5.0 out of 5 stars Archangel: As Icey and Cold as the Eyes of Stalin Himself!
I found Archangel by Robert Harris to be mesmeizing in its unflinching blending of fact and fiction. Realistic, imperfect characters trying to deal with the horror and terror of the past while obessively running head long into it in the present. Harris is a master at developing characters and an complex storey line that holds you in a death grip till the final climax...
Published on April 18 2002 by Uncle Chino
3.0 out of 5 stars A good start that fizzles badly...
Archangel is a two-part novel. First one gives a fine if bleak picture of Russia today, where everything is for sale, if only for survival sake, much to the chagrin of the sellers. This part is quite entertaining, with well-defined characters (those puffy academics) and atmosphere to boot. The second part of the novel-which should deliver the punch and is only able to...
Published on Feb. 28 2007 by richard tremblay
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good start that fizzles badly...,
This review is from: Archangel (Paperback)
Archangel is a two-part novel. First one gives a fine if bleak picture of Russia today, where everything is for sale, if only for survival sake, much to the chagrin of the sellers. This part is quite entertaining, with well-defined characters (those puffy academics) and atmosphere to boot. The second part of the novel-which should deliver the punch and is only able to deliver embarassed laughters-fails, and Lord does it fails, to convince the reader. Now imagine a new Stalin, looking, talking, frowning, grinning remarkably like the original one, a man who has lived all his life in the remotest of places, mimicking dialectics by having learned by heart his old master's speeches and writings, still able to pick off with an old gun the best of a small contingent of Red Army attack troops... The fact that Stalin's return were to be welcomed again by some segment of the population of modern Russia is not in question, he sure would be, as Hitler would be, as slavery would be, there is always those who regret the tyrant or the tyranny, what is in question here is the conditions in which this new Frankenstein is created, those are ex-cru-ci-a-ting-ly unbelievable. The novel falls apart real bad at the end. Read the novel's first part, it is very good stuff indeed; stop reading when Kelso and O'Brian take off for Archangel. Then go buy some other book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, and Bad.,
This review is from: Archangel (Paperback)
I did like it, but it had some poor ideas shown. Like the keeping a secret for a decades in Russia. The good parts, in my humble opinion, show the more personal insights of family and social life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Archangel: As Icey and Cold as the Eyes of Stalin Himself!,
I found Archangel by Robert Harris to be mesmeizing in its unflinching blending of fact and fiction. Realistic, imperfect characters trying to deal with the horror and terror of the past while obessively running head long into it in the present. Harris is a master at developing characters and an complex storey line that holds you in a death grip till the final climax. Bravo Robert Harris you have just made this readers top ten list. If you like intrigue, unapologetic grit, and your fiction, intelligent, hardnosed and unrelenting then you must read this book. His interweaving of fact and fiction paint a picture of true evil, its power and its ramifications. Magnificent!!!
1.0 out of 5 stars what was he thinking?,
By A Customer
I write this review as (1) someone who loved _Fatherland_, (2) teaches Russian history professionally, (3) has lived and studied in Russia many times since the late '80s. And I hated this book beyond belief.
To explain why would take a small novel to begin with, and I'd give away whatever lame excuse for suspense Harris's writing contains. I'll stick with three things.
First, the excitement of the novel is based largely on the fact that a secret has been kept from Stalin's death in 1953 till the mid-1990s, when a British historian of the USSR happens to stumble across it. The secret's location happens to be the Russian city of Archangel -- which, as it happens, is the last word screamed out (in the novel) by Lavrentii Beria, the secret police chief who's killed shortly after Stalin's death (in real life) and goes to his grave knowing where the novel's secret is kept. The word "Archangel" is supposedly baffling to Beria's interrogators, and no one connects it with the actual city. The problem here is that, as anyone who's taken 2 weeks of freshman Russian knows, the Russian word for the city is "Arkhangelsk," while the word for archangel is "arkhangel." So no Russian would be confused by Beria's last words. The fact that Harris makes so much out of this linguistic confusion shows that he doesn't know nearly as much about Russia as he does about Germany.
Thirdly, Fluke Kelso -- the British historian who serves as the main character -- is totally unappealing. Harris has created the most boring, cliched, unlikeable picture of an academic imaginable: hard-drinking, womanizing (is there a novel anywhere that doesn't depict a professor sleeping with his students?), and self-absorbed. One of _Fatherland_'s greatest strengths was that Xavier March was (like Arkady Renko in _Gorky Park_, a novel _Archangel_ falls far short of) a tremendously appealing character that you'd have to be inhuman not to empathize with. As far as I'm concerned, Kelso could get a bullet in the back of the head, and I wouldn't bat an eyelid.
So I hope Harris's next novel is truer to the _Fatherland_ mold. _Archangel_ is bad beyond conception.
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, amusing and informative,
This is the first Robert Harris novel I have read and I enjoyed the story. Harris gets straight to the point with the story and every step by the main character, a historian called Fluke Kelso, seems to be logical.
Most historical fiction somehow cop out in the end but this didn't. Don't want to reveal details but the final hundred pages are not as anti-climatic as other similar novels I have come across.
Also, his caricatures of journalists, historians and Stalin are pretty amusing. Yet the little known facts that he mentions about Stalin were very interesting and deeply disturbing. Harris claims that Stalin is more alarming figure in history than Hitler and the case he makes throughout the novel is pretty convincing.
There is a sense that he,(Harris), is having fun with the story and Soviet history and I enjoyed the ride. Beautiful book. Can't wait to get hold of his other works.
5.0 out of 5 stars Definate 5 star material,
I dont normally submit reviews, but felt I had to defend this book against a paltry 5 star rating. It successfully combines the best features of an historical novel and a thriller - I was absorbed totally in the sombre atmosphere of the book - a real "must read" that I've recommended to all my friends and family.
I prefer it to "fatherland" personally!
The ending is excellent - brings the threads all together
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric & well reasearched,
I had especially saved "Archangel" as a read during my first-ever trip to Russia, and hats off to Mr. Harris for recreating the country's atmosphere and scenery so brilliantly. "Archangel" is a well-written and dark thriller, the characters come across as extremely believable.
The only problem I had with the book is the over-the-top ending which somehow does not fit the pace of the rest of the book. Nevertheless, another great thought-provoking and highly entertaining achievement from Mr. Harris.
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but not as good as "Fatherland",
First off, for those of you think that "Archangel" is an alternate history in the tradition of Harris' excellent "Fatherland", it's not. This novel is more of a "what if"; an examination of the ripple that one change in history might have. I don't want to discuss the specifics for fear of ruining the plot, but suffice it to say that it involves the politics of modern day Russia.
Overall this is a strong novel. Harris once again makes good use of real history to set the tone, and in this case displays an astute take on the political situation in Russia. He wisely recognizes that freedom without prosperity can make people nostaligic for even the most brutal regimes. Furthermore, in its latter stages, "Archangel" serves as a cautionary tale for the dangers of nationalism run amok.
So there is a lot of meat to this novel. Unfrotunately, Harris hurries through the last 50 pages or so. Of course, I understand the need to create a sense of urgency and pace to any thriller, but by the end I almost felt like he was just bailing out. There were a lot of different paths that might have led to a more satisfying conclusion.
All in all though, "Archangel" is a strong political/thriller, which is let down, but not ruined, by a rather rushed conclusion.
4.0 out of 5 stars A post cold-war, cold-war style trhiller,
This is a compelling page-turner that will keep you up at night. If you enjoy cold-war thrillers, Robert Harris has figured out how to bring them back to life in this post cold-war era. This book has an outstanding plot tied to a secret notebook that was supposedly stolen from Stalin on the day that he died. From the moment we learn of this missing notebook (on about page 2) through to the last page, Harris takes us on a wild ride from Moscow through the Northern reaches of what used to be know as The Soviet Union. The story never slows.
Harris is a masterful fiction writer. He uses words that paint pictures so vivid that we feel we are with the characters. He weaves historical facts into a wonderful tale that had me reading every free minute over the course of three days. If you are looking for an exciting piece of fiction, don't miss adding this book to your reading list.
3.0 out of 5 stars Bang! Fizzle! Flop!,
When I first began reading Archangel (my first Robert Harris read), I was captivated. The opening scene set by Harris is incredible and really draws you into the story. At first I couldn't put it down. Then, a little over 3/4 of the way in, I couldn't pick it up. Harris blew it by revealing the books mystery too early. Don't get me wrong, all in all, the book was entertaining. The concept behind it is very intriguing. However, all the suspense and action throughout the book is brought to a head too quickly. This leaves a lull between when the books secrets are unlocked and the finish. Harris did manage to script a small twist in the end, but it was a day late and a dollar short. All in all, I would recommend this novel to anyone who is into historical/alternate reality type novels. It is interesting and reads very well. However, be prepared to be slightly disappointed at the end.
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Archangel by Robert Harris (Paperback - Feb. 29 2000)
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