Ascalon's Reviews > The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré
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's review
Aug 08, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: espionage
Read from September 07 to 11, 2011

In all of these initial experiences within the world of espionage fiction and seeing how readers today love popular fiction, I drew a hypothesis that there can only be two kinds of a spy novel: the first kind bores you to death because the politics are realistic (if not allusive), and the second one entertained you to life because of cheap thrills, gadgets, and naked chicks.

This made Le Carre novels apparently boring to younger readers and Ian Fleming's, commercially viable to novice readers. Nothing much to blame, politics (or history) is exclusive only for the mature readers.

But now that I am an 'old' reader it's quiet different. Global politics did not bore me anymore, it was very informative and it opened my eye. The chick is never dumb though simple, still you would want to fall for. There are action scenes but they are not the center of the novel. The center of the novel is about this dark mantra--the philosophy of any espionage work. This mantra states that in the real world there is no such thing as "black and white." Always been and will always be. Grey areas will never go and nothing can change that.

The most important attribute of this novel is its unpredictability--in a very good and thrilling way. Originally published in 1963, the setting is in the 1950's revolving on the post WWII espionage and counter-espionage conflicts between the communist East Germany and the monarchic Great Britain. It was a classic spy war, an unseen showdown between the forces of Abteilung and agents of the Circus. The Berlin Wall still exists here and I like it when Le Carre started the story there, and also ended it all there. Perfectly symbolic. A good closure, a return to zero when you draw that proverbial, circular line. And you will enjoy this in a light reading pace of 223 pages.

Now I know why this book is heavily regarded as the top espionage novel of the past century and why Time Magazine inducted this thriller in its list of 100 Best Novels of the modern era.

Le Carre's credibility as a former member of Her Majesty's Secret Service--the MI6 is unquestionable and his deep insight into the complex world (or abyss?) of espionage is unfathomable. This is perhaps, his signature book but we hope for more as long as he still writes realistic and complex stories highly relevant through the ages. That makes a novel classic.

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