There are several histories of the Russian Civil War available, I chose Lincoln's to read because it appears to be the one that historians cite more than any other and seems to have a reputation for balance and fairness. It has numerous strengths and some of the weaknesses that are common to many histories about the Russian revolutionary period.
`Red Victory' is really well written and reads like a novel. It devotes time to both the Red and White sides of the war. It deals better with the White side than with the Red and clearly shows the reactionary and disunited nature of the White movement and how this alienated large parts of Russian society, especially the peasantry as the Whites sought to give land back to the landlords. Lincoln is a little prone to accepting the White view of the struggle as corresponding to the reality of the situation - especially the Polish view of themselves as a bastion of Western civilisation against Oriental barbarism. There is a decent discussion on the 'Green' movement. Nestor Makhno's anarchist movement gets an inadequate treatment.
The Red side is dealt with not so well. For example there is a lengthy discussion of Bolshevik feminism and the role of Alexandra Kollontai but no sense of how this added to the Red cause - did women support the Reds because of this? We don't get to find out. Also, and crucially, missing is the working class, the social class so synonymous with Bolshevism. Why were working class Russians so committed to Bolshevism? Again, we don't find out and Lincoln seems to assume that the reader already knows.
That latter point relates to the prime weakness in the book, which is Lincoln's espousal of what is known as the `continuity thesis' of the Russian revolution - that Bolshevism was innately authoritarian and that this would inevitably lead to Stalinism, that the Bolshevik Party was a party of iron discipline. This leads Lincoln to, for example, see the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion as inevitable given the nature of Bolshevism whereas he himself provides all the evidence necessary to explain it in the conditions of civil war, War Communism - which Lincoln correctly characterises as a hand to mouth policy rather than the result of ideology as many historians irrespective of political stance assert - and the social (peasant) composition of the garrison. The ultimate absurdity of Lincoln's espousal of the 'continuity thesis' is when he says that the Treaty of Rapallo lead to the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Surely, now, this thesis is in it's death throes?
I would recommend this book but the reader needs quite a bit of prior knowledge and understanding, especially of the Red side, to get the most from it.