Anthony Eaton's Reviews > Archangel

Archangel by Robert Dennis Harris
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Jul 05, 11

Read in July, 2011

I'm a long time Fan of Robert Harris' work, and he's never more at his best than when he's pulling at and unravelling the threads of history. His book 'Fatherland' is a classic of alternative history, and in Archangel he has similarly imposed the past like a palimpsest upon the present.

In some ways, it would be possible to read Archangel as a companion piece to 'Fatherland' - Where Fatherland dived into the shadow of Hitler's legacy, in 'Archangel' we're taken into the dark places of Stalin's reign of terror in the Soviet Union.

Though perhaps the 'Companion Pieces' analogy is a little too obvious - in many ways, Archangel diverges significantly. While there's still an element of 'alternative future' to this book (And I have to be careful here not to give too much away), it's fair to say that 'Archangel' is far more firmly rooted in contemporary reality than 'Fatherland'. Harris' use of history - its forces and interplay with the present - is far more restrained in this book, but the novel itself is, in many ways, more powerful as a result.

Particularly compelling in 'Archangel' is Harris' portrait of contemporary Moscow - while the book is redolent with an almost Noir-like sense of corruption and decay, Harris also manages to capture the power and impetus of the city, almost as a metaphor for the historical tensions which drive the narrative forward.

If I have a single criticism it's that I found the ending - for reasons I've not yet been able to pin down properly - rather sudden and unsatisfactory, almost as though Harris got to the point where he'd just simply had enough, and wrapped it up as fast as possible.

Overall, though, a compelling read. If you're a student of history, fiction, narrative form, or just like a damn good suspenseful read, then Archangel is definately worth a look.
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