There are two important things to keep in mind if you are planning on purchasing this book. This first one being that the author is not a historian. He is a BBC correspondent. The second thing to know is that the entire book is centered on a single idea. That idea being his theory, which is shared by many people, that Russia's default position is always authoritarian rule. Their history has destined them to always be under an authoritarian government.
This idea is not completely unfounded, but it spoils the entire story. The author picks events and aspects that support his thesis and speeds past everything else. It seems like every five minutes or so he reminds the listener of his theory. He picks events in Russia's history, portrays them in a way that supports his views, and then say, "I told you so". If you are looking for this kind of thing then I guess that is fine, but if you are searching for an unbiased, all-around look at the History of Russia then this book is comically bad.
Sixsmith's version of Russian history is a classic example of western bias when it comes to telling the history of an eastern country. Here is an affluent British man viewing the history of an eastern land through the lens of his current time and place. He does not compare Russia to other countries of it's time, no, instead he compares it with the western democracies of today and he never hesitates to criticize it. His criticism can be summed up in one sentence, "Russia simply isn't enough like US to ever be as good as US".
Many Russians have said that the west will never understand them and if works like Sixsmith's is anything to go by they might end up being right.
I would also like to point out that it is painfully obvious that for the revolutionary period Sixsmith rips off the work of Trotsky's A History of the Russian Revolution. This is hilarious because while Sixsmith rightfully accuses the Communist Party of misrepresenting history he, at the same time, takes Trotsky's work, removes his voice, and cherry picks bits and pieces of it to satisfy his own views.