An unrelenting portrait of the ""greatest mass murderer of all time."" Abused as a child, Stalin grew up motivated by hate, an amoral, atheistic, hysterically suspicious killer with no ideological convictions. He rose to power on a tide of blood that, says the author, never ebbed: he created famines, set out to eliminate the entire class of free peasants, and had millions of people killed or transported. With the help of a corrupt bureaucracy, Stalin kept the standard of living at subsistence level and governed by terror. He had no sense of personal or political honor, ignored his family, and had definite plans for World War Three at the time of his death. Marrin writes with authority (though his bibliography lists only English-language books, most of them secondary sources) and, as in Hitler, indulges in occasional dramatic phrases: after an NKVD masked ball, ""drooling drunks"" chant Stalin's praises and the invasion of Finland becomes ""a grim struggle of man against tank, flesh against steel."" This technique is sometimes overdone but does give the narrative immediacy, suiting the author's cautionary purpose. Though conditions have improved since Stalin's death, Martin contends that Soviet society is still structured along Stalinist lines, still susceptible to totalitarian rule. This horrifying tale will leave shaken readers conscious that no crime is truly unthinkable.