Bulgaria, 1934. The local fascists have just murdered the brother of Khristo Stoianev. Now Khristo is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, for special service in the Spanish civil war.
©1988 Alan Furst; (P)2002 Recorded Books
"Furst shows a remarkable talent in his fifth novel, integrating details about the cultures of Spain, France and Eastern Europe with a fascinating story." (Publishers Weekly)
"Night Soldiers has everything the best thrillers offer, excitement, intrigue, romance, plus grown-up writing, characters that matter, and a crisp, carefully researched portrait of the period in which our own postwar world was shaped." (USA Today)
"Intelligent, ambitious, absorbing....The history is deftly incorporated; the viewpoint civilized; the characters and the settings picturesque; the adventures exciting; the writing pungent." (The New York Times)
This book is beautifully written, very detailed slice of life in the spanish civil war kind of thing, but I kept wanting Mitch Rapp to kill somebody, and he never even showed up.
It was good, but not breaking into the top ranks.
No. There wasn't really a single plot, just a number of individual characters and events on which to hang a lot of detail, from high-level intelligence operations to low-level peasants just trying to stay alive. It was rich and immersive, but I kept wondering if there was going to be a culminating event at all. (spoiler: nope)
I quite liked Alexandra, just because she was so different, so distinct. Otherwise, perhaps some of the English playboys whiling away the war with champagne and gossip.
Sometimes in a war, there are no good and bad guys, just survivors.
I was confused about whether this was an alternate history book that I bought around the same time -- did the war end during this book? I felt like it was still all Communists and Nazis at the end, even after 1945...
George Guidall's narration is exceptional. I've heard him read a lot of thrillers, and he's good at all of them, but he is truly in his element with this Alan Furst novel. He switches seamlessly among southern, eastern and western European accents. Amazing.
The journey of Kristo from Bulgarian youth to NKVD agent in Madrid to renegade in Paris to Allied spy in Prague seems so unlikely on its face, but it could not make more sense in Furst's telling. Kristo somehow remains true to himself and to his brothers in BF825. Furst is a great storyteller, a scholar of prewar and wartime Europe and a wonderfully literate writer.
If you like spy novels, war novels and novels about people confronting cataclysmic change, listen to this.
This novel is so different from almost anything I've read in the genre. Better prose than le Carre, Complex but utterly believable plot. Pacing--oh my goodness. And all this without losing the characters, in particular that of Khristo Stoianev. He is amazingly deft at weaving in the historic background, as well. And, a blessing, while his vision of the world, at least the world of this novel, is bleak, the humans in it are not so utterly without the capacity of redemption as to be unbelievable on that side of the ledger. It can seem as if hope for all but one or two humans in any given group as become literarily incorrect. Not so for this writer.
Not much story. No plot to follow really and too much insignificant detail. The metaphor of the figs was too much for me....I love this genre and was hoping for a new author like Deighton and LeCarre. Not so much. I never have liked the Spanish Civil War. Was hoping both the socialists and the fascists would lose. Blah
I perceive that my middling rating for this book is largely influenced by my decision to listen to the audio edition rather than read the print edition. The first third of the book creates the setting and introduces the main characters slowly by inference and realization. For example, there are many characters that are introduced for one or two paragraphs and then never referenced again; it is only by continual reference that one realizes who are the main characters. These characters actions are inferred when another characters reflects on having witnessed an event. The scene changes frequently and without obvious breaks in the flow. I became so confused that I had to re-read entire sections from a borrowed, print copy to get back on track. The latter two-thirds of the book were more clear but I still lost the train of thought too many times.
I wish that I had decided to read only the print version. The author's writing style is excellently formatted for that mode.
This is the 'first' Alan Furst i have read, and will probably not be the last.
The rhythm and meter of the writing is pleasant to listen to, and charms the reader to follow along (regardless of weather one actually knows where the story is going).
The myriad of characters can be dizzying, and it is easy to lose track of who was who (and where).
SOMETHING! Sorry it was funny when I typed it.
This is a very good book and rather interesting one to boot. I knew of the USSR and WWII but never in this way. The writer is brilliant and the way he weaves real history into the story is grand. I was not expecting to get so involved with the story but I did and happy for it. The Narrator was just great and made the 18 hour book rather fun even with the dark story line. Well worth adding to your libary.
Firstly, I think George Guidall could read a Chinese phonebook and make it compelling listening. Secondly, Alan Furst is a master at character development. Also, I found the subject matter fascinating. I like when I read or listen to a book, it becomes pictorially vivid in my mind. It takes very good writing to do that for me. Alan Furst does this extremely well.
I enjoyed all the characters, because they seemed alive to me. However, following the main character was extremely enjoyable.
On the Danube, in a rowboat with the Soviet soldier, when he encountered the grounded barge, and recognized the hull number as a significant code. I felt his excitement! I have a hundred favorite scenes in this book. I can't wait until I forget enough to justify re-reading it!
I think I'd stick with the book title, Night Soldiers.
This is a departure from the shoot-em-up spy books, which I also enjoy, but it loses nothing by shedding gratuitous violence. It replaces non-stop action with true intrigue, and I found it no less exciting. It would be like comparing Casablanca and Die Hard. Both great genres to be sure, but each with an exceptional cache. This was my first Furst, and I just downloaded his "Polish Officer". Can't wait to get into it!
This is a very well written spy novel, and very well narrated. I could be mistaken, but I think this was Furst's first novel, which is quite an achievement. Everything felt very real and authentic. The only problem I had with it, and the reason I only give four stars, is that it didn't seem to be a cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end. I guess this is ok, as long as the book keeps you interested, which this book did. But, for a spy novel, usually I expect there to be a cohesive plot, whereas this book kind of wanders around, following the main character as he travels around, until at last it just kind of ends because the war is over. That said, I really enjoyed it, and will definitely read more by this author.
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