4 out of 4 stars
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Dennis Antonov is a KGB operative. He is young and fairly new to the job. Still, he is as good as any other operative, if not better. His profile seems good enough to the KGB, and they approach him for a highly covert mission, Operation Traveller. Dennis agrees because he is a patriot and the Operation is very important for national security. Also, he has no other option. Dennis is sent to make contact with the British Intelligence Service, SIS. His mission is to act as a double-agent. He has to convince the SIS that he has defected from the KGB, and can work for the British against Russia. In reality, he’ll still be KGB.
In the beginning, everything goes smoothly. However, this is the world of the spies, and it doesn’t take time for things to go south. Russia is already turbulent, and when the Soviet Union disintegrates, a massive change in regime takes place. The people who knew about Operation Traveller end up dead or go into hiding. Dennis is all alone, now. He can’t go back to Russia, and he can’t trust the British. How will he get out of this mess?
Narrated in the first person by Dennis, The Spy, the Renegade, the Rogue is the story of his exploits, as a spy. Set in the Cold War era, it is the story of what a man does to survive and where this war leaves his soul, in the end. The writing style is engaging, and the story quickly captures your imagination. It is advised not to rush the reading. You’ll want to turn the pages quickly and find out what happens next. However, it is not light reading, and you can’t just skim through. You have to be patient. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on something, and then you’ll have to turn back the pages.
The writer has craftily woven the story around the historical events of the Cold War. The disintegration of the USSR, the 9/11 attacks, and the invasion of Iraq are some other events that find mention in the story. The impact of these events on Dennis and various espionage agencies makes for some good plot twists. History lovers will appreciate that, and you might even agree with the way Dennis feels about these events. For those who don’t know much about these things, the novel can be quite insightful. You’ll find that this book is more political, as compared to other espionage thrillers. Additionally, to explain the analogy of Dennis’ situations, the writer has given a short account of what actually happened to real spies, in the given circumstances. This brings some credibility to the story, and also makes it more exciting to read.
What I liked most about this story was Dennis’ character arc. He starts from something else, and all the things that follow (wanted and unwanted) land him in a completely different place. He is not as heroic as spies are shown in the movies. He gets into all kinds of trouble, his plans backfire most of the times, and he often finds himself in the center of a big, bad mess. Just when he thinks that he has outfoxed his enemies, something, or everything, goes wrong, and he is back to square one. His psychology takes sharp turns with every event. The burden of his job takes a toll on him. His every move needs to be calculated if he has to make it through the tough times. At one point, he wonders about what his life has become. He laments the fact that he can’t confide his situation to anyone. No one can be trusted.
The other characters are shown from the perspective of Dennis. That’s why we don’t get to know more about them. To keep this unfamiliarity in check, the writer has given a brief profile of every character. Before Dennis interacts with anyone, he provides us with important details about them. This way we get some idea of what kind of person they are, how Dennis feels about them, and whether he needs to beware of them.
The change of tone in Dennis’ story is also evident from the change in the nature of his assignments. In the beginning, his cases are justifiable. He is fighting against the bad people, and it is a service to the country. Later, his job becomes morally questionable. He constantly finds himself in a situation where he doesn’t want to undertake a task. He begins questioning the motives of his agencies and, soon, realizes that they are all cut out of the same cloth. He can see that politics and corruption decide the fate of a situation.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read espionage novels. It is full of action and so immersive that you’ll feel like a spy yourself! The writer hasn’t tried to glorify anything, and that makes the story seem real. The book is smartly written, and the story moves at a fast pace. My rating for The Spy, the Renegade, the Rogue is 4 out of 4 stars. It is not your usual spy stuff. It goes deeper than general conspiracy theories and provides a critique of the political influence on intelligence agencies. The only thing that could be changed about the novel is the length of its chapters. Sometimes, they feel too long. However, it is an insignificant flaw and can be easily ignored. Everything else was perfect about this book, and so a full rating is justified.
The Spy, the Renegade, the Rogue
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