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THE DEFECTION OF AJ LEWINTER [Hardcover]

LITTEL
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: HOUGHTON (1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395154812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395154816
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,571,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THERE WAS a curtain of silence between the end of the play and the first ripple of applause. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Cold War espionage novels make for a crowded field and one in which the elegant conversations of The Defection of AJ Lewinter have been unjustly forgotten. In part that may well be because the book builds to a fantastic last line - but a last line that one cannot really retell without giving away the whole book. Nor can one really appreciate the full stylish grace of the plot's construction until it is capped by that last line.

As a result, there is little of the plot that a reviewer who respects yet-to-be readers of the book can say of the plot other than, "Trust me, it's worth the read" or a brief account that makes the book sound much like dozens of other novels.

This is a book in which the characters talk and talk and talk. There is a plot and there is action, but this is a thriller that would never make it as a Hollywood action epic. It is a book that exercises the brain rather than raises the pulse rate.

There are traces too of black humour too as a Cold War defection leaves both sides unsure as to whether they are the real loser from the switch and where the truth lies. AJ Lewinter is a physicist who has done military research and then, on a trip to Tokyo, defects to the Soviet Union. Not only the Americans but also the Soviets want to know why. For the Americans, why has he gone, what did he know and when did his loyalties end, and for the Russians, why has he come, what does he know, why did he switch - and is he a plant?

Enjoy the conversations as people on both sides talk and ponder these questions in this highly enjoyable book.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no spoilers 28 Dec 2003
By "fifthvenom" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The Company; I decided to give this one a shot. Littell does not disappoint as he weaves layer upon layer of intrigue in this brief tale of espionage. The story involves the defection of a scientist and what we learn about him through the eyes of oppossing agencies. Yet through the deft touch of Littell we are never quite sure what to think of the man. Is he serving the interests of the United States, the Soviet Union, or himself? Are there any hints that let on? That is the charm of this novel. The tone of the novel fits right alongside that of The Company. Especially appreciated is the fact that Littell leaves the road open for the reader to navigate the end course. He doesn't spoon feed conclusions to his readers. You'll see what I mean when you read the fantastic ending.
The only problem? This was the only other book of his that I could find at my local store.
why not five stars? I wished that it was a longer read...
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quick, entertaining tale of espionage, counter-espionage, counter-counter espionage . . . 16 Dec 2005
By Scott Schiefelbein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's hard to believe that "The Defection of A.J. Lewinter" is a first novel. Sure, it's brief (barely 300 pages, using a large typeface), but it's so self-assured, so brilliant, so audacious, that it smacks of a later work written by a giant who's merely taking some time off from writing epics.

The title is seemingly dead-on. American scientist A.J. Lewinter defects to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. (While the time period is never specifically stated, it's definitely post-Kennedy and pre-Gorbachev.) The defection is surprisingly easy, and Lewinter has an easier time ditching his American security than he does convincing the Soviets to let him defect.

And that's the crux of Littell's lean novel of espionage and paranoia. The Americans are understandably paranoid -- they've got a defector, which is embarrassing enough, but this guy may know some military secrets of considerable value. But the Soviets are equally paranoid, if not more so. What if this Lewinter is a CIA plant, and this is a phony defection? If the Soviets misread Lewinter, it could mean a disastrous hit to the Soviet system of 5-year plans, not to mention a few bullets put into the backs of a few heads.

Littell keeps the pressure on, as the Americans and the Soviets plot and scheme to figure out just what the heck has happened by this defection as well as how to play it. For the Soviets, will the Americans use reverse-psychology and act like the defection is no big deal (thereby hopefully leading the Soviets to conclude that Lewinter is a fraud)? Or are the Americans playing reverse-reverse psychology, hoping that by doing nothing the Soviets will interpret this as the Americans trying to convince the Soviets that Lewinter is a fraud, when really Lewinter is the real thing? More layers than an onion are involved here, and Littell spices things up with dashes of humor interlaced into the web of deceit and danger.

I'm not sure where Littell gets all the insider information he has for his novels (I have already enjoyed "The Amateur" and adored both "The Sisters" and "The Company"), but he writes as if he knows this world of Cold War espionage like the back of his hand. While the lack of scope of this novel (arguably, a "mere" novella) prevents me from awarding it with a five-star rating like I gave his epic "The Company," that's a statement of the awe in which I hold the larger work. "The Defection of A.J. Lewinter" is a clever bit of work that never strains its convolutions or jumps the tracks.

A quick, thrilling read, "Defection" offers a delightful day-trip into the back rooms of the Cold War, and it's well-worth the trip. This is the perfect appetizer to choose before diving into Littell's longer, darker works.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic defection story 2 July 2003
By D. Edger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Littell's book reads as well today as it did when published. This is an excellent introduction to the cold war science of defector exploitation told from both the US and Soviet view. This short book is a good, fast read from an author who frequently "does" intelligence right. After a career in the business myself, he is one of only a few authors who I can always read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The games spies play 26 Sep 2010
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A.J. Lewinter, a physicist specializing in ceramics who does military research on missile nosecones, defects to the Soviet Union (the novel was published in 1973, when the Soviet Union still existed). His knowledge of ceramics isn't likely to be helpful to the Russians, but Lewinter may have obtained accurate knowledge of missile trajectories--information that could enable the Soviet Union to develop an effective anti-missile defense. The American government isn't quite sure whether Lewinter was able to memorize the trajectory formulas during his brief time with them, while the Soviets aren't quite sure whether Lewinter is a genuine defector with useful information, a genuine defector who has been given false information to fool the Soviets, or an American agent.

Littell's novel takes a fun look at the games played by espionage services. The Americans want the Russians to believe Lewinter's information is useless. The Russians, in turn, need to figure out whether they're being played by the Americans. The novel takes us through the reasoning processes employed by both sides. The characters, on both the American and Russian side, are interesting albeit one-dimensional. This is more of a cerebral novel than an action-packed thriller, but the twists and turns taken by the Americans and Russians as each side tries to out-think and to out-deceive the other make the novel a gripping read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read... 7 Jun 2010
By Timothy Blankenhorn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a readable, interesting, intelligent book on spying and spycraft. The other reviews describe the book well.

My only issue with it is that it is brief, more like a novella or a long short story than a novel. It lacks density and texture. It's best to read on a coast-to-coast flight. It makes sense that the author has movie and television experience.
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