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25 of 25 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 Joseph Haschka

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7 of 8 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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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A notch above the usual spy novel trash, 17 Dec 2002
By 
Joseph Haschka (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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7 of 8 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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2 of 2 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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars what a story! From the first chapter you are hooked!, 11 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
What a talent Frederick Forysth is! From the first chapter, i could not turn the pages fast enough. This book interweaves suspense, mystery --coupled with international political intrigue. The characters are unforgettable and only stronger are the locale's in the story. From Russia to the United States, to Italy and then England.....Frederick's prose and storytelling is top rate, you will be mesmorized. A definite must for the fans of true espionage and suspense!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and powerful, 5 July 2009
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Part in which he describes russians,their psychology and post soviet times very truthfully. Though it's just thriller but all the details are so believable and real so i even asked myself did he live in russia? Or maybe russian wife he has? For i'm russian and this book written as if man lived in Russia for a long time. Excellent read, mind blowing plot the best thriller i've read so far!!!!! Don't hesitate,grab it and read!!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Class Act, 18 Nov 2002
This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
Another well-constructed and well-written book from the master. Forsyth has exploited the fragile political situation in Russia beautifully to come up with a great yearn.
If there are criticisms to be made then one would be the reliance on coincidence to keep the story moving and a second would be that too much seems to go the way of the "good guys".
Still, if it's an action-packed read you're after, this will fit the bill perfectly!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Icon - a masterpiece of spy fiction, 13 Sep 2005
By 
Tom Stovell (Worthing, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
This is a true masterpiece. It is the first Frederick Forsyth book that I have read and certainly won't be the last. The detail in this book is incredible, all of it highly believeable and gripping from the first page to the last. I am planning a second read of it (which I have never done with a book before) when I take a week off work to concentrate fully on it!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine storytelling, if a little implausible, 28 July 2007
By 
R. Paterson (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Icon (Paperback)
I read Frederick Forsyth a lot since his books are all well-researched and have an intricate yet accessible plot, usually with a few surprises thrown in. And so it is with Icon. There's not a lot of real action, but the whole point of the story is not that the 'good' characters are literally fighting someone. It is more about a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of the Russian Federation. Igor Komarov, a favourite of the upcoming millennial election, is revealed to be planning massive genocide within Russia once he comes to power, as well as wars of aggression which could go as far as to start World War III. It's up to retired master spy Nigel Irvine (also featured in Forsyth's The Fourth Protocol) and ex American agent Jason Monk to cut through all Komarov's propoganda and convince Russia's voting public of the truth.

The book was published in the mid-nineties, but the story is still good when read in hindsight. The potential risk of the Russian Federation becoming the seat of the world's next great tyrant is also explored in Robert Harris's book Archangel, so the book clearly echoes a real warning that someone has voiced. There are plenty of interesting characters, the best being, in my opinion, retired Russian general Nikolai Nikolaiev. The story grips continuously, but there are implausible facets to it that prevent the book acheiving a fifth star.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I am no prude but it seems to me that ..., 6 July 2014
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This review is from: Icon (Kindle Edition)
I am no prude but it seems to me that too many writers find that they can not express themselves properly in the 'Queen's English' and have to resort to the 'F' word's to tell us what is happening.
But will anyone take any notice of this comment?
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Icon by Frederick Forsyth (Paperback - 3 July 1997)
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