APTIVE IN THE LAND by James Aldridge


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This might have been conceived as two distinct books and its weakness lies in the failure to-coalesce, to meld the two sides of the picture. The first part tells the story of a rescue in the Arctic, as Rupert Royce, meteorologist, is parachuted down to investigate a phenomenon where it should not be, and finds a Russian plane wreck, some corpses -- and one survivor, imprisoned in the ice, barely alive and paralyzed below the waist. The story of their months, captives of the Arctic winter and Vodopyanov's helplessness -- then of the incredible trek to civilization- was for this reader the more interesting story. But- from the historical and social viewpoint- the crux of the matter lies in the second part, as Rupert is hailed as a hero- at home in England and even more luridly in Russia, while Alexei Vodopyanov is held first as a prisoner (and the medical professon hovers over him), then returned to Russia, where suspicion is redirected towards Rupert. His struggle to fight for his right to be a friend of the man he rescued without being suspected of pro-Soviet tendencies as a result of brain washing is at odds with his almost neurotic desire to remain independent and anonymous. A vacation in Russia results in a dubious assignment and suspicion being directed against him on the other side of the fence. It is an odd book, qualifying neither as straight adventure nor psychological struggle, but with something of both, along with a somewhat cynical undercurrent of irony. Aldridge has been uneven in his writing; this ranks as one of his better books.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1963
Publisher: Doubleday