Archangel Hardcover – Large Print, Jun 1989
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|Hardcover, Large Print, Jun 1989||
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"* "As good as the best of the masters - Greene, Ambler, Le Carre" - Los Angeles Examiner * "A novel of great distinction" - Daily Mail * "An amazing feat of storytelling...Too good to miss" - The Scotsman * "Written with terrifying, informed immediacy, this holds like barbed wire" - Evening Standard" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
They never told Michael Holly the risks of espionage in the Soviet Union. They never said that if he was caught he would be facing fifteen years in a gulag in the midst of a frozen tundra. It was supposed to be a simple handover and he never imagined that he would be caught. But when the unimaginable happens and he finds himself staring certain, inevitable death in the face, Holly has to find the strength to gather his resources to fight the camp's brutal regime in any way he can and with the limited means at his disposal.
But life in the camps is not like life in the outside world. It is the place where dreams are brought to die. Like the eight hundred inmates of Camp 3, Michael Holly has a dream of living through this hell. But against the might of the Soviet state, is he strong enough to keep his dream alive? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In _Archangel_, the protagonist, imprisoned in a Soviet prison camp in the Gulag, wages a one man war against the camp and the system that supports it. His victories, even the small ones, provide a great deal of pleasure to the reader. Unlike the typical stoic inmate portrayed by Solzhenitsn in _One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch_, Seymor's protagonist is a 'free' man who feels the unjustness of his imprisonment deeply and fights it at every turn.
I really enjoyed this odd departure for Seymor, whose books have provided me with some of the most satisfying espionage and political thriller reading of the last two decades. Though the Cold War is past, this behind the scenes human drama in the cold Siberian winter, is a satisfying reminder of what was, ultimately, an unsuccessful attempt to crush the human spirit.
Oleg Demyonov, a convicted Soviet spy, suffers a fatal heart attack in Her Majesty's prison, Wormwood Scrubs. He was soon to be exchanged for Michael Holly, and the deal is now off.
Holly, an engineer for an English manufacturing company, was recruited by MI6 to deliver a clandestine package on his next business trip to Moscow. A piece of cake, according to his Secret Intelligence Service recruiter. But Holly was caught and convicted of espionage. Now, the swap for Demyonov off, Holly is sent to a Correctional Labor Colony in the heart of the USSR for 14 years. Because Holly was born Mikhail Holovich of Russian parents who'd escaped to Britain after WWII, he's classed as a Russian - a traitor - for the purpose of imprisonment. It's to be Camp 3, Zone 1(Strict Regime).
Back in the UK, the head of MI6 charges Alan Millet, Holly's recruiter, with investigating Michael's background. Is his agent likely to crack under continued interrogation and embarrass Her Majesty's government? As Millet discovers the mettle of the man he sent into harm's way, the reader begins to feel sorry for Michael's gaolers.
In Camp 3, the resident Political Officer, KGB Captain Yuri Rudakov, sees Holly as a giant step up the career ladder if he can extract from the new prisoner the confession the Moscow bumblers couldn't get. In the meantime, Michael fires the first shot in his own personal war with a plastic baggie of machine oil, the page from a magazine, and some coal dust.
This is the best of the several Gerald Seymour thrillers I've devoured to date. The reader's sympathies are focused solely on Holly and are rarely sidetracked, though one is tempted to feel an occasional pang of compassion for Millet and (even!) Rudakov.
As I've stated before, the charm of Seymour's novels is that he doesn't deal in absolutes of right or wrong. His venues of conflict are patterned in shades of gray. As Holly rattles the bars of his cage, both he and the reader question the moral responsibility of his actions as the consequences for his fellow prisoners mounts. This is good stuff that transcends the bulk of the genre.
With delicious anticipation, I contemplate the seven other Seymour books lined up on my shelf to be read.
Archangel is the story of a man who resists oppression by refusing to satisfy his oppressors. More than that, it is the story of a man who inspires others, who teaches them that dignity and self-respect are more important than security and comfort.
Michael Holly is a Russian-born British citizen who is recruited by the British government to deliver a message to one of their spies while Holly is on a business trip to Russia. Holly is captured and imprisoned. The British make a deal to trade Holly for a Russian spy they are holding in custody, but the deal goes sour when the Russian has a fatal heart attack. Thus begins Holly’s ordeal in a Russian prison camp that is populated by criminals and dissidents and stoolies.
Holly is a classic example of the reluctant hero. He doesn’t give much thought to helping the British. He isn’t particularly motivated by patriotism. When he is imprisoned his initial motivation is to preserve his sense of self-worth and to regain his freedom. He doesn’t care about his fellow prisoners until circumstances force him to acknowledge their value.
Holly has no desire to be a leader, but leadership is thrust upon him. He has no desire to be inspirational, but he is inspired by other prisoners and cannot turn his back on their example. He is constantly torn between his sense that fighting unwinnable battles is foolish and his growing insight that small victories are both possible and worthwhile. Resistance is not futile if those who resist are remembered, if oppressors are made to feel that they have not won anything at all by stamping out the oppressed.
Archangel tells a fast-moving story. The plot features a reasonable amount of action, particularly in the second half. But Archangel is primarily a psychological thriller, a book that forces the reader to ask whether he or she would emulate Michael Holly’s courage and integrity in the face of overwhelming adversity. All of the characters, from the prisoners to the beleaguered camp commander to the KGB agent who wants Holly to confess that he is a spy, are vividly drawn, but Michael Holly is one of Gerald Seymour’s most complex and memorable creations.