Top positive review
199 people found this helpful
From paranoid nightmare to a triumph of survival.
on 30 July 2001
From page one this is a gripping and absorbing read. We start off with the capture and imprisonment of Polish cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz, an ordeal that Franz Kafka would have been proud to have written. Accused of spying on the Russians, Slavomir is brutually tortured and beaten before being given a farcical trail that ends up with him being given the sentence of 25 years in a Siberian forced labour camp, on the basis of no evidence and a forged confession. It is here that the action begins to kick in to a more gung-ho spirit. Loaded into freezing cold railway cars and then slowly "chugged" across Russia, almost four thousand miles, to what was thought to be the prison. More agony is piled onto the men as they are chained together and frog marched hundreds of miles through bitter winds and biting snow blizzards until many weeks and many deaths later, prisoners and guards alike, the men finally arrive at their destination. It is a tribute to the writer that while writing of his tribulations he never once seems to feel bitter outrage or acrimony against his Siberian jailers, rather he feels an apathy for them as it seems to be indicated that even the guards here are victims of some small fault against the Russian mother state. Once the prison camp is reached, fans of great escape stories will become gripped as allegiances are formed and slowly an escape plan is hatched. To write too much would be to give too much away, but surfice to say that the team of seven men escape with some help from a very unexpected source and the escape is well and truly underway. From the freezing savage Siberian snow plains to the complete opposite but perhaps more unbearable searing heat of the Gobi, with only a couple of sticks and a tin mug between them, the story will simultaneously make you cry, laugh and occasionally feel proud to be human as the better sides of a man's personality and being are brought to light in a truly touching way. The end of the book comes all too soon, and one feels saddened that we do not learn more of our heros, but perhaps the story needs to finish there as perhaps to learn too much of what happened later might take some of the power from the story; and although part of me would like to know for certain the eventual fate of our intrepid adventurers, I feel they are given a more mythical stature by only existing up to the point of thier journeys completion. Forget trashy, clever, oh so chic summer novels about marketing executives trying to find their Mister Right whilst obsessing about everything they possibly can and lose yourself in a good old fashioned ripping yarn that deserves to go down as one of the greatest stories ever told.