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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative uncertainty
Furst is a wonderful novelist within the espionage genre, different in approach to any others I have come across. You could say the plot is labyrinthine except that it could be argued the book is virtually plotless, written from the point of view of the protagonists who, of course, don't know much about what's going on. It's not the case of the writer developing an...
Published on 4 Jan 2010 by Martin White

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not the great spy novel it was heralded as...
I bought Night Soldiers by Alan Furst because I was looing for a good spy novel and this was up there in various charts and top tens of the best spy novels of all time, along with Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton and John le Carré. I have to say that I was hugely disappointed. On the plus side, it does have some interesting observations about Soviet spy...
Published 16 months ago by R. M. Goddard


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative uncertainty, 4 Jan 2010
By 
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
Furst is a wonderful novelist within the espionage genre, different in approach to any others I have come across. You could say the plot is labyrinthine except that it could be argued the book is virtually plotless, written from the point of view of the protagonists who, of course, don't know much about what's going on. It's not the case of the writer developing an elaborate scenario which is sorted out one way or another towards the end - there usually is no such resolution in Furst's books; it is more like a painter dabbing tentatively at the canvas, occasionally doing something figurative and then disappearing into the abstract. A person sits in a cafe, catches the eye of someone else, is worried that he is being watched; this fleeting episode is never mentioned again and the reader, any more than the character, doesn't know at the end of the book whether it has been relevant to subsequent events. Uncertainty is not just the experience of the characters but the organising principle of the writing. To this is added a profoundly evocative treatment of pre-war and wartime Europe bolstered by reference to actual events and people and their refraction through the experience of individual characters.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not the great spy novel it was heralded as..., 15 Aug 2013
By 
R. M. Goddard "HUD1215" (Nottingham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
I bought Night Soldiers by Alan Furst because I was looing for a good spy novel and this was up there in various charts and top tens of the best spy novels of all time, along with Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton and John le Carré. I have to say that I was hugely disappointed. On the plus side, it does have some interesting observations about Soviet spy craft and the historical setting is, of course, fascinating and very dark and threatening (hence the two stars). However, the novel is too long and very badly written. For example, in the few action sequences it is very difficult to understand what is actually happening because of the naive and artless writing style. Key elements are missed out and so the slower reader (like myself presumably) is left having to go back and re-read sections trying to figure out who had done what to whom. Further the story is told in a most laconic, one might say annoying, style where for many pages nothing at all happens, occasionally punctuated by clearly important - but difficult to discern - meetings in dark alleys between people the reader often fails to recognise. This is brought to bear particularly in the way the author introduces a new character and gives several pages of their back story - the German fighter bomber pilot in Madrid is a good example - and then immediately kills them off. This happens all the time as detailed characters come and go through the life of the hero (Khristo Stoniev), but who serve no long-term function in the story - the American Robert Eidenbaugh (alias Lucien) is a prime example - and just disappear with no explanation. Furthermore, there are huge, and probably highly unrealistic, coincidences in the book where the hero luckily, and by accident, meets someone useful or when an almost invisible clue is left to attract his attention - as with the name of the partly sunken barge on the Danube, one of the biggest rivers in the world at night. These do not help an already weak story. Thus the novel is more Khristo Stoniev's life story in the twisted world of intelligence. It does not seem to possess (or if it did I missed it) a connected, espionage-based plot in the style of Len Deighton or John le Carré. There is, towards the end, some attempt at a plot involving the appropriation of Soviet intelligence by the Americans (I'm not giving anything away here), but this opportunity is, because of its lack of detail or conviction it wholly fails. The whole story could have been about this and it would have been much more interesting. There are many missed opportunities. The Belov 1935 group is a great plot idea but again this evaporates into dust rather than becoming a central plank of the book. Finally, the ending is hugely anticlimactic. No plots are revealed, no explanation as to who did what to whom or why, nor why Khristo's life went in the direction it did. Thus, if you like long life stories that take place in the 30s and 40s then this might be your cup of tea. If however you like well-written espionage novels with plots, twists and turns then I recommend you look elsewhere.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and riveting, 27 Dec 2007
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
Nobody does 30s and 40s gloom and grime quite like Alan Furst. The period detail is wonderful. My only regret is that so many linguistic howlers have slipped through; I can't speak for the Bulgarian or Romanian extracts, but I would not have expected an author with AF's background to make so many mistakes in French and Spanish.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere of fear, 8 Oct 2004
By 
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
No one manages to get period detail down quite like Furst. His sense of color, ambience, time and place are simply exquisite. And, he's a master of the well told tale. Highly recommended. If you're looking for another good spy yarn, try Assassin by newcomer Ted Bell.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb and chilling thriller, 22 Oct 2001
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
Furst is a master story-teller and he has an excellent ability to convey time, place and the political realities of the period.. wrong to say that Furst gets his history wrong about the POUM-- Furst makes at least two references its Trostkyist direction.
And even if inaccuracies do creep in, the overall impression is gripping. I have read four of his novels in the last two months, I just can't get enough.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and exciting, 7 Aug 2009
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
This was my first Alan Furst book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I often found myself pausing for breath - it truly is incredible and inspiring to imagine what life was like for many in the run up to and during the Second World War.

It's hugely ambitious - it covers a wide landscape and time period - but never loses its way. I know that some people have complained about a few histocial inaccuracies, but unless you are seriously well informed, I promise you it will not spoil your enjoyment of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, 16 Jan 2014
By 
Carroty Nell "Nell" (Alaska, USA (summer) Manchester, England (winter)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
I didn't pick this book because I am into spy thrillers, but rather because I'm interested in both the history of Eastern Europe and World War II, and in that respect Night Soldiers did not disappoint. A sweeping account of the pre-war and war years seen through the eyes of a rebel Bulgarian, Khristo.

As a novel, however, I found it unsatisfactory in a number of ways. The pacing is very slow for a thriller, and the book is overlong. The principal character, Khristo, has seen his brother murdered, his belief in Communism shattered, and is in fear of his life from the Soviet secret service. And yet, really, he is quite a bland character. The author does not get inside this man's head to the extent that he could have done and make us really care about him and what happens to him. Minor characters are not well used - appearing long enough to make the reader interested in them, then disappearing again without explanation.

There is no real central plot; the book is really a chronicle of Khristo's life during these formative years, and that doesn't a page-turner make. I found the dialogue dull and uninspired - although that may be because the writer was trying to convey the impression that the characters are not speaking in English and avoided idiomatic English in dialogue for that reason.

On the plus side, I did like the narrative style. The author's diction is concise, never clunky, and with many a quirky and memorable turn of phrase.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars atmospheric story telling at it's best, 27 July 2010
By 
A. Browne "avid reader" (Donegal Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
I understand this was one of the early Alan Furst novels and I loved it. Spanish civil war Pre war Eastern Europe and a principal character of Khristi Stoianev who endures through some of the worst of times. A great book which one could visualise as one read it. A sort of smoky misty pre war where the bright young things dance and play as Europe runs headlong towards destruction .If the Chinese curse is to live in interesting times Khristo Stoianev does just that and introduces us to a fabulous cast of supporting characters. It has renewed my faith in Alan Furst maybe I should read more of the early books.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read from a master storyteller., 18 May 2001
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This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
The first and, in my opinion, possibly best of Furst's novels. The author encapsulates the oppressive atmosphere of mainland Europe in the 1930s and the brutality and evil of facism and communism vividly. The story of the "hero"s fight for survival from these twin ogres is totally engrossing. Will appeal to anyone who enjoys well written thrillers and has an interest in the history of this period.
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4.0 out of 5 stars full of intrigue, adventure, friendship and dark encounters, 2 Nov 2014
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Night Soldiers (Paperback)
Night Soldiers is the first in Alan Furst’s series of espionage novels that take place in 1930s and 40s Europe. It’s an ambitious book charting the adventures of Khristo Stoianev between 1934 through to 1945, starting with the death of his younger brother, killed by Bulgarian fascists, and his recruitment by a Russian agent. The story then switches to his training by the NKVD in Moscow, followed by a posting in Spain, then flight to pre-war Paris, followed by his war years. Criss-crossing Europe and playing games with soldiers, spies, and others, Khristo lives a life full of incident whilst trying to stay in the shadows. Furst is an excellent storyteller and the narrative is expressive and engaging throughout, and full of historical detail. The characterisation is well realised, with some very nice interactions and points of departure and reconnection across the story. The first half of the tale, up to Khristo’s time in Paris is excellent, being tight in focus and absorbing. The second half, however, is much less convincing, with the storyline becoming stretched and thin in places and the denouement fanciful. The story in the end became too expansive and reliant on unlikely threads and connections. Nonetheless, Night Soldiers is a very good read, full of intrigue, adventure, friendship and dark encounters.
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