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The Last Frontier

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,884 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
An undercover mission beyond the Iron Curtain to recover a defected scientist goes disastrously wrong – a classic early Cold War thriller from the acclaimed master of action and suspense. Now reissued in a new cover style.

Michael Reynolds was going insane … slowly but inevitably insane. And the most terrible part of it was that he knew it. Since the last forced injection,
Paperback, 253 pages
Published 1984 by Fontana (first published 1959)
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréSmiley's People by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Quiet American by Graham Greene
Best Cold War Spy Books
15th out of 31 books — 26 voters
The Star by Michele BrezaBurn Notice by Nate HawkStolen Memories by Darrell StandingHowl's Moving Castle Film Comic, Vol. 2 by Hayao MiyazakiLove so Life, Vol. 15 by Kaede Kouchi
to read in 2015
39th out of 103 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,735)
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Stuart Aken
Feb 19, 2014 Stuart Aken rated it liked it
What can you say about Alistair MacLean? He's a great storyteller, but not such a good writer? Does that chime with you? I enjoy his books but sometimes find the narrative irritating and repetitive. He handles action very well and understands pace. Characterisation, which is the element of fiction I most enjoy, is thin almost to the point of stereotype.
In this tale of a Cold War spy sent on an impossible mission (of course), his protagonist is put through the mincer in so many ways. He survives
Jul 11, 2014 Sandy rated it it was amazing
"The Secret Ways" was a very significant work for Scottish author Alistair MacLean. His fourth novel out of an eventual 29, it was his first to feature a Cold War, espionage-type story, after three successive novels dealing with WW 2 adventure (1955's "H.M.S. Ulysses," 1957's "The Guns of Navarone" and that same year's "South by Java Head"). It was also the first MacLean novel to be given the big-screen treatment; the film version, released in April 1961 and starring Richard Widmark (miscast, I ...more
Oct 18, 2010 Jonah rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Thomas Strömquist
Alistair MacLean is probably the author that started me reading books in the first place! I do re-read some favourites from time to time (and some that I have forgotten that they maybe weren't really worth another go...) and some of them, in particular the earliest ones, do have something that makes them worth the few hours it takes. "The Last Frontier", or "Secret ways" in the US, is one of them. A relentless and brutal thriller set in cold-war Hungary.
Jonathan Kirby
Dec 02, 2015 Jonathan Kirby rated it it was amazing
Amazing thriller. Fabulous reading. I remember when I got this book in a small lending library in a city now awash with floods. I remember the day I read this book, we had something special for lunch - it was spicy beef roast I think. Anyway, it was a memorable day - and even after so many decades, it was an unforgettable read.

No one writes thrillers the way Maclean does. He has a great portfolio of excellent thrillers. His writing style is brilliant and the way he handles suspense no one can b
Read a bunch of Alistair MacLean about 40 years ago, and recently decided to reread a few of them just for fun. Obviously, some of held up better than others, and The Secret Ways isn't one of the best -- but considering it was written over half a century ago, it's still a pretty good Cold War story which still keeps you turning the pages. And let's be honest -- MacLean's books have certainly held up better than any of the James Bond novels, which are laughably outdated (if anyone actually still ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It's a classic tale about a spy tasked to convince a prominent scientist to defect to the West and assist with scientific advancement in the interest of peace. Filled with the shocking plot twists that one comes to expect of Maclean, this book really kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. My only complaint is that this crack spy who is sent on this message seems a bit too inept for his reputation from time to time; the plot twists seemed to depend on this a bit too much at ...more
Ralph Blackburn
Apr 27, 2016 Ralph Blackburn rated it it was ok
Well, not really finished, just done with it. I've read Maclean's books years ago and remember them as breezy spy adventures, and this one started off as such, but then became a political discussion of Russia, Hungary, and Europe in general. Interesting to a point and then relentlessly boring. I guess I'll be more careful next time which one I choose.
Daniel Reid
Oct 06, 2014 Daniel Reid rated it liked it
Exciting at times, but mostly formulaic and predictable. The philosophical discussions are hackneyed and lacking depth. The characters also lack depth, caricatured to the point where it feels like they were taken from a comic book.

Overall, not a terrible read. It's entertaining if you're willing to look past its flaws.
Robert Grant
Nov 28, 2012 Robert Grant rated it it was ok
Used to read Maclean's books when I was a teenager. Have not read any since so it has been awhile.

This one is okay-the dialogue which at the time it was originally published was probably okay is now highly dated. The novel plot repeatedly gets bogged down in philosophical discussions that really take away from the progression of the plot. It does a good job of keeping the Cold War feel that was the basis for many, many novels from that era. Did not like the main character too much and the other
Patrick SG
Nov 16, 2012 Patrick SG rated it liked it
I thought I had read all of his books as a teen but came across this as an ebook title in our library. I often thought about whether anyone read any MacLean these days, as he was very popular in the 60s and 70s. Several of his books were made into big movies back then. This was the first of his books I had read in 40 years. I wonder now if I would enjoy re-reading him having just finished this one. The book has plenty of action, but it's interspersed with pages and pages of philosophizing and po ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Viktor rated it really liked it
My first AM novel. Fun! Kind of like the bastard child of Len Deighton and Doc Savage.

This protagonist makes so many stupid decisions -- by his own admission -- that I started to wonder how smart he was.

But I still enjoyed the hell of out it.

The first third of the book is 6*.
Feb 04, 2015 Anuja rated it liked it
A decent read.
Thought provoking, beautiful in its cold , calculated ruthlessness, this book creates some brilliant juxtapositions, but fails to build on them. The heroic, unreal action sequences are a dampner.
Sep 01, 2014 Dhruva rated it it was amazing
Better then James Bond and Jason Bourne put together, atleast this story makes sense with human emotions and last minute fallacies (that are bound to happen but are glossed over in other spy novels.
Jan 01, 2015 Bill rated it liked it
Shelves: spy, adventure, thriller
This wasn't my favourite Alistair MacLean thriller. In this one, we find British agent, Reynolds, sneaking into Hungary during the Cold War, with the aim of bringing out British scientist, Jennings. Reynolds gets into trouble almost immediately but with the help of Hungarian underground, Janszi, the Major and their team, he continues with his mission. Reynolds continues to get into predicaments, but with the help of his new friends must try and get Jennings. There is a fair bit of action, but al ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Madhu rated it really liked it
There is a reason why this books earns a place in all time favorites' shelf. The story is a compact page turning classic and I still cry over some parts of the book. The book centers around a rescue attempt of a scientist who has probably been tortured which a lone British agent has to undertake. Based in 1950's in Austria-Hungary. Its a great tale which tries to make one side understand the other. One of the most wonderful parts is when Jansci gives this talk about Russians. I still love the na ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Suzannah rated it it was ok
Alistair Maclean does action thrillers moderately well, and deep philosophy really badly *yawn*.
Feb 17, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Alistair MacLean. The right mix of action, thought, and character development (with some unforgettable characters). Even the romantic subplot is handled far better than in most of his books. If the few pages about Communism bore you, skip them and enjoy the rest of the story. See my full review on my website:
Utsav Patel
Oct 27, 2012 Utsav Patel rated it liked it
terrific starting of book.....I thought it will be a heart gripplling book throughout......but interest fades as the story goes on....but good manipulating of thrill and plot throughout .... I found the ending a bit emotional and surprizing.....and in some manner silly......but its a good book however
Srikanth Manda
Aug 02, 2007 Srikanth Manda rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
The first spy thriller book I read. Though a thriller, the book is also touching. I especially liked the character of Jhansci with all his wisdom, fortitude and patience. The pace is great and the escape sequence is superb.
A great book.
Dave Wylie
Feb 14, 2012 Dave Wylie rated it it was amazing
As expect with Maclean, couldn't put the book down. Great story line. No dull moments. Political sections tended to drag on. Some areas I skipped 3 pages of communism talk and lost nothing from the story.
Neil Davies
Feb 14, 2013 Neil Davies rated it really liked it
The first spy thriller I've read by Alistair Maclean and I really enjoyed it. Here's another author I can get going on. The list grows :)
Fredrick Danysh
Jun 16, 2013 Fredrick Danysh rated it liked it
When a prominent scientist defects to the Soviet Union with a precious secret, Michael Reynolds is tasked with bringing him back.
Jul 25, 2012 Prajna rated it liked it
Reading Alister Maclean for the first time.. Its a good read for beginners...Has all the twists and turns a novel should have...
Feb 22, 2012 Rohit rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure
Book is good but Alister could have worked better !
We will get waves of interest and boredom while reading .
Dec 18, 2011 Nimesh rated it liked it
Its an average effort at espionage from such a supposed master. The end leaves you kind of unsatisfied.
Aug 23, 2012 shwetha rated it it was amazing
just another maclean masterpice! a must read for russian history or torture centre fanatics!
Douglas Wilson
Jun 07, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
If this is the same book that was also titled The Secret Ways, it was good.
Jul 22, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Another fantastic fast paced book by MacLean that cannot fail to move and thrill you.
Dec 24, 2008 Peter rated it liked it
Shelves: alistair-maclean
Fast moving, the author let Michael Reynolds do the talking. Great fast action.
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Alistair Stuart MacLean (Scottish Gaelic: Alasdair MacGill-Eain), the son of a Scots Minister, was brought up in the Scottish Highlands. In 1941, at the age of eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy; two and a half years spent aboard a cruiser were to give him the background for HMS Ulysses, his first novel, the outstanding documentary novel on the war at sea. After the war he gained an English Honour ...more
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“The point I make is simply that cruelty and hate and intolerance are the monopoly of no particular race or creed or time. They have been with us since the world began and are still with us, in every country in the world.” 9 likes
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