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3.9 out of 5 stars
37
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 14 September 2017
This is the story of Szara, a Polish Jew, who works as a journalist and spy for the Russians in the years leading up to the Second World War. As one might expect, there is a complex plot with some interesting twists and some fascinating personalities. There is also a massive amount of history and it's obvious that Alan Furst has taken his subject seriously and done plenty of research into the origins of the Russian Revolution and the bizarre love-hate relationship between Hitler and Stalin in the 1930s. If I were to pick out a single part of the book for praise, it is the way Alan Furst describes the German invasion of Poland in 1939, beautifully dramatised with immaculate attention to detail.

If one is to be critical, one has to say that the middle third of the book sacrifices pace for historical exposition. The dialogue is unnatural and used to download information rather than to develop character. In places I felt I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. But the historical content is so interesting that many readers won't mind this at all - I have a friend who has read this book four times and plans to read it again, so plainly the historical content is no obstacle for him.

The quality of the writing in Dark Star is superb, particularly in the early part of the book and in the final section. Furst takes us into a world of intrigue and authenticates it with astonishing attention to period detail. This book is a great read, and in places a great novel.
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on 8 June 2017
Excellent service and book as advertised
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on 26 August 2017
Bought as a gift. Recipient very pleasef.
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on 23 July 1999
Furst is a revelation. He writes leagues ahead of Le Carre, Deighton et al. Furst combines the eloquent first person observations of Deighton's Bernard Sampson and the unrelenting intelligence of Le Carre's George Smiley.
Dark Star is set in pre-war Paris, a Soviet journalist (Andre Szara) fights to stay alive caught between the approaching menace of Nazi Germany and the ruthless savagery of the NKVD. The oppressive atmosphere of uncertainty can almost be felt like a breath of fetid air as you open the book and remains convincing throughout as Furst resists applying the wisdom of hindsight - Szara knows war will happen, but when? It seems certain that Hitler must fight, but who as alliances are shifting and often meaningless?
Szara's efforts to cling to a life (any life) are further complicated as he is used by warring factions in the NKVD who view Szara's inevitable death as an acceptable write off. Szara's friend consoles him with "In [any] work there is competition, alliance, betrayal. Unhappily when an intelligence apparat plays these games, they are equipped with very sharp tools ....... and the level of play can be frightful. A journalist .... will simply be eaten alive."
A man driven by love, anger and desire, trying to survive in a world between competing ideologies that have a savage and feral momentum.
"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you" (Leon Trotsky) best seems to summarise Szara's quiet terror and the reader's compulsion to read on.
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on 24 May 2006
There is something true in saying that all of Furst books are similar, but then again they serve their purpose (high quality entertainment, not literary masterpiece) so well that one does not really mind. In this type of literature, as in Le Carré, one prefers sustained quality rather than novelty. However Dark Star and Night Soldiers differ from the others in that they have some very itneresting historical comments to make. There are two pages in Dark Star where the author goes through the purging of jews from the soviet communist party that are very interesting; how the party went from having a huge jewish presence ("We were in the paradise businnes" as General Bloch, s beautifully penned character, says) to almost none after Stalin took control of things. It is in inserting considerations of these kind (certainly not original) that makes Furst's first books so interesting.
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on 21 March 2002
The woeful tale of Szara, the Polish/Russian journalist, trapped in the intrigues of the intelligence services of Europe prior to WWII is gripping. We feel an imediate empathy with the character as he tries to make sense of the nonsensical, dodging the bullets as he goes.
There is a marvellous Flashman-esque element to this story, wherein the author lands his main character into the most improbable, historically important events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and Russia. How he remains alive is of as much a mystery to him as to us, as he is hunted by the world's most devious men. Yet, there is a thin thread of possibility that it may have been possible for him to do so.
It is this thread that pulls us as readers from one unlikely scenario to another as he cheats death time and again. And before you know it you have been convinced that the parallel lives of Stalin and Hitler were inevitable through fate.
I recommend this book to all who enjoy the suspension of reality, with a tinge of historical activity to spice it all up.
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on 31 August 2007
My first 'Alan Furst' and there will be more. Really enjoyed this novel. With complex characters, interesting plot and ambitious but fairly convincing insights into the history of the 1930s, it is difficult to fault. But I have some reservations - the ending/denouement felt a bit rushed and contrived - all a bit too 'happily ever after' considering the darkness of the subject matter.
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on 26 March 2013
Alan Furst always intrigues with his multi layed plots.
The 1938 background is the outline for the outbreak of world war 2
The subtle character images are gripping
If you like spy stories this is a must.
But russian spies will always be a mystery.That is why we buy them
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on 28 December 2016
Bought this for my dad for his birthday, as he'd run out of books to read. He likes John Le Carre, Robert Harris etc and from here (using Goodreads) Alan Furst was suggested to me as an author he might also like. This book in particular seemed to be one of his more popular ones. However, my dad reported that the book was too confusing to enjoy. It required a lot of back knowledge of historical events - in this case, Stalin purges from within the Belshevik party and other movements that you'd have to be quite a history buff to know - not just the general outline of the Bolshekvik revolution, WW2 and Stalin's rise to power. My dad is pretty knowledgeable on these things and researched a little on the events being mentioned. However as a novel to pick up and read, he said it's not in the same vein as John Le Care.
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on 5 August 2013
A brilliantly written book which engagingly captures the spirit and emotions of the pre-war years .A superbly entertaining novel which I would unhesitatingly recommend.
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