4 out of 4 stars
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The Unknown Subject by Gerard Shirar is a historical fiction novel that contains the themes of betrayal, family, and military duties.
It is the year 1948, a time of political unrest between Russia and the United States. The United States was controlling West Germany, while the Russians dominated East Germany. Richard Lee Hammond, a sergeant of the U.S. Army, uses the division’s opportunity to run a black-market business. The Russians proposition him to become a spy for them in exchange for letting him run his illegal trade, and he agreed. Things become more complicated as Hammond moves up in rank and into higher offices. He starts to sell classified information to the Russians to maintain his lifestyle of drunkenness and sexual escapades. Meanwhile, Carl Foreman, an officer with the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), works to infiltrate East Germany’s Ministry for State Security by planting moles within it while also fishing out agents in their organization as he grows in rank. Hammond and Foreman’s paths are sure to cross, but is Hammond smart enough to get away with his atrocities?
The story is exquisitely written and plotted. The story was told from the perspective of all the major characters. You could see what each one thought of the other person. This made it an exciting read for me. All characters were well established. “The Unknown Subject” was a term he used for unidentified moles within the agency.
Foreman was my favorite character. I love his diligence and intelligence. Also, he was always a step ahead. He could speak three languages and English fluently. Hammond’s family was also a focal point for me. His family was dysfunctional. The book shows how one person’s choice could determine the fate of a whole generation. However, I couldn’t blame Hammond for choosing to become a spy. Only I wouldn’t say I liked his motivations. Both parties, Russia and the United States, were trying to outmaneuver each other. They both went the same route of planting moles. It only becomes easy to judge when you chose a particular side. The book creates a vivid imagination in the mind of the readers. The level of inter-agency rivalry depicted on both sides was disturbing. Each agency desperately trying to pull rank on the other, you would think they were enemies.
While I enjoyed the book, I wished the author had complimented the severe nature of the plot with some humor or exciting features. It became a bit boring and intense at some point. Besides this, I enjoyed everything about the book.
The book consists of many subplots that are linked to the main plot coherently. I liked how the author structured the book seamlessly. It was not confusing, as all military terms were well explained. For these reasons, I am rating the book 4 out of 4 stars. Also, the book was well edited because I noticed only two errors, which did not hinder my reading experience. I recommend the book to lovers of historical write-ups and spy stories.
The Unknown Subject
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