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In a way, The Company is a series of rising and falling arcs. Once one arc is finished, Littell moves on and starts all over again. This can be a bit frustrating, and more than once, I found myself wishing that he had chosen one storyline and stuck with it.
As time moves on, they get old, and they have to be replaced. The biggest loss is Torriti, who disappears for most of the novel, only turning up now and then. Littell is at ease with the spycraft.
He is awkward to the point of being cringe-worthy when he attempts to flesh out the personal lives of his characters. You might ask, at this point: What about the women? Well, for the most part, women need not apply. Littell has a weird habit of introducing a potentially-interesting female character, one who is dynamic, capable, driven, and then forcing her on a short, dull journey to the middle.
In terms of writing, Littell is no Le Carre. He is not a prose stylist or deep philosophical thinker. Rather, he is a plotter. The genius of The Company is how it takes the paranoia of Angleton and allows it to infuse every page. You do not know who is who or what is what. Is this character loyal or a turncoat? Is that a defector or a dispatched agent? Every single occurrence might be a genuine event, or it might be a ploy, or it might be a genuine event that is a ploy to make you think the genuine event is not genuine.
The plot is an Escherian staircase; it expands and contracts, folds and unfolds, loops back on itself. There is a long con at play, interrupted by a series of shorter ones. At times, Littell loses the thread himself, and has to resort to the Mossad to cut the Gordian know deux ex Israeli. For the most part, though, things pay off quite satisfyingly. At the start, I mentioned the blending of history with fiction. He describes made-up events with the same authority as he does the historical elements.
In many respects, this really is an alt-history of the Cold War, with the conspiracy theory given prevalence at almost every turn. But what a novel! Strange as it sounds, the prodigious length of The Company actually helps dilute its many shortcomings. That over the course of pages, despite some terrible sex scenes, grating dialogue, and limp characters, I was always anxious to find out what happened next, even though, for the most part, because this is historical fiction, I already did.
View all 6 comments. Mar 07, Chris Holmes rated it it was amazing. And on top of that, there are a number of excellent storylines running concurrently. Jan 27, Mike rated it really liked it. This doorstopper of a novel about pages is an excellent 40 year overview of the growth of the US Intelligence structure as seen through the stories of a few men and women who started with the beginnings of the CIA after WWII and grew with the "Company" to hold positions of leadership.
The method of using factual history as the backdrop for many of the plotlines was intrinsic to keeping the interest level high while Littell flipped through the decades. One further point - after a brief break, the next book I picked up was a modern political suspense book First Patient. Anyone who enjoys the suspense and spy shelves in the library should definitely treat themselves to The Company. One of the great cold-war, spy novel epics.
Jul 12, Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. However, having read a shining review for this book in "The Economist", which is not a normally frivolous publication, I picked it up and read it from cover to cover in a few days. The book is a compulsive page-turner.
The story is rigorously researched and the period details seem to be perfectly portrayed I am a big fan of contemporary history, and did not find any significant flaws in the book. They follow our boys mostly boys in this book, no big surprise there from Berlin in to Budapest in , to Havana in , to Washington and Moscow in , to Afghanistan in , to Moscow in , with a brief coda somewhere in Virginia in The main fictional characters are three CIA agents who join at the beginning and then rise through the ranks.
An additional character who plays an important role is drunken and deadly Harvey Torriti, the Sorcerer, head of Berlin base at the beginning of the Cold War. Many historical figures drop by, some of them in a clearly ficionalised take on their lives. Old spies such as The Sorcerer, the historic James Jesus Angleton or Starik die alone, forgotten by all, or almost all.
The set pieces the Soviet invasion of Budapest in , the Bay of Pigs fiasco in or the attempted coup in Moscow in are very well put together and hugely exciting. Political leaders, both American and Soviet Eisenhower, Bobby Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Mijail Gorbachev come out particularly poorly as they misunderstand the very valuable intelligence information they receive and abandon their agents and allies whenever expedient. A recurrent motif, in fact, is how US governments have usually abandoned local allies to the wolves whenever things got nasty the Hungarians in , the anti-Castrista Cubans in , the Czechs in , the Taiwanese in , friendly Vietnamese in and friendly Cambodians in that same year.
The book is definitely a must read for any fan of conspiracy theories, as it sets out quite a few that are literally mindboggling. And the leitmotiv Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is apposite and never distracting. Does the book have any weaknesses? Operation Kholstomer, which is built up very nicely as the standard issue mortal threat to global democracy unravels too quickly. Surely there could have been an additional chapter describing how it would have worked and specifying how it was defeated?
But these are minor quibbles. How can you lose with this lineup? View all 3 comments. Doch mit ihnen wird ein russischer Maulwurf in die CIA eingeschleust und vierzig Jahre lang zu entlarven versucht Insbesondere wenn es sich dabei um so ein monumentales Werk handelt wie Die Company. Eine Zeit, in der politisch viel Interessantes geschieht und vom Autor auch exzellent recherchiert wurde. Man merkt zunehmend, dass die Ideologien von West und Ost im Grunde genommen gar nicht so verschieden sind und sich alles darauf richtet, die beste Nation der Welt mit den tugendhaftesten Absichten zu sein - um manchmal die grausamsten Taten zu rechtfertigen.
Ebenfalls positiv anzumerken ist, dass Robert Littell nicht versucht, die beiden Parteien im typisch amerikanischen oder russischen Bilde darzustellen. Doch beide Seiten tun Dinge, die vielfach unverzeihlich sind und mit Menschenrechten oder auch nur ihren Ideologien nichts zu tun haben. Sympathisch ist einem demzufolge nahezu niemand, wenn man von Ebby, einem anfangs jungen CIA-Neuling, absieht, der nach und nach durchschaut, welche Spielchen in der Company getrieben werden und sich hilflos dagegen zu wehren versucht.
Zu Beginn wird zwar beispielsweise Jack eher als Frauenheld dargestellt und Leo als Sensibelchen, jedoch verlieren diese Bilder nach und nach an Bedeutung. Endlose Wiederholungen, die zwar den Plot vorangetrieben haben, dramaturgisch jedoch der reinste Einheitsbrei waren. Paradoxerweise sind die Charaktere jedoch nicht besonders tiefsinnig und lesen sich sehr gleich, sollte man nicht explizit auf die haarfeinen Unterschiede achten.
May 20, Frank rated it it was amazing Shelves: Being born at the end of the baby boom, and the youngest in my family, I was surrounded by news and discussion of so many of these news headlines that came out of the second half of this book, and kept saying to myself, so that is what happened with, for instance the Bay of Pigs. While this was fiction, it read as a non-fiction work in its accuracy and reve Being born at the end of the baby boom, and the youngest in my family, I was surrounded by news and discussion of so many of these news headlines that came out of the second half of this book, and kept saying to myself, so that is what happened with, for instance the Bay of Pigs.
While this was fiction, it read as a non-fiction work in its accuracy and revelations of so many operations during this 40 year portrayal, also the interior workings of the CIA, and the treachery, of double agents in their midst was shocking.
The brutal and yet extremely gifted always a step ahead of us and dedicated Soviet spy network was surprising, makes you wonder why they really lost the Cold War, but economics is economics! For those who enjoy, history and more recent events should read this one. Apr 15, Steve Chaput rated it really liked it. Robert Littell is no Tom Clancy and I mean that in only the best sense. Beginning at the very beginning of what would become known as the Cold War, Jack and his fellow recruits into the newly created Central Intelligence Agency, find themselves in the very center of events that would make headlines and history.
Not only does Littell introduce us to these Americans, he also allows us to see what may have been going on in the opposite camp. While the CIA sends Jack and the others around the world on various assignments, Yevegny finds himself secreted into the U. Littell shows us two generations of Company employees as they each make their mark on some of the incidents that shaped the later part of the Twentieth Century. Whether fictional or factual, Littell brings to all of these characters a sense of reality showing us human beings capable of the vices and virtues we all share.
May 21, Nick Ungefug rated it it was amazing. The company is an extraordinarily well done espionage and conspiracy thriller by author Robert Littell.
Every page I read of this novel the deeper I sank into the hidden and chaotic world described by Littell. The beautiful and grotesque imagery are craft from the same wood as each scene evokes memories of bond films and mission impossible. Even more saddening is the realization that each of their deaths is for a purpose that few will know. I truly eye opening and thought provoking story.
Jul 11, Michael rated it really liked it Shelves: This was my first Littell book and I found him to be the best American spy writer I have read. The recent movie "The Good Shepard" had pretty much the same story line but compares woefully to this masterly telling. Jan 04, Kathleen rated it it was amazing.
Littell provides an in-depth and captivating look at the history of the CIA. The Company incited captivating discussions in my household, and has fostered in me a new found interest in the history behind the turmoil in the Middle East. Littell is a masterful story teller and this espionage thriller is without equal.
Fictional characters woven into historical events of the Cold War. May 26, J. A rather engrossing novel about the CIA during the cold war. This novel is rather unique in that it deals with the Company throughout several decades, beginning in the late s and going through the early s. It follows the career of several spies from recruitment all the way up to retirement or death in some cases as they slowly climb the ladders of the organization.
But the novel is truly a work of fiction, even if it manages to incorporate some of the historical events in which the Comp A rather engrossing novel about the CIA during the cold war. But the novel is truly a work of fiction, even if it manages to incorporate some of the historical events in which the Company was historically involved into its plot.
It paints the CIA as a well-intentioned body that sometimes was ineffective because of the opposition from the KGB or because of circumstances. It is hardly ever asked whether the activities in which the CIA was involved were moral. The closest the novel comes to reasonings on morality is immorality, via the motto of "the ends justify the means". In that sense the novel is historical, for I do not doubt that such thinking led to the immorally repugnant activities in which the Company did historically engage such as torture.
The novel does reveal an intriguing proposition, namely that John Paul I did not die of natural causes, but that his death was caused by a KGB spy. I wonder how much truth there is to this assertion. Certainly we know that The Church opposed Communism from its infancy, recognizing it for what it was for they, too, were animated by the motto of "the ends justify the means".
An certainly we know that Communists had infiltrated the Vatican itself, and planned on killing John Paul II several times. Hence it is not too far-fetched to suggest, as the novel does, that John Paul I perished at the hands of the KGB while serving his duty to lead souls to Christ. If I expect to get through 52 books in , then I need to stop picking up and page books. Given that the book starts in pre-Wall Berlin, and the action ends with the August coup attempt in the Soviet Union, the length is understandable.
After finishing the book I was struck with a question of who and how much in the book was history and how m If I expect to get through 52 books in , then I need to stop picking up and page books. After finishing the book I was struck with a question of who and how much in the book was history and how much was fiction. Apparently mine was not the first mind to pose that question, given what I was able to track down on-line.
The central protagonists are ostensibly fictive, but almost all of the other named characters including numerous presidents, CIA officers, and civilians are either historical figures or thinly disguised ones--which then leads to questions about how much of the action is "historical" or "thinly disguised. That said, Littell makes the characters, even minor or secondary characters like Boris Yeltsin and Kim Philby, leap off the page as people of conviction.
When it comes to the main characters, he does that in spades--creating characters who can elicit a full range of emotions from the reader. Apparently this author has written a number of books about modern espionage, especially the CIA. What was I thinking?! Whew, this book was LONG. Overall, I enjoyed this book. But, as I was reading, I had mixed feelings - sometimes, I thought the pacing was great.
But at other times, I thought that all of the dialogue and extremely detailed outlines of the missions and political goings-on really bogged the pacing down. And, occasionally, I forgot I was reading a novel, and felt like I was reading a nonfiction novel about the Cold War. Very suspenseful, but also humorous. Cannot recommend it highly enough. Nov 27, Sabrina rated it liked it Shelves: Scott Brick always does a nice job I think the book might have been better to read instead of the audio.
La trama intreccia la vita professionale di personaggi storici e immaginari nel campo internazionale di spionaggio e nello specifico della CIA, tra il giugno e agosto Un must-have per chi ama i libri di spionaggio. Ma lo consiglio anche a chi ama la storia del novecento, i passaggi chiave storici del nostro dopoguerra che hanno portato il mondo a come noi oggi lo conosciamo. Feb 16, David Fairweather rated it it was amazing. Great historical fiction or novelized history about the inner workings of the CIA.
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