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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plan D
There is something irresistible about 'what if' historical thrillers, and World War Two has provided fertile ground for the likes of Robert Harris and, more recently CJ Sansom with the excellent Dominion. If you enjoyed either of these books then Simon Urban's debut Plan D, set in a modern day East Germany where the Berlin Wall never fell, will be a must.

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Published 13 months ago by Eva Dolan

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barely managed to finish
The book has an interesting premise, what if the Berlin Wall had not come down? But there it kind of ends. The writing is sloppy and longwinded, ok, maybe this might be better in the original German. But the plot is also very muddled and I found myself losing interest as the book drew on, even if I almost managed to finish it. In the end I skipped the last 30 pages -...
Published 11 months ago by Egill Oskar Helgason


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barely managed to finish, 5 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Plan D (Hardcover)
The book has an interesting premise, what if the Berlin Wall had not come down? But there it kind of ends. The writing is sloppy and longwinded, ok, maybe this might be better in the original German. But the plot is also very muddled and I found myself losing interest as the book drew on, even if I almost managed to finish it. In the end I skipped the last 30 pages - because I really didn't care anymore. A good virtual history novel could be written along these lines, with communism still in its place, but this one does not fulfill that task.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plan D, 27 Jun 2013
This review is from: Plan D (Hardcover)
There is something irresistible about 'what if' historical thrillers, and World War Two has provided fertile ground for the likes of Robert Harris and, more recently CJ Sansom with the excellent Dominion. If you enjoyed either of these books then Simon Urban's debut Plan D, set in a modern day East Germany where the Berlin Wall never fell, will be a must.

An elderly man is found hanging from a major East German-Russian pipeline in a secure sector. Suicide is swiftly ruled out by the presence of the eights knots around his neck and the shoelaces tied together; these are the hallmarks of a Stasi execution, one reserved for the worst kind of traitors. But the Stasi was overhauled years earlier and such behaviour is no longer in their make-up. Officially at least. Inspector Martin Wegener knows he isn't really expected to find the killer. In the People's Police Force crimes are rarely solved, only passed up the chain until they disappear into an anonymous filing cabinet, and this one seems more politically sensitive than usual, bound for bureaucratic snarl-up.

As it turns out the case is actually too politicised for a quiet cover-up. A major gas deal is in the offing, one with wide reaching ramifications for the GDR and her position within Europe and they must be seen to be making every effort, prove that the dark days are behind them. The drafting in of suave, West German detective Richard Brendel, only highlights the potential diplomatic tensions around the case, and it is a predictably bumpy ride for Weneger, who can't help but measure himself against the man. It doesn't help that he has the voice of his ex - read dead - partner Fruchtl offering frequent commentary on life, politics and women. Mostly Wegener's ex - read moved on to better things - girlfriend Karolina, whose high flying and possibly rather sleazy job at the Energy Ministry throws some complications into the case, personally and professionally.

The initial murder is only a small part of Plan D. It is, of course, well handled, satisfying the needs of the genre but, being an alternative history thriller, the real pleasure for the reader comes from Urban's flawless construction of an East Berlin which never existed, with all of its social intricacies and political machinations, grinding Communist-era economical constraints slamming against external pressures. Urban has created a densely realised world, hugely atmospheric, grim and grinding, a city dominated by crumbling relics, but with hidden oases of decadence for the wealthy few. Wegener is the city personified, crumbling himself but persisting as people with more power conspire around him, laying one betrayal over another. He isn't instantly attractive, he's far too noirish for that, but he's an intriguingly flawed protagonist, one you're more than happy to sped five hundred pages with.

Plan D is a highly accomplished debut, ambitious, complex and written with great flair. If you're looking for a summer read which will suck you in and hold fast, this the one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All comparisons to Fatherland are off the mark, way off, 5 Aug 2013
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O (lake oswego, oregon United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Plan D (Hardcover)
The idea behind the story was a good one, but the delivery ended up being very slow and tortured. The majority of the book deals with the voices in the detectives head, his relationship with his ex and his vanished mentor. Very little mystery to the actual murder(s), since people just come out of nowhere to confess to them. I read most books of this genre in two days. This one, even though for 10 days of it I was on a beach vacation, took over a month. I feel that I put the book and myself out of our mutual misery by finally finishing it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great plot but frustratingly clunky and repetitive prose, 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Plan D (Kindle Edition)
Having thoroughly enjoyed Fatherland and the slightly less enthralling but equally intelligent Dominion, Plan D sounded perfect.

The plot is excellent, full of unexpected turns and clever ploys; the GDR of 2011 is feasible and carefully recreated.

Unfortunately this book is let down by the constantly frustrating heavy description. Perhaps it's the translator's fault. Wegener is highly convincing as a character, but the incessant complicated thought streams get in the way of the plot. Descriptions of everything, including paragraphs, nay pages, describing a car's windscreen wipers really do spoil enjoyment of the novel. Often I was scanning through these long meaningless passages to get to something interesting. Overall, a novel with great potential but ultimately a disappointment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plan D, 10 Aug 2013
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Disappointing overall, what at first sight appears a good plotline is perhaps weakened by the over convoluted and disjointed narrative throughout.

You are left with the impression that the author is just trying too hard.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, the right environment but ultimately boring, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Plan D (Hardcover)
Simon Urban has come up with a great idea. What if the DDR was still around? Into that environment he then places a crime/thriller story. It is a great idea and I had great hopes for this book. Having been to the DDR and several times in Berlin it was very easy to recognize the city and the unique DDR state. Simon Urban has done a great job there.

Unfortunately having made us fully aware of the boring, dull, gray and tragic state of DDR we are then forced to relive the same description for 500 pages when the first 50 would have set the scene. These long winded description of what is ultimately a very boring subject drags the tempo of the story down a lot and introduces a feeling of boredom.

There is a murder case that an East German police officer has to solve. Simon Urban manages to produce a very convincing elderly police officer in the DDR. Unfortunately he is not only old, depressed, cynical and tired, he is also suffering from what can only be described as some sort of mental blocks that keeps him fantasizing about his former girl friend and having long and tiresome conversations with a non present former police partner inside his head. These dialogues and these fantasies takes up a very large part of the book. Take them away (since they do not add anything to the story) and you could easily have reduced the book to 300 pages.

There are twists and turns that are interesting but they sometimes take place in four lines of text in a long chapter that is all about the main characters inner monologues.

The Basic story line and the description of DDR are well done and would by itself have made a much more readable and better book. Unfortunately Mr Urban wanted much more and those long winded sidelines takes up far to much space and makes the book boring.

If you never had a chance to visit the DDR or would like to now how it was maybe this book is worth your reading effort but it is a long road to travel.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious first? novel, 17 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Plan D (Kindle Edition)
Well written and ambitious (also very adult!) novel. "Stream of consciousness" aspect perhaps not completely successful.
Not quite what you will be expecting if just looking for a detective novel in an unusual (and imaginary) setting. Will be interesting to see what he writes next as sequel seems unlikely?
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Plan D
Plan D by Simon Urban (Hardcover - 20 Jun 2013)
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