Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The transition between "The Secret Speech" and this book is just about the only logical leap in this trilogy that doesn't make sense. Leo Demidov leaves the KGB to be a factory manager, accepting a serious demotion in pay -- and earning the suspicion of the State. At the same time, though, his wife, who had at one point been suspected of being a spy, is selected to be the leader of a student delegation to the United Nations and Washington, D.C.
While there, she is shot in a New York City police precinct. Leo tries to escape the Soviet Union into Finland so that he can get to New York to investigate her death, almost makes it, and then is sent to be an "advisor" in Afghanistan. This is helpful in that it shows the evils of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but it pulls the plot in Hawthorne-ian directions to suit the author's message. Oh, and just wait until you find out who "Agent 6" is.
However, that message is powerful enough, and Smith's descriptions are vivid enough, to pull it off. By the story's end, Leo Demidov is not just a former KGB agent; instead, he is the dream that socialism and communism originally offered people. He is the notion of universal fairness and equity; he is the absence of poverty and prejudice. Just as the Soviet Union twisted and perverted that dream out of shape, turning it into a totalitarian farce, so was Leo bent -- from an idealistic agent of the state to a functionary drifting farther and farther away from the center of power, pushed away by brutality and dishonesty.
However, just as idealism remains annoyingly alive, despite the best attempts of the Stalins and the McCarthys and the politically correct and the thought police to crush it, to make it sound and look like them. That's why it is called ideal, though -- what is right remains right; it is not subject to any particular political agenda, not even to any doctrine, should that doctrine veer into the wrong.
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