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Publisher's Summary

Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the 20th-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working.

Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.

Red Plenty is history, it's fiction, it's as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.

©2010 Francis Spufford (P)2017 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Red Plenty

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    4 out of 5 stars

can't stand listening to it

The book seems decent so far but I can't stand the narrator. I think he's American but his reading voice almost sounds fake British mixed with New England snob, and the Russian accents he does are awful. Its basically a series of short stories so you need an enjoyable narrator to propel you through, and this doesn't have it.

4 people found this helpful

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Simple review

Brilliant.

Apparently at least 15 words are required for a valid review. Here goes:

Brilliant.

10 people found this helpful

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Beautifully written, perfectly read

I’d avoided this book, despite hearing glowing reviews of it, for years because I assumed it was some dense work of theory based on the subject matter. I could not have been more wrong. This is a fantastic collection of interwoven stories give a clear-eyed postmortem to the Soviet project in which it tried to compete with capitalism on capitalism’s terms and failed. It shows the successes and failures of the Soviet system not through GDP growth figures or analysis of the productive output of the Soviet Union, but through the stories of people who lived in the system and whose lives were impacted by these successes and failures everyday.

1 person found this helpful

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A jumble of loosely related stories

This book goes over a wide variety of topics, starting from describing the childbirth process for 30 minutes, through the chemical process of smoking a cigarette and description of how computers and linear programming specifically works, and ending in detailed description of certain historical events.
Characters come and go as they please, some are introduced once never to appear again, overs randomly appear throughout the book in the most random places, leaving you wondering if it's actually the same person, or a different person with the same name; but ultimately it matters not at all as there is practically no continuity between the chapters anyway.

1 person found this helpful

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Word cadence and emphasis is a bit monotonous.

The narrator's cadence and word emphasis reminds me a bit of William shatner's rendition of Captain Kirk in the original Star trek.

1 person found this helpful

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  • E
  • 12-29-18

communism

turns out, difficult to feel happy while reading. like carrying around a stone, but worth the insights.

3 people found this helpful

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The first book I have read that provided insight

on how the system actually functioned or was made to function by the actors in the USSR. Not a novel nor history or perhaps a bit of both Spufford takes us on a too and fro journey in time within the USSR. From General Secretary Khrushchev to a biologists in a "research city" to an aged functionary with lung cancer we learn how the system actually worked and ruined lives spiritually and economically while it strove for the magical horn of plenty promised by Communism. My favorite storyline was that of the fixer (or whatever you call the anti-salesperson who instead of selling worked sellers to actually sell and provide products to other producers. We learn the perverse incentives that made the system go off the rails, and then watch it happen in almost slow motion! Having read many many books on the USSR, Stalin, Communism and the leadership (including Khruschev's auto-biography) this fantastic book provided the first real insight on how it worked or did not work.