Instantly as visceral as her more popular later work, Rand's first novel set in early 20th-century communist Russia can really stir you up -- that is, if you support her views on individualism and passion for life, which I do. Like her other novels, the characters are boldly drawn archetypes, strong and obvious, minus extraneous detail that could be distracting from the philosophical ideal overlaying the plot. While Rand experienced first-hand much of the life in Russia she portrays in We the Living, Rand smartly understood that often fantasy can be more effective than reality. Hence we have incredible co-incidences, master manipulators, tragic love triangles (c'mon, what girl doesn't dream of being loved by two dynamic men?), valiant death scenes, all these sort of super-life scenarios not totally believable, but intended to entrall the reader, likely just as Rand was enthralled by writing it. Where her human characters lack in detail, the city of St. Petersburg, also a sort of sub-character in the book, is rendered with excessive descriptive minutia -- this is where the book gets a bit sleepy. You can tell rand had a real fondness for "old Russia" in the sensitive way she paints a portrait of the city woven into the lives of her characters. As a young, idealistic writer, Rand tackled with gusto multiple genres in one book (a teaser for things to come, e.g. Atlas Shrugged), thus We the Living is part love story, part action-adventure, part political intrigue, and to her credit, it totally works. There are certainly some rough spots, but overall, a respectable effort and a damn good read.