Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

Being from the former Soviet Union I had high hopes for this book as I am used to the large amount of research Daniel Silva usually goes through for his novels. Having read most, if not all, of the Gabriel Allon series, and, at the same time, having read about some of the operations described in Silva's books (operation Wrath of God, etc) I was looking for an accurate assessment of today's Russia. Sadly, while the story was good enough and moved at the usual pace that Allon novels do, I was very much let down by the author/editors of this book in a variety of ways.

First, the Russian newspaper represented in the book is entitled "Moskovsky Gazeta", it should be "Moskovskaya Gazeta." The character Olga Sukhova has a grandfather with the same last name, Sukhova. Sukhova is the feminine form, if it is a man, it should have been Sukhov. I also noticed that the AK-47 is purported to have been one of the reasons the Soviets won against the Germans. I could only interpret this as a reference to WWII, yet, the AK-47 was not developed until after WWII. These are just a few of the errors I found, there weren't many more, but they did take away from the usual interest I have when delving into the world the author is trying to create.

The major "mistakes" that I noticed, and to a degree, one might not be a mistake per se but rather something I do not agree with the author on. Russian journalists feature highly in this book and to a large degree there have been a large number of journalists killed, from a variety of causes. Yet, I cannot agree that all the journalists killed, Silva claims 14 have died during Putin's time as President, died because of the work they have been doing (be it against the government or a government agency). In truth, few have been killed in such a way as to raise suspicion that they might have died under "professional" hands. Others have been made to seem that way for a variety of propaganda purposes. What I vehemently disagree with the author on is the idea that a character like Ivan Kharkov, a gun runner and former KGB operative, could be one and the same and an oligarch to boot. The oligarch's in today's Russia (and of the 90's) are not former KGB (Berezhovsky, Gusinsky, Abramovich, Khodorkovsky, Smolensky, Luzhkov, Chubais, etc) but they do have former KGB and spetsnaz forces as their security. These men made their money through banks, speculation, natural resources (gas, oil, etc), TV channels, real estate, etc. I'm more than sure that all of them took illegal steps in one way or another, but that is the natural order of things in capitalism.

Lastly, I resent the fact that just because Russia is using her resources as a bargaining chip means she wants to become a super power once more. Russia has a sphere of influence just like the US does, their actions in foreign policy are dictated by self interest just like every other country in this world. While it is true that they helped arm the Middle East during the cold war when the Soviet Union was in existence it was the US that helped arm Islamic extremists the world over (especially those who flooded Afghanisan during the 80's to take up the war against the USSR, this of course doesn't take into account all the other covert operations undertaken by the US). I am not here to preach if what either country did/does is right or wrong, I just hate seeing a double standard at work.

My apologies if this review didn't cover the book as others have, I figure they did a good enough job and there was little I could add as to what the book was about/encompasses. But I do feel that what I mentioned above will take away from the usual accuracy Silva tries to delivery in his books. Russians can and want to live normal lives, otherwise how do you explain the millions living around the world? But it won't happen so soon in a nation which has been around for less than two decades and has been living off of perverted capitalistic ideals that the west helped usher in.


jmnlman said...

Kind of makes you wonder what he thinks the 47 in AK-47 stands for.

jmnlman said...

BTW:I've added you to the sidebar on my blog.

T. Kunikov said...

Thanks for adding me. In Silva's defense, I asked both my parents if they thought the AK was used in WWII, both said yes :(. Although he should be familiar with the history of what he discusses. In the end it's a small error which shouldn't have been made. But I'd say his larger errors are the ones I have a bigger problem with.

jmnlman said...

Interesting how those cultural memories work like that.

T. Kunikov said...

Well...my parents aren't the best example of your average Joe. Just wanted to demonstrate that a mistake such as this can easily be made...even if the gun has the year of 'production' included in its name :).