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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A notch above the usual spy novel trash
When I read a spy novel by the likes of Frederick Forsythe or John Le Carré, the excellence of such a work reminds me how much trash is written by other authors in the same genre.
Forsythe unfolds the events in ICON's first half by switching back and forth between two timelines. The first, in 1999, finds the British Embassy in Moscow coming into possession of...
Published on 17 Dec. 2002 by Mr. Joe

versus
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too contrived and too cynical, but an interesting scenario
"Icon" was published in 1996, but the story takes place in 1999. In other words, the story describes a fictitious near future, which allowed Frederick Forsyth to create three years of fictitious world history leading up to a fictitious crisis in Russian politics.
In 1999 the presiding Russian President, modeled somewhat on Boris Yeltsin, dies of a heart attack. An...
Published on 4 Dec. 2005 by Rennie Petersen


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A notch above the usual spy novel trash, 17 Dec. 2002
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
When I read a spy novel by the likes of Frederick Forsythe or John Le Carré, the excellence of such a work reminds me how much trash is written by other authors in the same genre.
Forsythe unfolds the events in ICON's first half by switching back and forth between two timelines. The first, in 1999, finds the British Embassy in Moscow coming into possession of the "Black Manifesto". This document, written by Igor Komarov, reveals his secret plan for his rule of Russia once he wins the presidential election scheduled for January 2000. Since Komarov is far ahead in the polls, and his Manifesto espouses both military aggression against surrounding countries and genocide against certain Russian minorities, the Brits are understandably worried. The second timeline, from 1983 to 1994, follows the upwardly mobile career path of CIA officer Jason Monk, as he becomes case officer for several key spies within the Soviet military, intelligence and scientific communities. Over time, Monk watches helplessly as his agents are betrayed by the real-life CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, and subsequently captured, tortured and executed by the sadistic KGB Colonel Anatoli Grishin. The second half of the book has Monk, separated from the CIA since 1994, returning to Russia in 1999 on behalf of Western interests to discredit Komarov and destabilize his campaign for the Russian presidency. In the process, he matches wits with Grishin, now serving as Komarov's Chief of Security.
One of the strengths of this novel, besides the intricate plot and fine cast, is the (apparently factual) history of the Aldrich Ames betrayal, an absolute fiasco on the part of the CIA. This sort of background information adds immeasurably to any novel, yet isn't a part of many. In my mind, this writing technique is one of the reasons why Forsythe is at the top of his profession.
ICON proceeds at a crisp, clear and riveting pace. It was a book that was difficult to put down in deference to life's more mundane responsibilities. My only criticism, and one that prevents me from awarding 5 stars, was the heavy-handed ending lacking the finesse of what came before. It was as if Forsythe suddenly found himself faced with a publisher's deadline, and he had to achieve closure quickly. The final confrontation between Monk and Grishin was both clumsy and anticlimactic. Despite these closing flaws, however, the novel is top drawer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best thriller writer there is?, 30 Oct. 2011
By 
Matt (Penarth, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Forsyth even when he's not at his best, is still better than 90% of other thriller writers out there.

Ths isn't his best, lets face it what book is as good as "the jackal" or as good as the fist of god, but it's still a first class read.

it suffers slightly from being set at the turn of the millenium, but is still highly believable. polular russian leader see's himself as russia's next man of steel, but is in fact backed by gangster and mafia. Still relevant today eh!

it was a little diffcult keeping track of all the russian diplomats/kgb in the first part, but all becomes beautifully clear afterwards.

My only real gripe is the somewhat unbeleivable "shoot out at the OK corral" type scene at the end. To my mind the book would have been better off without it.

As always reading one Forsyth novel makes me want to read more of his stuff, and not many thriller writers make me feel that way
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too contrived and too cynical, but an interesting scenario, 4 Dec. 2005
By 
Rennie Petersen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
"Icon" was published in 1996, but the story takes place in 1999. In other words, the story describes a fictitious near future, which allowed Frederick Forsyth to create three years of fictitious world history leading up to a fictitious crisis in Russian politics.
In 1999 the presiding Russian President, modeled somewhat on Boris Yeltsin, dies of a heart attack. An interim president is appointed and presidential elections are scheduled for the end of the year. The leading candidate is Igor Komarov, an ultra-right-wing populist politician whose political program includes getting crime under control and improving living standards for the average Russian.
In reality, Igor Komarov is insane, and intends to make himself dictator and abolish democracy in Russia. He also intends to exterminate Jews and Chechens and other minorities, revitalize the Russian military and try to restore the old Soviet Union by re-occupying the former Soviet satellite countries.
In other words, Hitler II is about to become President of Russia.
This is an interesting scenario, and perhaps not totally improbable. And it is upon this interesting scenario that Frederick Forsyth brews an equally interesting story about how the British and the Americans go about trying to sabotage Igor Komarov's election.
Unfortunately, the whole story becomes rather contrived. A complex plan is concocted (the obvious simple solution is rejected for reasons that don't make sense) and then everything slowly but surely falls into place. One keeps reading not so much because you want to know if the good guys or the bad guys will win, but because you're curious about exactly how complicated a scenario Frederick Forsyth has dreamed up!
The bad news is that the plot is so contrived that the story becomes unrealistic. We all know that in reality that very complicated plans never work as expected - something always goes wrong at some point, but not in "Icon".
Another problem is that there is a cynical element in the story. An innocent person is sacrificed in a completely unnecessary way. Also, some of the flashbacks seem to be unnecessarily cynical.
The best parts of this book are actually the very detailed and interesting pieces of background information. For example, the story of Aldrich Ames, who betrayed many CIA agents to the Russians, is fascinating. The political situation in Russia and daily life in Moscow in the mid- to late 1990's is also intriguing, as is the information about the KGB and the Kremlin, etc.
I was torn between giving three or four stars to "Icon". What tipped the scales downward was the ridiculous "Council of Lincoln", in which Frederick Forsyth indulges in some major-league name-dropping. A secret club with Margaret Thatcher and George Bush Sr. among the members? Good grief!
Still, "Icon" was a fairly interesting read, although perhaps not so much for the reasons that Frederick Forsyth intended.
Rennie Petersen
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4.0 out of 5 stars Un-put-down-able, 5 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Having previously read Forsyth's two works, "The Fist of God" and "The Negotiator," I knew I was in for a good story and I was not disappointed. This is a tautly-written thriller with a complex plot that holds the reader's attention without allowing for any respite - hence the title of this review.

Forsyth's knowledge of the inner workings of the former USSR and the global intelligence community is masterful and receives all my admiration. His development of characters is utterly credible and his management of multiple interlocking layers of intrigue is very skilled.

Having said that, I have just two reservations which prevent my rating this book with 5 stars. First, I was surprised that Forsyth felt it necessary to provide an "explanation" in the closing pages of how the plot had been worked out. I had already figured out these details for myself and felt that it was heavy-handed to go into further explanation.

Second, I found it shocking, amid all the carnage and loss of human life entailed by the "battle of Moscow," that Forsyth should calmly allow the "good guy" to admit that he had indirectly brought about the murder of an unsuspecting distant member of the British royal family as part of his plan to overcome a greater evil (the fascist psychopath). This moral bargain left me cold.

Finally, the closing words of the final sentence - ...(sailing) "out towards the lonely sea and the sky" - is such a trite citation that I wondered whether it was a Freudian slip on the part of Forsyth, or whether he truly intended to cite the first line of John Masefield's well-known poem, "Sea Fever." Either way, in my judgment this was a weak conclusion to an otherwise powerful story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More chilling than New Years Eve In northern Siberia !, 15 May 2013
This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Most excellent!
A thoroughly enjoyable read, so much so I think I finished it within a week.
The plot was only too feasible for 1999 and not entirely impossible now.
I visited Russia in 1998, a year before the book is set, and the scenarios were very accurate indeed.The hotel I stayed at in was a favourite haunt of the mafia and what I was offered for room service at 2.00 am one morning, was different to say the least.
Russia unfortunately would not recognise Western style Democracy if it was bitten by it, and the ordinary folk have always been downtrodden, firstly under the Tsars,then the Communists, and the new wealthy elite do not seem any better.
A well balanced story, well researched and well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thriller in interesting setting, 25 Aug. 2012
By 
George W. Eccles "esterel" (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Kindle Edition)
I read this thriller many years ago when it first came out, having just come back from many years living in Russia, and I really enjoyed. Many writers have in the past commented that Russia ceased to be a good source for thrillers after the fall of the Soviet Union, but I beg to disagree. Icon is every bit as good as other thrillers written during the Cold War, and I have recently returned to Russia myself as the setting for my new novel THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER The Oligarch: A Thriller There is plenty of subject-matter left in Russia for many more good thrillers, in my opinion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise, 22 Sept. 2013
By 
MP Collins (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
A long time fan I must have missed this one somehow. A well written extraordinarily detailed thriller from post cold war Russia. The pace never lets up such that occasional pauses for breath are required. If you have never read Forsyth starting with 'The Day of the Jackal' is mandatory, this is a very good second choice. But then, having said that, they all are.
And while on the subject I have just finished 'The Kill List' the latest offering, and apparently not yet released on Amazon? What can I say, finished in two days I think that is enough, absolutely brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best, 22 April 2010
By 
D. A. Wright (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
This is all you expect from FF and more as he slots his novel seamlessly into an accurate depiction of the time. Of course it is fiction but, in retrospect, you find yourself wondering where the historical facts stop and the imagination starts. There is no time for that sort of analysis while reading though as the pace quickens and eases off, drawing you in, in a gripping but wholly credible manner. I found myself utterly immersed in the story, only reluctantly returning to reality as the tale concluded. I'm sure it will be reread and the pleasure multiplied.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iconic thriller, 19 Aug. 2006
By 
G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Forsyth never disappoints. Once again, if you start you will not want to stop until the end. The first part set in the Cold War is more realistic and convincing then his foray into what was the future when the book was written. As usual a lot of research has produced a fine thriller.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional research and storytelling as usual, 5 July 2014
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This review is from: Icon (Kindle Edition)
I've come to expect nothing less from Forsyth at this stage, but this is him at his best: deep in the world of covert operations in unfamiliar territory. As usual, there is the Alpha Male figure of Jason Monk, backed by the hierarchy of retired, in body but not in mind, of the spymasters of the Cold War. The villain of Komarov and the determination and genius of Monk keeps one turning pages until a very personal vendetta brings the book to a satisfactory and satisfying end.
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Icon by Frederick Forsyth (Paperback - 3 July 1997)
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