put the book down until the end. (That's not a promise, it's a warning. If you start reading on a weeknight, plan to be late for work the following day.) —Jack B. Du Brul

30 review for Archangel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Supratim

    I finally got to read the book! I had first come across the book quite a few years ago in the library of a resort. Had read the first few pages but could not proceed further. Anyway, the novel begins with story of Papu Rapava when he was a bodyguard to Beria in the 1950s. The story is recounted by Rapava himself to our protagonist, Prof. Fluke Kelso in the latter’s hotel room in Russia. It is the 1990s now, the old USSR has collapsed and a new Russia has emerged which promises more freedom to her I finally got to read the book!  I had first come across the book quite a few years ago in the library of a resort. Had read the first few pages but could not proceed further. Anyway, the novel begins with story of Papu Rapava when he was a bodyguard to Beria in the 1950s. The story is recounted by Rapava himself to our protagonist, Prof. Fluke Kelso in the latter’s hotel room in Russia. It is the 1990s now, the old USSR has collapsed and a new Russia has emerged which promises more freedom to her citizens. Rapava has a very interesting tale to tell and Kelso learns about Stalin’s notebook. Stalin is long gone, yet the very mention of his name can still strike fear in the hearts of people. To some, a significant proportion of Russians, in fact, still idolize him. No points for guessing that Kelso will embark on a dangerous journey to retrieve the notebook and he won’t be the only person to do so. Some people are still willing to kill and torture others to learn or hide the contents of the notebook. The story will take us from the streets of Moscow to the vast Russian wilderness, and along the way you will meet quite a few interesting characters. A few words about our protagonist: the good Professor has had a string of unsuccessful marriages, is in love with the bottle and failed to write the scholarly books he was once judged capable of producing. A bit clichéd maybe, but he is quite believable. Robert Harris has penned a highly enjoyable thriller with plenty of suspense, intrigue, action and twists. His portrayal of Stalin as an individual, the political scenario in the old USSR and the situation of “new” Russia in the 1990s are pretty decent. There are Russians who are trying their best to forget the past while others are defiantly holding on it. The latter are afraid of losing their history to the decadent west. The fear of losing one’s history and identity is a terrifying indeed – a tool often deftly used by demagogues to incite regionalism and religious extremism. While reading this book, I kept comparing it to the author’s superb novel – Fatherland. Archangel is a pretty good book, but I felt it could have been a bit better. Maybe I am a bit too harsh towards the novel, because I kept comparing it with Fatherland. I would end by saying that Archangel is a good thriller to while away the time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is when I review books which I read a while ago, but somehow never got around to reviewing. Today I choose Archangel, which is a truly excellent historical thriller by Robert Harris. I first became aware of Harris when I stumbled upon his debut novel, Fatherland - a work of alternative history, set in a universe where Nazi Germany won World War 2. This isn't a new theme in historical fiction, but Harris's take was surprisingly engaging an Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is when I review books which I read a while ago, but somehow never got around to reviewing. Today I choose Archangel, which is a truly excellent historical thriller by Robert Harris. I first became aware of Harris when I stumbled upon his debut novel, Fatherland - a work of alternative history, set in a universe where Nazi Germany won World War 2. This isn't a new theme in historical fiction, but Harris's take was surprisingly engaging and I had real trouble putting it down - I thought that Harris did a terrific job at presenting an engaging and rich historical setting and creating palpable intrigue, which held all the way to the very end. Most importantly - while reading it I felt as if I was there, in the Reich of Nazi dreams, among his heroes and villains. Even though I did have some complaints towards some plot choices, the book is a great accomplishment for a debut novelist, and no wonder Fatherland proved to be a great success - it was high entertainment of great quality. Archangel is set in Russia of the 1990's, during the Yeltsin era - a perilous time of social and political restructuring, market by a deep economic crisis and uncertainty, which culminated in events like the 1993 constitutional crisis. This is the time when Christopher "Fluke" Kelso, a burned-out Oxford historian arrives in Moscow to attend a conference regarding the newly opened Soviet archive. Kelso expects nothing but standard business, but when he is approached by an elderly man who claims to be a former NKVD officer with a story to tell, he gives in to his curiosity, seeing an opportunity to improve his academic reputation. He doesn't suspect that he is about to become involved in something beyond his wildest imagination - a complex web of incredible intrigue, which will drag him from from Moscow to the northern city of Arkhangelsk, on the white sea, forcing him to try to understand the history of Russia and confront its past. This is a novel which is extremely easy to spoil - the main reveal is a surprise and should remain so. Unfortunately many reviewers chose to include it in their reviews - which is a real shame, as the main pleasure of reading Archangel lies in discovering its plot by yourself, bit by bit. The storyline created by Harris is compelling and engaging, again all the way to the very last line - and so is the setting, which he describes with historical detail and attention, painting a vivid image. We feel as if we were on Kelso's shoulder as he's trying to understand the complex mystery that he wants to solve, and follow his every step - and in Fluke Kelso Harris has created a relatable character, an everyman for whom we can root for; his female counterpart and companion on the wild goose chase, Zinaida Rapava, is a great character worth a book of her own. I have read other novels by Harris, but they didn't match neither Fatherland or Archangel - Enigma had the intriguing setting of Bletchley Park and the Enigma, but didn't grab me as much; The Ghost was concerned with the dark side of contemporary British politics, but I think I liked the film better. I wasn't the biggest fan of Pompeii, because the period didn't interest me as much; I want to read his An Officer and a Spy, but secretly hope that one day he will again write a compelling thriller set in the 20th century, set during the Cold War or just War. Meanwhile, put on the Samovar and make yourself a big cup of tea - this is an ideal book to get lost in during the long winter evenings, and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    The foundations of Empire are often ocassions of woe; their dismemberment, always. Fresh off the disappointment of Enigma I return to Harris' magic as instilled by Fatherland Why? The liberties of alternative history as opposed to the constraints of factual history. The frame is different. We went forwards onto a timeline of Axis victory, here we go backwards, unearthing Soviet secrets from the vantage point of 1990s Russia. It's less of a novel of its time than a parabel with a long shadow: A The foundations of Empire are often ocassions of woe; their dismemberment, always. Fresh off the disappointment of Enigma I return to Harris' magic as instilled by Fatherland Why? The liberties of alternative history as opposed to the constraints of factual history. The frame is different. We went forwards onto a timeline of Axis victory, here we go backwards, unearthing Soviet secrets from the vantage point of 1990s Russia. It's less of a novel of its time than a parabel with a long shadow: Aside from the rythm of life - Politburo veterans are too advanced in age to plot - a return to the 'glorious aspects' of the Soviet Union is a filtered mirage spun adroitly by Putin anno 2018. Stalin inherited a nation with wooden ploughs and bequated us an empire armed with atomic weapons. And western historians still don't have it easy digging up the past in paper, for Russian archives are conscious of the Orwellian power they yield : quod volimus credimus libenter

  4. 4 out of 5

    James

    ‘Archangel’ gives us the usual great writing and is a thrilling, tense, atmospheric and compelling novel as you would expect from the accomplished pen of Robert Harris. However, there is something about the central conceit here upon which the core of this novel hangs, which just doesn’t convince in the same way that other twists on historical events used far more successfully by Harris in the past have. ‘Archangel’ is certainly a good book and definitely has its moments – but the issue with the ‘Archangel’ gives us the usual great writing and is a thrilling, tense, atmospheric and compelling novel as you would expect from the accomplished pen of Robert Harris. However, there is something about the central conceit here upon which the core of this novel hangs, which just doesn’t convince in the same way that other twists on historical events used far more successfully by Harris in the past have. ‘Archangel’ is certainly a good book and definitely has its moments – but the issue with the central conceit does mean that overall, the novel doesn’t have that real sense of authenticity that Harris’ strongest works do. By authenticity I am not referring of course to historical accuracy (see ‘Fatherland’ for instance) but that feeling of not just suspended disbelief, but ultimately of believability. So – a strong novel perhaps in comparison with many by Harris’ contemporary’s – but not when compared to his own very high standards.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Ziliaskopoulou

    Λοιπόοοον, εδώ έχουμε το παράδοξο φαινόμενο να έχω διαβάσει ένα βιβλίο προ δεκαπενταετίας και να ενθουσιαστώ, και να το ξαναδιαβάσω τώρα και να μη μου αρέσει ιδιαίτερα. Δεν ξέρω αν φταίνε τα δεκάδες βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει ενδιάμεσα ή το ότι έχει αλλάξει πολύ η πολιτική κατάσταση στη Ρωσία (ότι και να πιστεύει ο καθένας μας, άλλο Πούτιν άλλο Γιέλτσιν ) και πλέον δε μου φαίνεται ότι ανταποκρίνεται στην πραγματικότητα. Νομίζω ότι όταν γράφτηκε το βιβλίο (το 1998- μόλις 7 χρόνια από την κατάρρευση Λοιπόοοον, εδώ έχουμε το παράδοξο φαινόμενο να έχω διαβάσει ένα βιβλίο προ δεκαπενταετίας και να ενθουσιαστώ, και να το ξαναδιαβάσω τώρα και να μη μου αρέσει ιδιαίτερα. Δεν ξέρω αν φταίνε τα δεκάδες βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει ενδιάμεσα ή το ότι έχει αλλάξει πολύ η πολιτική κατάσταση στη Ρωσία (ότι και να πιστεύει ο καθένας μας, άλλο Πούτιν άλλο Γιέλτσιν ) και πλέον δε μου φαίνεται ότι ανταποκρίνεται στην πραγματικότητα. Νομίζω ότι όταν γράφτηκε το βιβλίο (το 1998- μόλις 7 χρόνια από την κατάρρευση της Σοβιετικής Ένωσης) ήταν πιο πιστευτό ένα τέτοιο σενάριο. Τώρα δεν βρίσκω βάση, μου φαίνεται εξωφρενικό το σενάριο και η βασική πλοκή. Μπράβο του που σκέφτηκε μια τέτοια ιδέα, αλλά δεν με έπεισε αυτή τη φορά. Φυσικά θα πρέπει να δώσω τα εύσημα για την ροή της ιστορίας, ήταν στρωτή η διήγηση και κρατούσε το ενδιαφέρον. Όμως είχα ένα μικρό πρόβλημα στο να δημιουργήσω εικόνες στο μυαλό μου κυρίως όσον αφορά το χώρο. Γενικά είναι ωραίο βιβλίο, ΑΝ το βρείτε δώστε του μια ευκαιρία.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    This is a truly excellent book, one of the only novels I have enjoyed more and more with each re-read. The characters are fantastic - I had such a crush on Fluke Kelso the first time I read it, and post-Millennium trilogy I couldn't help but think Zinaida Rapava bears more than a passing resemblance to Lisbeth Salander. The historical detail and the part Russia's history plays in everything that happens (it's almost as though history is a character in the story) is flawless. But the depiction of This is a truly excellent book, one of the only novels I have enjoyed more and more with each re-read. The characters are fantastic - I had such a crush on Fluke Kelso the first time I read it, and post-Millennium trilogy I couldn't help but think Zinaida Rapava bears more than a passing resemblance to Lisbeth Salander. The historical detail and the part Russia's history plays in everything that happens (it's almost as though history is a character in the story) is flawless. But the depiction of the bleak settings is my favourite part - from the urban wastelands of 90s Moscow to the desolate, snowbound landscapes of Archangel, they are so brilliantly realised that you feel as if you've been there. Just perfect.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Hasler

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well, what a great adventure that was. Robert Harris books never seem to let me down. The atmosphere and landscapes jump off the page, from the concrete soviet era housing blocks, to the vast wilderness of the forests and tundra`s. The attention to detail with each of the main characters is brilliant, I feel like the characters became people I once knew. My only small issue is I felt the end was left a bit too open. However, still well deserving of 5 stars. Well, what a great adventure that was. Robert Harris books never seem to let me down. The atmosphere and landscapes jump off the page, from the concrete soviet era housing blocks, to the vast wilderness of the forests and tundra`s. The attention to detail with each of the main characters is brilliant, I feel like the characters became people I once knew. My only small issue is I felt the end was left a bit too open. However, still well deserving of 5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Robert Harris is the author of the very successful and previously reviewed Fatherland, the kind of novel I usually do not read because it relies on the “what if” kind of assumptions that I find trite and silly. But that novel worked quite well. It assumed that Hitler had won the war, that he had successfully hidden the details of the Holocaust, and that he was about to begin friendly relations with the United States under president Kennedy. The a Berlin detective stumbles across evidence of the Robert Harris is the author of the very successful and previously reviewed Fatherland, the kind of novel I usually do not read because it relies on the “what if” kind of assumptions that I find trite and silly. But that novel worked quite well. It assumed that Hitler had won the war, that he had successfully hidden the details of the Holocaust, and that he was about to begin friendly relations with the United States under president Kennedy. The a Berlin detective stumbles across evidence of the killing of the Jews and the peace talks threaten to unravel bringing the war of officialdom down on the detective. It was a surprisingly good read. Harris adopts a similar conceit in Archangel. Fluke (interesting story behind the name) Kelso is a Sovietologist who stumbles into a drunken meeting with Papu Rapava, a former NKVD guard who claims he had been present at Stalin’s death and had helped Beria (a Politburo member and KGB chief) find and hide a a secret black notebook that was purported to contain Stalin’s diary. Rapava is murdered before Kelso can obtain all the details and the location of the diary that would represent, for Kelso, the find of a lifetime. He tracks down Rapava’s daughter, a hooker whom he persuades to help him find the diary. Unfortunately there are several pages missing, but they have enough information to try to locate a young girl that Stalin had brought from her village to play with. He and an American reporter who had stumbled on Kelso’s knowledge of the diary and who seems to know more about his satellite telephone equipment than the country he reports on, set off for Archangel in the Soviet north during the winter to find the girl and interview her in order to verify the information in the diary and collect more details about Stalin. There are many who would stop them, however, and a top notch thriller results as Kelso makes a momentous discovery in Archangel. Harris’s understanding of modern Russia, if accurate, is chilling. The book is filled with little details (Stalin had two webbed toes on his left foot) that give it a strong sense of reality. Harris must have spent considerable time there: ”At five past 10, the door opened, '' Kelso describes a nightclub, ''A yellow light, the silhouettes of the girls, the steamy glow of their perfumed breath. . . . And from the cars now came the serious money. You could tell the seriousness not just by the weight of the coats and the jewelry but by the way their owners carried themselves, straight to the head of the line, and by the amount of protection they left hanging around at the door. Clearly, the only guns allowed on the premises belonged to the management.'' Filled with corruption and violence, the country still reveres Stalin, even though through Kelso, Harris reveals Stalin to be a greater evil than Hitler during the twentieth century, if one counts the number of people each had killed. The Cold War is over, but Russia seems to be slipping into its own kind of darkness and the country that provided the background for so many first-rate spy stories continues to invoke a sense of noir and darkness that makes for a gripping read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This book is difficult. It posits alternative history in one sense. But it's main tenet revolves somewhat around a continuity for the cult of Stalin. That question of depth for "our leader" is the core, IMHO. It's the most considered in scope and for the nuance to this book's plotting. Stalin killed far more people than Hitler, there was never a "trial" about or concerning any of his practices or an "afterwards". No Nuremberg. Stalin is clearly seen in statues and memorials. And yet his answer to This book is difficult. It posits alternative history in one sense. But it's main tenet revolves somewhat around a continuity for the cult of Stalin. That question of depth for "our leader" is the core, IMHO. It's the most considered in scope and for the nuance to this book's plotting. Stalin killed far more people than Hitler, there was never a "trial" about or concerning any of his practices or an "afterwards". No Nuremberg. Stalin is clearly seen in statues and memorials. And yet his answer to brutality was more severe brutality. Quick death a blessing. Even down to his own relations or associates- double that strike percentage. Brutality even to his daughter. Fluke, the main character in this book and his investigations/a search the central story, he (for me) became immensely annoying. Only mildly so in the first half, and then overwhelmingly off-putting beyond the first half. He wasn't a "stolid good fellow well met" in any sense. And the plot itself for HIS search is convoluted over such a length of time and occurrences? Well, the last 50 pages were too far-fetched to believe. But otherwise it sure was a multi-level "think" piece for all the other portions. Under characters' speculations and interactions by the dozens contain most of the best ones. No more is that "think piece" issue more centered than for the essence of how/why their "great leader" historic figure is remembered. The most evil and brutal individual in recorded history (most people killed- between 45 and 70 million)who ruled through terror and intense physical fear realities. Is that how it has become parsed for the remaining half of the Russians left alive to form this 1991 governmental entity depicted here? Brutal stories. Action and existences within places of grey despair. 3.5 star rounded up for the sections in italics. This was not a fun book to read at all.

  10. 5 out of 5

    SAM

    I've watched the Daniel Craig TV Series 'Archangel' twice and would recommend it but i can now confirm the book is a helluva lot better! Fatherland was class and Munich was a massive disappointment so i was slightly cynical about my third offering from Robert Harris. And as is the case with thrillers it always comes down to the ending and thankfully it was just as good as Fatherland. I was also fairly ignorant about Stalin going into this book so it was nice to take away a few snippets of factua I've watched the Daniel Craig TV Series 'Archangel' twice and would recommend it but i can now confirm the book is a helluva lot better! Fatherland was class and Munich was a massive disappointment so i was slightly cynical about my third offering from Robert Harris. And as is the case with thrillers it always comes down to the ending and thankfully it was just as good as Fatherland. I was also fairly ignorant about Stalin going into this book so it was nice to take away a few snippets of factual information.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma Clement

    I read this book because I love Robert Harris' Pompeii and wanted to see if another book by Robert was as good. Absolutely amazing read, kept me thinking and guessing. I used to do most of my reading on my train journey to work and a few times I almost missed my stop because I was so engrossed! As much as I enjoyed this book, My fave is still Pompeii.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An interesting novel about the darker past of Russia in the person of Joseph Stalin and the future of Russia while searching for an identity. First Russia was a monarchy ruled by a strongman and then came communism with a series of strongmen again who decided the live of the population again. The story tales place after the fall of the wall and the end of communism and the change to capitalism. The story is about a notebook as written by Stalin that was stolen by Beria on Stalins deathbed and los An interesting novel about the darker past of Russia in the person of Joseph Stalin and the future of Russia while searching for an identity. First Russia was a monarchy ruled by a strongman and then came communism with a series of strongmen again who decided the live of the population again. The story tales place after the fall of the wall and the end of communism and the change to capitalism. The story is about a notebook as written by Stalin that was stolen by Beria on Stalins deathbed and lost in time and history when his three month rain ended with his arrest and consequent death. The notebook of Stalin is of course interesting as so little is known about Stalins thoughts and feelings this notebook could cast a new view upon this bloody dictator. And so the historian Kelso sets upon a road that will bring him to the notebook and its consequences, which are far more surprising than you would expect three quarters into the book. A great thriller that tries to show the modern and old face of this huge country and its history, the end of the book can almost be considered very astute today as people seek to find their truth and identity in the voting booths. A great thriller that has a sting in its tale. Very entertaining book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David S.

    I remember years ago watching a movie, starring Rutger Hauer, called Fatherland. This was, of course, based on Harris' novel of the same name, and I found the storyline to be fantastic. The alternate history, where the Nazis had won, and the afteraffects because of it. I meant to read this novel, but, since I had already known the storyline, I never got around to picking it up. Fast forward years later....like 2 weeks ago. I've come to a point in my reading life where I'm not sure what I should I remember years ago watching a movie, starring Rutger Hauer, called Fatherland. This was, of course, based on Harris' novel of the same name, and I found the storyline to be fantastic. The alternate history, where the Nazis had won, and the afteraffects because of it. I meant to read this novel, but, since I had already known the storyline, I never got around to picking it up. Fast forward years later....like 2 weeks ago. I've come to a point in my reading life where I'm not sure what I should read next. I want someone new. I want something that is entirely different. Because when I don't get an answer when I'm in this type of mood, I end up reading Dickens. Because, when in doubt: Read Dickens! Anyways, I decided to search some of the favourite shelves for some of my Goodreads friends. Not surprisingly, a lot of their favs are my own. However, I came across Archangel on Maciek's shelf, and I was dumbfounded, and intrigued. This is the same guy that wrote the alternate history novel? What the hell is this one about that can make it so great? To say the least, I was curious. Library had a copy, and I began right away. The story was very fast paced. It deals with Stalin: his policies, and the influences he still has on the Russian people. I found the subject matter fascinating, but Harris only gives you just enough, and never delves too far into the history because he's trying to write a 90's thriller. And, it is indeed a thriller. Fluke Kelso is a great character. And, the main "plot" is very good as well. Problem is, this has all been done before. Harris wrote a wonderful thriller; but, a lot of this stuff I've already read. Some of the material I'm referring to was written after Archangel (I'm thinking of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy for characterization). Of course, Harris can't help that the Swedish author borrowed his characters for his own novels. But, no matter how much I loved this story (which I did), I can't get over the fact that this exact storyline was done before, and it was done much better, by the author of Rosemary's Baby (to give the title of that novel, or the author's name would pretty much be a spoiler alert!) That being said I am happy that I got to read a Harris novel, and I plan on reading An Officer and a Spy very soon. However, right now I'm back where I started, so I'll be picking up Dicken's Bleak House for the next little while. Recommended? Yes, but only if you haven't read the other book I was referring to 3 Quite well plagarized Stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    blushenka

    Not bad, even though predictable enough - but its most major flaw, one that set my teeth on edge throughout was the choice of main character, this Fluke guy, who was unbelievably annoying. I can deal with main characters who aren't likable, even if this is a weird choice for a thriller, but when nearly everything is presented from his point of view, and you can't abide him worth a damn, it gets tiresome pretty quickly. So at one point, I started skipping his ramblings/pity parties/opinions to ge Not bad, even though predictable enough - but its most major flaw, one that set my teeth on edge throughout was the choice of main character, this Fluke guy, who was unbelievably annoying. I can deal with main characters who aren't likable, even if this is a weird choice for a thriller, but when nearly everything is presented from his point of view, and you can't abide him worth a damn, it gets tiresome pretty quickly. So at one point, I started skipping his ramblings/pity parties/opinions to get to the parts where stuff was actually happening. From the very beginning, he made the completely rookie/downright stupid move in going to see Mamantov about the diary, something which made no sense under the circumstances, and the author didn't care to explain why he had done so. At the end, we realize that he was being played from the very beginning, something which even the reader begins to suspect at one point, however, this supposedly clever fellow, who should be well-versed in the machinations of history and its key players, remains blissfully unaware of, up until the very end. His surprise and frustration when he finally gets it, is quite comical, but by then the reader is too sick of him to even feel gratified. The other characters, while none of them actually likable, are far more easy to bear, mostly because we're largely spared their POV. All in all, a story which would have been better told differently. 2.5/5

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lana

    In cleaning through my apartment I have found an old treasure-trove of book related papers, including my “books read” list from 1999-2000. In addition to listing the books, I wrote about 2-3 sentences to myself – sometimes they were plot reminders, sometimes commentary on the books. They were not intended to be read by anyone other than myself. I don’t imagine these will be very helpful to anyone else, but I’m posting them here for two reasons: first, to keep my reviews/comments in one place now In cleaning through my apartment I have found an old treasure-trove of book related papers, including my “books read” list from 1999-2000. In addition to listing the books, I wrote about 2-3 sentences to myself – sometimes they were plot reminders, sometimes commentary on the books. They were not intended to be read by anyone other than myself. I don’t imagine these will be very helpful to anyone else, but I’m posting them here for two reasons: first, to keep my reviews/comments in one place now and, second, because they’re kind of a fascinating look at my younger brain. Excellent novel set in Russia, present day. Focuses on a historian who specializes in Stalin studies. Inspires me to become a PhD in history and/or travel to Russia again! Excellent descriptions both of Russia and the importance of history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    A gripping work of historical fiction that takes a shot at Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, this book takes the protagonist on a mystery and physical journey across Russia to tackle an evil borne from another evil decades ago.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sofia Contreras

    Felt like I was in Russia with the detailed descriptions. Great revisionist take on Russian history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Seemed like a good plot and but never lived up to its potential.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Τον Robert Harris τον είχα γνωρίσει από το Fatherland πριν χρόνια. Είχα εντυπωσιαστεί από εκείνο το βιβλίο, είχα ψάξει μανιωδώς να το βρω, χωρίς όμως αποτέλεσμα γιατί ήταν εξαντλημένο. Ώσπου ξαφνικά μια μέρα, σε μια τυχαία βόλτα στο Μοναστηράκι το βρήκα να κείτεται σε μια κουβέρτα, σε ένα πεζοδρόμιο, προς ένα εξευτελιστικό ποσόν. Το έχω αποταμιεύσει στο ράφι των permanent collection για τα γεράματα μου (μαζί με το "Σπίτι από φύλλα", εννοείται!). Το 2017 χαρακτηρίστηκε για μένα ως έτος των Ομιλούν Τον Robert Harris τον είχα γνωρίσει από το Fatherland πριν χρόνια. Είχα εντυπωσιαστεί από εκείνο το βιβλίο, είχα ψάξει μανιωδώς να το βρω, χωρίς όμως αποτέλεσμα γιατί ήταν εξαντλημένο. Ώσπου ξαφνικά μια μέρα, σε μια τυχαία βόλτα στο Μοναστηράκι το βρήκα να κείτεται σε μια κουβέρτα, σε ένα πεζοδρόμιο, προς ένα εξευτελιστικό ποσόν. Το έχω αποταμιεύσει στο ράφι των permanent collection για τα γεράματα μου (μαζί με το "Σπίτι από φύλλα", εννοείται!). Το 2017 χαρακτηρίστηκε για μένα ως έτος των Ομιλούντων Βιβλίων, εγγραφές της Σχολής Τυφλών, οι οποίες με συντρόφεψαν πολλές ώρες της μέρας και της νύχτας. Σε αυτές τις εγγραφές, ψάχνοντας βρήκα το Fatherland και τον Αρχάγγελο. Αναρωτιόμουν για αρκετές σελίδες τι να ήταν αυτός ο Αρχάγγελος. Δεν ταίριαζε ο, ας πούμε, μεταφυσικός όρος με την πλοκή... Ως γνωστόν, δεν διαβάζω οπισθόφυλλα και περιλήψεις, παρά μόνο εκ των υστέρων. Έτσι, παράλληλα με την πλοκή, διατηρούσα και τις απορίες μου για τον Αρχάγγελο. Ένας άστατος ακαδημαϊκός ιστορικός, ο Κέλσο, πολλά υποσχόμενος στο ξεκίνημα του αλλά ξεφτισμένος στην πορεία της ζωής του, συμμετέχει σε ένα συνέδριο στη Μόσχα, που σχετίζεται με τα σοβιετικά αρχεία. Ιστορικά η πλοκή αφορά τη δεκαετία του '90, εποχή που οικοδομείται η νέα Ρωσία και αποκαθηλώνονται οι παλιές πεποιθήσεις και μαζί τους οι ηγέτες του παρελθόντος. Ο Κέλσο βρίσκεται αντιμέτωπος με ένα δυνητικά μεγαλειώδες μυστικό που είναι ικανό να φέρει τα πάνω κάτω στην ιστορία! Οι αναζητήσεις του Κέλσο θα τον οδηγήσουν τελικά, στο βορειότερο σημείο της ρωσικής επικράτειας, στο "τέλος του κόσμου", στη βιομηχανική και περίπου εγκαταλειμμένη περιοχή της πόλης του Αρχάγγελου. Νά' τος ο Αρχάγγελος! Μια πόλη στο πουθενά ήταν λοιπόν! Πολλά πρόσωπα παρελαύνουν από τις σελίδες, πρόσωπα με παρελθόν, πρόσωπα βασανισμένα, πρόσωπα που διέπονται από ισχυρούς κώδικες τιμής και πρόσωπα παντελώς ανέντιμα. Φιλόδοξοι πολιτικοί και υπάλληλοι που εύκολα διαφθείρονται, απελπισμένοι άνθρωποι φτωχοί και εγκαταλειμμένοι, μια χώρα που φαίνεται να καταρρέει. Το μεγαλύτερο ατού του βιβλίου είναι ότι ο Harris καταφέρνει να περιγράψει πολύ τρυφερά τους ήρωες του, με μεγάλη συμπόνια και αγάπη κάποιους, με φροντίδα και κατανόηση κάποιους άλλους. Σαν ένα χέρι που τους χαϊδεύει ... Μια θλίψη ξεπροβάλλει από όλο το βιβλίο, θλίψη για το μέλλον κυρίως, ένα μέλλον δύσκολο και ίσως ζοφερό. Το ταξίδι προς τον Αρχάγγελο περιγράφεται υποβλητικά. Βάλτοι, πυκνά δάση, χιόνι, δρόμοι που γίνονται σύντομα αδιάβατοι ... ένα ταξίδι στο χρόνο ... Ένα πολύ ωραίο βιβλίο, εξαντλημένο και αυτό. Μπορείτε όμως να το ακούσετε και να το απολαύσετε από τη φωνή της Μαίρης Πάντου.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Grace

    Entertaining book. It is a great mystery and more complex than the usual Russia set books of the 1990's. If you like a good thriller then read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liesl de Swardt

    It does not matter if you are interested in world history or not, this is a very good read full of action and suspense.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Victor Sonkin

    An excellent thriller which makes the story which could have been absolutely laughable quite gripping.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Downing

    Absolutely, excellently written. Harris knows exactly how to use words to communicate precisely what it is he's trying to put across. The story was great, as was the character development. The only thing I'd say is that the prologue drags on and isn't really worth reading in detail, although it is nonetheless necessary to the plot. Other than that, this was a brilliant read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ayala Krizel

    Excellent book, Harris at his finest with this historical novel about a British historian digging up elements from the Soviet past. Hard to put down, thrilling and educating.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Jackson

    Another very good Robert Harris book! Historical fiction with Joseph Stalin as the main character. From what I read about him Stalin makes Hitler look like Mr. Rogers. Looking forward to reading more Harris books. All of them so far have been very good.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John M.

    This is a great thriller! Kept me turning pages until the very end! Don't know how I missed it when it was first released.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    Archangel by Robert Harris Paperback of 421 pages across 34 well laid out chapters. Modern, fluent and easily assessable language. The work is arguably best described as a 'high-octane' thriller, set in the present with a subject matter dipping into Russia's Soviet past. I believe it to already exist as a film, and also to be serialised with Daniel Craig playing one of the leading roles. On a personal level I have found Robert Harris an extremely accomplished author 'The Fear Index', Fatherland' and Archangel by Robert Harris Paperback of 421 pages across 34 well laid out chapters. Modern, fluent and easily assessable language. The work is arguably best described as a 'high-octane' thriller, set in the present with a subject matter dipping into Russia's Soviet past. I believe it to already exist as a film, and also to be serialised with Daniel Craig playing one of the leading roles. On a personal level I have found Robert Harris an extremely accomplished author 'The Fear Index', Fatherland' and 'Enigma' being amongst my personal favourites.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neil Spark

    A quest to find Stalin's notebook in the 1990s turns into something much more. Historian Christopher 'Fluke' Kelso wants the notebook to revive his academic career. Kelso isn't the only one who wants the notebook. US journalist RJ O'Brian knows a good story when he sees one. He joins Kelso. Hot on their trial is politician and ex-KGB agent Vladimir Mamantov. This is the third novel I've read by Robert Harris and it's every bit as good as the others. The novel is intense, the historical detail lau A quest to find Stalin's notebook in the 1990s turns into something much more. Historian Christopher 'Fluke' Kelso wants the notebook to revive his academic career. Kelso isn't the only one who wants the notebook. US journalist RJ O'Brian knows a good story when he sees one. He joins Kelso. Hot on their trial is politician and ex-KGB agent Vladimir Mamantov. This is the third novel I've read by Robert Harris and it's every bit as good as the others. The novel is intense, the historical detail laudable and the plot gripping. Although the characters aren't as deeply developed as they could've been, the novel's strengths make up for it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rowland Pasaribu

    Robert Harris' first great success came with his novel, Fatherland, in which he suggested an alternate history in which Hitler had won the war (similar to P.K.Dick's The Man in the High Castle or Otto Basil's The Twilight Men, among many such novels). Harris took the great historical jump and carried it off quite well. In Archangel he offers another tantalizing possibility of rewriting history, though the jump he makes is not quite as great. Set in post-Soviet Russia Harris posits the existence o Robert Harris' first great success came with his novel, Fatherland, in which he suggested an alternate history in which Hitler had won the war (similar to P.K.Dick's The Man in the High Castle or Otto Basil's The Twilight Men, among many such novels). Harris took the great historical jump and carried it off quite well. In Archangel he offers another tantalizing possibility of rewriting history, though the jump he makes is not quite as great. Set in post-Soviet Russia Harris posits the existence of a secret notebook that once belonged to Stalin and sends his main character, Dr. C.R.A. "Fluke" Kelso, a professor visiting Moscow, after the mysterious papers. Secreted by Beria after Stalin's death, no one seems to know of its existence. As the conference in Moscow comes to an end the bodyguard who helped Beria hide it comes to Kelso and then the high speed chases after the notebook begins. The secret of the notebook is not a bad one, and Harris writes a breezy thriller in which the excitement does not sag. The fact that many of the incidents, as well as the behaviour of the characters (notably the very talkative Kelso, who seems to tell everyone he bumps into about the notebook) is implausible is disappointing (and ultimately what mars the book irredeemably), but it is a decent film-plot narrative. Indeed, it will certainly make a good movie, and, like many Crichton books, it reads more like a movie script than a novel. Harris is, however, a very able writer, and little of the book is clumsy or awkward (beyond the plot). The denouement was a bit too far-fetched for our liking, but Harris makes a strong case for taking the phenomenon of Stalin more seriously. The sledgehammer-approach he falls back on is disappointing, and the ending was too cartoonish for our taste, but it is a perfectly reasonable post Cold War thriller. It is not a great book, but it is solid and entertaining, and can be recommended as a book for the long plane ride or the beach.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Graeme

    Unfortunately I couldn't get into this book, possibly only me, I just could not get into into the story enough to finish the book. I decided to give this book another shot and I'm glad I did. Consequently I've re rated it to four stars and must admit I was premature in my previous comments and stand corrected. It turned out to be a very good read well worth a second effort.

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