MOSCOW RULES by Robert Moss

MOSCOW RULES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This leisurely, episodic thriller eventually leads up to a highly implausible coup in Moscow circa 1985--complete with total rejection of Marxism-Leninism; but along the way it provides ironic, fairly absorbing vignettes of shabby, nasty doings among the USSR's military/political elite. Sasha Preobrazhensky, 16, has a major disillusionment in early-1960s Moscow: he learns that his WW II-hero father didn't die in action--but was murdered, by fledgling KGB thug Topchy, while trying to save a German child from Soviet rape. So Sasha vows revenge on the Soviet system, determined to destroy it from within--even if that means betraying his true-love, a dissident who suffers Siberia, gang-rape, and gruesome suicide. Sasha then joins the GRU, coolly marries the hedonistic daughter of powerful Marshal Zotov; he finds his first key ally in Capt. Zaytsev, head of the GRU's special-forces training; a few years later, as a N.Y.-based agent, he secretly befriends boozy, womanizing KGB-man Feliks Nikolsky (despite rabid GRU-vs.-KGB hostility). Meanwhile, however, Sasha risks trouble--including CIA entrapment--by falling in love with beautiful Elaine Warner, then leaving her to return to his private mission in Russia. Back home, after service in the Afghanistan invasion (helping the KGB to assassinate Pres. Hafizollah Amin), Sasha rises under his father-in-law, Marshal Zotov--who, in the 1980s, becomes a would-be Bonaparte, urged on by now-General Sasha. So finally, then, amid strikes and Chernenko's gradual demise, Sasha begins putting his coup into action: Nikolsky helps to neutralize the KGB (with vengeance on the evil Topchy); Zotov is installed as Russia's new leader; but when Zotov refuses to accept an anti-Communist credo, Sasha himself takes over--again forced to sacrifice his love for Elaine. (""He had brought down the Soviet system, without war."") Sasha's quickie-revolution here seems more like wishful thinking than credible futurology; throughout, in fact, Moss' anti-Soviet fervor leads to excesses, digressions, limp rhetoric. And there's little momentum in noble Sasha's meandering, 25-year climb. Still: an often-entertaining exercise in speculative Kremlinology--with intriguing, ugly, or darkly amusing details--from the co-author of The Spike and Monimbo.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Villard/Random House