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the Complete Review
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Robert Harris

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To purchase Archangel

Title: Archangel
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 373 pages
Availability: Archangel - US
Archangel - UK
Archangel - Canada
Archangel - India
Archange - France
Aurora - Deutschland
Archangel - Italia
El fill de Stalin - España

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Our Assessment:

B+ : an entertaining and well-written thriller.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe B+ 16/2/1999 Clea Simon
Daily Telegraph B 28/9/1998 Michael Hartland
National Review A 22/2/1999 Anthony Lejeune
New Statesman B 16/10/1998 Kate Saunders
The NY Times A- 21/1/1999 C. Lehmann-Haupt
The NY Times Book Rev. B+ 14/2/1999 Michael Specter
Publishers Weekly A- 30/11/1998 .
The Sunday Times A 27/9/1998 Peter Kemp
The Times . 24/9/1998 Peter Millar
TLS . 25/9/1998 Richard Overy

  From the Reviews:
  • "Rest assured, we have here an exceptionally well written, skillfully crafted, continuously gripping thriller. "Unputdownable," as publishers used to claim." - Anthony Lejeune, National Review

  • "Archangel has a hole or two, and should not be held up to the light too rigorously, but it is a thriller that thrills." - Kate Saunders, New Statesman

  • "Archangel does not have the edge of Enigma - but it is still intense, well researched and very readable." - Michael Hartland, Daily Telegraph

  • "(Harris) achieves his best yet: a fast-paced thriller, pulsing with suspense, that surpasses even the expertly handled tensions and twists of Fatherland." - Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

  • "The story line reads like, well, a cheap thriller, though one that moves with the speed of a freight train." - Michael Specter, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Robert Harris' first great success came with his novel, Fatherland, in which he suggested an alternate history in which Hitler had won the war (similar to P.K.Dick's The Man in the High Castle or Otto Basil's The Twilight Men, among many such novels). Harris took the great historical jump and carried it off quite well. In Archangel he offers another tantalizing possibility of rewriting history, though the jump he makes is not quite as great.
       Set in post-Soviet Russia Harris posits the existence of a secret notebook that once belonged to Stalin and sends his main character, Dr. C.R.A. "Fluke" Kelso, a professor visiting Moscow, after the mysterious papers. Secreted by Beria after Stalin's death, no one seems to know of its existence. As the conference in Moscow comes to an end the bodyguard who helped Beria hide it comes to Kelso and then the high speed chases after the notebook begins.
       The secret of the notebook is not a bad one, and Harris writes a breezy thriller in which the excitement does not sag. The fact that many of the incidents, as well as the behaviour of the characters (notably the very talkative Kelso, who seems to tell everyone he bumps into about the notebook) is implausible is disappointing (and ultimately what mars the book irredeemably), but it is a decent film-plot narrative. Indeed, it will certainly make a good movie, and, like many Crichton books, it reads more like a movie script than a novel. Harris is, however, a very able writer, and little of the book is clumsy or awkward (beyond the plot).
       The denouement was a bit too far-fetched for our liking, but Harris makes a strong case for taking the phenomenon of Stalin more seriously. The sledgehammer-approach he falls back on is disappointing, and the ending was too cartoonish for our taste, but it is a perfectly reasonable post Cold War thriller.

       It is not a great book, but it is solid and entertaining, and can be recommended as a book for the long plane ride or the beach.

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Archangel: Reviews: Robert Harris: Other books by Robert Harris under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Robert Harris, born in 1957, achieved international success with his first novel, Fatherland. He has been a correspondent for the BBC, and a columnist for the Sunday Times.

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