A spot-on depiction of dog-eat-dog capitalism in post-Soviet Russia,
This review is from: Let's Put the Future Behind Us (Paperback)
This is one of those books that I picked up on the strength of the cover, and that enticing title. So you should never judge a book by its cover but this one didn't let me down.
Max Borodin is a gangster. Formerly a communist party devotee, he has learned to be dynamic as any Russian should be in order to prosper. Working as a document forger and loan shark, his world is one of deception and danger. Max juggles his work with a demanding wife, a demanding mistress and a demanding bother, such is the lot of a Russian gangster. When his mistress' husband is killed after involving Max in a business deal gone wrong, Max must face the twin evils of a Mafia Don and a corrupt politician seeking to exterminate him.
All of this could be bland and commonplace. Womack however saves the story from this with his humour and realistic depiction of Russia in its most lawless period. Max is charismatic and brilliant as a protagonist and his battle against his enemies draws the story along a tight plot-line flanked by danger, violence and corruption as well as witty observations of post-Soviet culture.
Russia in the late 1990s was a horrendous place. Moscow was dog-eat-dog and as the dust of communism settled, capitalists fought for their share of the pie. I was not there but I have lived in the former Soviet Union and have learned a lot about this period of time. Womack appears to have got it spot on with this book, perfectly encompassing the tussles of gangsters running free in this craziness. Into the mix he drops the annoying realities of Russian apathy and bureaucracy whilst giving reference to the horrific rise of ultra-nationalism.
Womack's depiction of Russian life rings true and his satirical eye would have anybody who has lived in Eastern Europe recognising a lot of what goes on in this book. All of this is of course supplementary to an strong plot which keeps the reader guessing as to the true agenda of all those involved. These two aspects complement each other greatly.
Given that Jack Womack is s Sci-Fi author this is quite off the beaten track for him. His excursion was a worthwhile endevour however and this story is one that stays with you.