Grim, grizzly but utterly compelling. The Whole Rotten Edifice is extremely well-written, fast paced and gripping. It tells stories about the Russian military experience in World War Two from the viewpoint of two very interesting protagonists. Sevastian is a high ranking military officer, basically decent, but betrayed by the system, so that he suffers torture, indignity and betrayal, yet he never wavers from his commitment to do his best against the odds. Concurrently we see his daughter Marta, a sniper on the front line, experiencing the true horrors of war at first hand, meeting brave partisans and treacherous officers, the majority of whom pay the ultimate price. Images of wartime atrocities stay in your mind long afterwards, such as the sharp-toothed traitor who ate his comrades to stay alive, or the horrific torture methods of the secret police. As one of the characters says, words to the effect of: wartime is an inversion of the human soul, so that evil deeds are deemed good, while good deeds, such as acts of kindness and mercy, are classified as weaknesses. The book leaves us with some hope for the future, but also the chilling insight that this corrupt, inept, divisive and completely directionless empire has a gargantuan power that probably continues to this day. This is a novel about brave, basically well-intentioned people doing their very best, but shackled into obsequious servitude under the searchlight of an all-powerful evil madness that cannot be resisted. It adds to your knowledge of the depths of cruelty people are capable of, as well as the bravery of the human spirit to resist just about any hardship on earth. Read this book and you will never forget the nuggets of insight into the nature of a cruel vicious system that is fatally flawed. Before reading this I thought that Hitler was World War Two's ultimate monster, whereas now I'm not so sure.