6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Too contrived and too cynical, but an interesting scenario,
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.